By Tom Roche, Exec Sponsor for Apprentice and Grad Programmes at Fujitsu

There are plenty of reasons companies should invest in an apprenticeship scheme. Hiring apprentices can help you boost employee retention rates, develop specialised skills inside your organisations and do your bit for the economy. By investing in an apprenticeship scheme you are essentially investing in the success or your business — with today’s young talent becoming tomorrow’s leadership team!

For me there are two standout benefits for the business when an apprenticeship programme is implemented well. Firstly, apprentices enter the working world as a blank canvas. Having not conformed to a working culture before, they bring with them a heap of youth enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on the business. They think outside the box and can be trained, by you, to develop the skills that are needed to accelerate growth inside your organisation.

Secondly, once trained in best practices employees from your apprenticeship scheme will develop into a talented and loyal workforce. For many apprentices, the first contact they have with the world of work makes a lasting impression. And if your apprenticeship scheme offers a positive experience, they will naturally choose to progress their career at your company.

Implementing a positive apprenticeship programme however is no easy feat. Time needs to be spent identifying the available roles for apprentices inside your business and more importantly how your apprenticeship scheme will nurture the skillset of each individual. The payoff of getting it right is clear; when implemented well 96% of employers who take on an apprentice report benefits to their business whilst 72% report improved productivity as a direct result of employing an apprentice.

If you have been tasked with implementing an apprenticeship programme in your business and you’re unsure how to go about it our top tips below are a good place to start:

Think long term not just the here and now: One of the biggest mistakes made when implementing an apprenticeship programme is thinking short term rather than about the long term goals of the business. You should be asking yourself where skill shortages exist in your organisation and how apprentices can be trained to fill this skills gap
Create a comprehensive training programme: Training is the key to ensuring apprentices become a valued member of your business. Make sure you have a comprehensive training programme from the offset which provides apprentices with opportunities to up skill in key areas that will support future growth inside your organisation
Ensure you have a buddy/mentoring scheme in place: While graduates would have spent years in academia, apprentices often join straight from a schooling environment. As such they need more support in adapting to the processes/culture of a business environment and a buddy/mentoring programme - which gives apprentices a trusted support network - is an important part of this
Be transparent about career progression opportunities: Employees are most driven when they are working towards an end goal — the next promotion, pay rise or bonus — and apprentices are no different. Make sure you are transparent about the opportunities presented inside your business and the career progression opportunities available if employees excel during their apprenticeship

When best practices are followed apprenticeship schemes offer a great opportunity for businesses to train and up-skill young talent for the long term benefit of the business — just don’t expect it to happen overnight. The most important thing is to start small and then grow your programme year on year to a point where — like us — you have 130 apprentices spanning all of your business divisions.