There is a long running TV show in both the US and the UK entitled ‘The Apprentice’ and you would have had to be an extended trip to Mars to miss either watching or hearing about it. This post is nothing to do with that…
When I was at school if you had some ability post 16 you did A-Levels and with some luck you went to University or Polytechnic (Yes I am old enough to have done an UCCA and PCAS form). If you hadn’t achieved academically to a standard that supported A-Levels you likely went to an FE college and did something more vocational. If you had really struggled with school and your likely first stop was the job centre (there was no plus in job centre then) you were directed towards a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) or as it was known Young, Thick and Stupid
A YTS involved going into a trade (the two most often encountered were mechanics and hairdressers) being paid a paltry sum and attending college on day release. I’m not sure when it ended but it’s reputation in the work place wasn’t great given the participants were effectively paid unemployment benefit to work and I remember the accusations of exploitation that surrounded it.
It’s with this back drop that I was told that earlier this year we were appointing an apprentice into our team and they would be with us for a year whilst studying at college for a relevant qualification. I say it now I was not enthused and thought it was an action to make sure we were doing the ‘right thing’.
How wrong could I have been?
SOOOOO wrong. Our apprentice is fantastic. Not only is he enthusiastic, motivated and keen, he is genuinely appreciative of the opportunity we are giving him. He’s bright and has career aspirations and sees the year he will spend with us as a genuine spring board to better himself and give his career a boost. His enthusiasm has turned around even the most cynical (I was in the gang) and the difference between him and what I saw of the YTS couldn’t be more marked.
If you think we’ve been lucky then think again – we currently have 13 apprentices working across our central teams and are recruiting at least 7 more. With the reputation they are garnering people are increasingly making them a part of their core resourcing plan and the impact they have made on our organisation is a credit to each of them.
That said they need commitment – they need structure and support, they need time to study and working closely with the chosen college to ensure their framework supports the needs of the apprentice and the organisation is something best invested with some time.
If you live or work in London you may have noticed the posters on the tube such as the one below and were I offered the opportunity I would happily stand next to our apprentice and with pride say “Apprentices work for me”
If, like I was, you are a cynic based on poor experience in the past take this as a dig in the ribs to think again. Whether it’s the change in University funding, the quality of the schemes, the pay being appropriate or just a crop of good kids if you overlook the apprentices you are missing out on some great potential talent for your organisation.