How to make apprenticeships work for your business

Accrington-based Cummins Mellor Recruitment share their secret to success when it comes to apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships have been described by the government as the antidote for youth unemployment and skills gaps and plans are underway to make apprenticeships the new norm for school leavers who decide university isn’t for them.

The recent figures from a study of 600 SME’s revealed that 20% intend to take on one or more apprentices in the next 12 months.

It’s all very well stating that you hire apprentices, but are you using them to their full potential? Do you know their capabilities or do they just shuffle paper around their desk all day?

Granted it takes time to bring young people on and not all of them will be the next Karren Brady or Alan Sugar but you’ll never know the potential talent you have unless you hand over some responsibility to your younger members of staff and watch them thrive.

Here at Cummins Mellor recruitment we currently have 4 apprentices and a further 4 members of staff who started with us as apprentices and have gone on to more senior positions within the business. That’s almost a third of our workforce.

The key to success with apprentices is time. The time which is spent with them on training and development. Time spent reviewing their performance and setting clear and measurable goals – how do they know what you’re expecting from them if nobody takes the time to tell them?

What some employers seem to forget is that in many cases an apprentice has never worked in that environment before. How do they know how to answer the phones properly or the transfer a call if nobody takes the time to train them?

Don’t be afraid to set certain tasks in order to identify areas of strength – you could have a budding sales person in your midst. If you never try you’ll never know.

More importantly, your apprentice will see that you value them and appreciate the time and effort you put in to see them succeed – they won’t want to let you down and will relish the opportunities you give to them.

Having a great training provider who knows your business inside out and the type of person you’re looking for is a major help. The majority of our apprentices have been placed with us by North Lancs Training Group, another thriving local company who have built an incredibly successful business around placing young people with great employers.

Make no mistake, it’s not all plain sailing and there will be times you or other members of your team find it difficult to set time aside to spend with your apprentices. But try to see the bigger picture, where could this person be in a few years’ time? Your financial controller, head of sales, your HR manager? You really do get out what you put in and the quiet shy individual who first walked through your doors will soon be unrecognisable.