Lessons From Growing Your Own

Two years ago, Evorio took on its first set of apprentices. Now two years have passed, I can say it has been a rewarding and productive experience – and one we’d be looking to repeat.

Of course, the challenge for young people has always been getting a foot on the career ladder when holding a relatively sparse-looking CV.  It’s a dilemma that apprenticeships are the ideal answer to, for the right candidates of course.

I started my professional career as an apprentice, I firmly believe in the ‘work as you learn’ ethos of an apprenticeship, there are skills such as hard work, commitment, communication and team work that just can’t be learned inside a classroom.

There is a huge sense of achievement seeing ‘one of your own’ develop (just listen to the pride in the Tottenham fans’ songs to Harry Kane).  The process was a learning experience for everyone here at Evorio, so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing some of those lessons with you:

1. Take  on  more than one

Many apprentices are young and maybe haven’t quite figured out what they want from a career. They may relish the challenges you give them, or they may quickly realise it’s not for them. Taking on more than one apprentice helps insure against any drop-outs and you can more easily benchmark them, along with adding a little healthy competition when needed. They also have a partner they can relate to, especially in the early months.

2. Have an  on-site  training day as part of the interview process

With apprentices, you’re interviewing for attitude and aptitude more than you are for skills. How able and willing are they to rise to the challenges they are given? In my experience this is best established by inviting the candidates in for a training day to see how they approach the work they are set.

3. Quickly Establish your values

Perhaps one of the prime benefits of taking on an apprentice is that they don’t bring with them any unwanted working practices from previous employers. So it’s important your company values are clear from day one. As long as you document them and live by them, your new recruits will soon adopt the same outlook.

4. Create a development plan

The plan doesn’t have to be lengthy, a simple roadmap of milestones is ideal. It’s worth remembering that an apprentice may be recruited for one role but show strong aptitude for another role, so their development plan doesn’t have to be confined to a specific position.

5. Understand where they are with coursework

Apprentices will typically spend one day a week at college. In my experience it’s worth showing an active interest in how they are getting on with their studies.  It may well help them focus, as well as let you know whether they have the support they need and the time they require.

6. Give ownership

An apprentice is of course not a glorified tea-maker. Giving them ownership for real projects helps teach them how to be accountable, how to manage time, how to handle other team members, and report on outcomes, etc.  Their initial projects should be small, specific and with a deadline – something they can show they have delivered, and feel proud of when they do.

7. Small, regular salary rises

A good apprentice can develop their skills at a fairly rapid rate.  So it makes sense to give them regular but small salary rises as they hit those milestones.  A salary review every 6 months during the apprenticeship can help keep their momentum going.

8. Get them to spend time with people from all areas of the business

The broader an understanding your apprentice has of your business, the more quickly they will join the dots and begin to step-up their skills and levels of responsibility.

9.  Continue to invest in their development

When their apprenticeship ends you should have a well-rounded employee who believes that personal development is core to their role. Allow them to develop further and take ownership of the business case for their development’s direction.

10. Let your customers know you have apprentices

It’s easy to forget to tell customers you have junior recruits. A customer handled by an apprentice who is still wet behind the ears may be a little more forgiving and patient if they know that’s who they are dealing with. It’s fairer to both customer and apprentice to announce who they are.

And a final takeaway: when the apprentice completes their apprenticeship, make sure everyone STOPS calling them an apprentice. They are now the old-hands, ready to support the next new apprentices.

 This article was written by Paul Buck, a Director at Evorio.