By Rosemarie Diegnan, Chief Strategy & Product Officer, Wazoku
The national Apprenticeships scheme has been invaluable for us and a worthy investment. At the start of 2015 we gave a full-time position to Marvyn Da Silva Santos, the first apprentice we hired in January 2014. Marvyn is now our QA analyst, and we currently have three additional apprentices working across IT and marketing.
It’s a great opportunity for young people to learn about life in an up and coming start-up and it gives us the chance to help nurture bright new talent. Every one of our apprentices has made a contribution to our on-going success and I’d recommend using apprentices to any company. The perception that Apprenticeships create too much red tape and admin could not be more different for us – it’s all been a seamless and straight forward process.
But to get the most from an apprentice does require planning, fore-thought and the right approach throughout the process, from initial recruitment through to what happens when the apprenticeship is over. This is what any organisation should bear in mind as they embark on the process of hiring an apprentice.
Choose carefully – the selection process when taking on an apprentice should not be any different to that when taking on a full-time member of staff. Interview a selection of candidates thoroughly, be as diligent as possible and ensure that the prospective apprentice matches your company’s values, culture and ethos.
It’s an apprentice, not an intern – don’t simply give them admin to do, ensure your apprentice is given a specific role and responsibility of their own. Not that admin should necessarily be dumped on interns either, but an intern is a short-term role and there isn’t always the time to get them trained in a specific role. That’s not the case with an apprentice, so make sure they are trained, fully integrated within the company and have an area of their own to focus on.
Make them feel valued and that they are making a contribution – we operate a flat structure in which we encourage collaboration, open and transparent working practices and innovative thinking. This allows people to be pro-active with ideas and our apprentices are a big part of this. When they make a contribution we always acknowledge that contribution, which helps ensure they feel a valued and respected member of the team.
Explore their interests – learning what your apprentice does outside of work not only provides a more rounded view of that person, but it may also reveal hidden talents that you were not expecting. It might be that someone doing an apprenticeship in a technical area, is also a prolific music blogger in their spare time, and could therefore be involved in making contributions to the company blog or social media sites.
Give them a mentor - providing a more experienced member of the team as a mentor will help your apprentice grow both personally and professionally. It may well be their first time in a workplace, or at least their first time in an office, so at times they are going to need a friendly face to give them a few pointers. Some of this can be done by their immediate colleagues on a more informal basis, but it has really helped our apprentices to know that there is someone to whom they can turn if they need help or advice.
Treat them as a full member of the team – you should always provide the same level of transparency to your apprentices as you do any other member of the team. They are representing your organisation and you want them to feel the same level of commitment as the rest of the team. Our CEO regularly updates everyone on our successes and hosts monthly lunches or drinks and apprentices are always part of that. This ensures that everyone is working to the same goals and feels part of one team.