Parliament stats show that in 2015/16, there were almost 10,000 more apprentices than in the previous period – with more than half a million young people undertaking an apprenticeship scheme.
Offering paid work, on-the-job training and all-important experience, apprenticeships are often seen as the vital ‘foot in the door’ for young people looking to secure their place on the first rung of the career ladder. Whilst schooling and qualifications are vitally important for school leavers entering the working world, many find their CVs are lacking until they’ve secured workplace experience.
The benefits for apprentices are clear – offering young people the opportunity of earning a paid position in their desired industry, with a business they admire, all whilst learning important skills which could support their development for years to come.
However, businesses can reap just as many benefits as the apprentices they are providing with opportunities. From providing fresh energy and new ideas for workplace processes to offering assistance across different departments; apprentices can be a huge boost for businesses of all sizes.
Here, we look at a few of the benefits of hiring an apprentice, and talk to someone who completed their apprenticeship here at Gazprom Energy, as well as their line manager.
A new apprentice is likely entering a workplace or a specific industry for the first time when they step through your door. Unlike experienced new starters who may arrive with ideas and an ethos which do not necessarily match those of your company, an apprentice will likely have no previous experience to ‘unlearn’. Essentially, they will be a ‘blank slate’ with few preconceived ideas about how things should be done.
This provides your business with a chance to develop the apprentice in line with the organisation’s model and culture. When offered a solid grounding from day one, an apprentice will be able to view all tasks and responsibilities with the overall goals of the business in mind. It could be quicker, simpler and more cost-effective to hire and train an apprentice than to headhunt and retrain a skilled worker.
Charley England, who completed an apprenticeship here at Gazprom Energy, demonstrates the kind of enthusiasm you could expect from an apprentice:
“Doing an apprenticeship, I have developed many skills that I wouldn’t necessarily have learned otherwise. I’d recommend an apprenticeship to another young person as it is a really good opportunity to be able to work, and complete a qualification at the same time.
“Especially if you have an idea what sort of job or industry you want to go into, an apprenticeship is a really good starting point.”
The enthusiasm of youth can help refresh and rejuvenate a workforce, especially one which is crying out for fresh perspectives and new ideas. Arriving without preconceptions about limitations often gives apprentices the freedom to explore ideas which could benefit the business.
Gabija Pokvytyte, Customer Onboarding Supervisor at Gazprom Energy, and Charley’s line manager, discovered the value this could bring to the business. She explains:
“Apprentices enter the business with a very open mindset and because they are still learning for a qualification, they can easily transfer their learning skills into the working environment. Apprentices tend to be very technology savvy, which helps a lot when generating new ideas. Having a mixture of apprentices and more senior staff on the team improves the overall dynamic and makes it more diverse. All apprentices we had were very friendly and they were easily able to build relationships with their colleagues.”
Fresh outlooks can help shape a more rounded team, benefitting the department in which the apprentice is working and the business as a whole. Apprentices are likely to arrive in the team with a completely different skillset to the existing employees, providing more options for tackling tasks.
Managing an apprentice is often very different to managing a skilled worker. As apprentices with limited workplace experience may not have the confidence to carry out tasks independently, some patience, ongoing support and close workload management are key.
However, Gabija discovered that this helped her develop as a manager and a team member:
“Managing apprentices has shown me a different side of being a manager, which carries a few extra responsibilities and requires me to be more thorough. However, it’s much more rewarding as you see a young person really grow into an experienced employee that has learned so much in a short space of time.”
Furthermore, bringing an apprentice on board may provide the perfect opportunity to offer an existing employee their first taste of management. If your business has a high-performing individual ready to undertake managerial responsibilities, giving them an apprentice could be a great introduction to seniority.
Apprentices may be especially beneficial for smaller SMEs that are trying to keep tight control of their overheads, but finding they need to expand their workforce; hiring an apprentice can be significantly more cost effective than hiring a skilled worker – even after taking training into account.
Furthermore, the Government will contribute up to 90% of the apprentice’s training and assessment costs – potentially lowering associated overheads even further. And when the apprenticeship term ends, the individual can be brought on, given further training and integrated into the team permanently, through a seamless transition. For small businesses who are wary of costly recruitment mistakes, hiring an apprentice could prove to be the safest course of action.
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