The use of apprentices is good for your business, your industry and the complete country economy.
Let’s face facts, times have been, remain so and always will be tough. How many times have you ever reflected and said, “Well that was an easy year?”
Government has recently promised £5bn in infrastructure spending and I only hope that the money does not trickle through layers of bureaucracy and ‘jobs-for-the-boys’ but comes flooding through the system direct to business and Further Education Colleges in order to get a balanced and sustainable economy moving again. When times are tight, cuts to training, especially apprenticeships are made by those that lack vision or true understanding of the business. Just look at the skills shortage we’re living through now as a result of apprenticeships falling out of favour with the bean-counters 25 years ago.
My experience of employing Apprentices
I am a massive believer in apprentices. I started my working career as an engineering apprentice and over 40% of my overall workforce of 20 has been through, or is currently going through an apprenticeship scheme. I value them so highly that since starting business 9 years ago, we have taken on a total of seven, four of which remain with us and are valuable members of the Team. The apprentices form a vital part of the strategic growth and continual development of the Company.
We train them, we look after them and we show them that there is a career progression here for them if they want it. Of course, the odd one falls through the net but I can live with that because I’m just as likely to recruit members of staff who have been through apprenticeships elsewhere. That’s the way business works – but if we all stop training apprentices, everyone loses and, ultimately, the industry sector dies.
“Apprenticeships are pointless, why bother? You end up spending money training them, only for them to leave after you have invested all that time and money into them.”
Firstly, if every company takes that attitude where is the new injection of enthusiasm going to come from? Believe me, I am not on a self-less, self-righteous quest, but I would much rather train an apprentice and lose them to the industry now and again, than to see engineering skills and the development of STEM professions eroded because we never bring on new people.
Secondly, if you do the right thing by your apprentices and are able to offer them the opportunities the desire, they won’t leave you.
Apprentices are great for the Company
- It adds focus to operational processes and the way you work. It has to be correct to get the best from an apprentice, or they will find the crack for you to repair and improve – everyone wins!
- The emphasis on health and safety and other procedures improves. You don’t want to pass on bad habits that inevitably build up over time in all industries and businesses.
- Training apprentices produces workers with skills that are not available on the external jobs market, allowing you to shape your workers into precisely the right people for the job.
- Fill your skills gaps with apprentices and invest in the skills needed to make your business go further.
- Apprentices provide fresh and innovative solutions to business challenges. Vital to help a business remain competitive and relevant in its market.
- Give your time to ensure successful involvement and ultimate enjoyment for the apprentice. You get out what you put in.
- Apprentices are generally keen to get stuck in, prove themselves and learn as much as possible, bringing a fresh boost to your company and provide renewed motivation to your workforce.
- Investing time in the apprentices allows them to feel motivated, valued and grateful to join a skilled team. This then increases their likelihood to remain with your company to fulfil their long-term prospects.
- Apprenticeship training increases interest in further training amongst your employees.
- A good Apprenticeship scheme reflects an enhanced reputation for the business within the industry and in the local community.
What I really enjoy about apprentices is the fresh impetus they bring to the business. You often hear football managers say that they need to bring in a few fresh faces to reinvigorate the team and that is what apprentices do for a company. If it makes everyone in the business look at what they do and the way they operate, that can only be healthy and we have certainly seen that here at LG Motion & MiniTec UK.
To summarise my thoughts
- The past mistakes of not encouraging youthful energy into industry have been made and we should learn from that.
- Taking on apprentices should not be seen as a luxury that businesses turn on and off to notionally ‘save’ money when times are tough.
- Apprentices are an investment and not to be used as cheap labour. They are learning and should not be considered as an instant invoiceable asset.
- We have a responsibility to invest in our own company’s future and the future of our industry because without competent, skilled people we have very little worth having.
Based on a presentation I delivered to Borough Business Partnership meeting, QMC, Basingstoke 19th June 2014