National Apprenticeship Week: Why we’ll continue to invest in apprentices

As it’s national apprenticeship week we thought it would be a great time to reflect on why employing apprentices has been a huge success at Mabo and to share our thoughts, and the thoughts of our apprentices past and present, on why apprenticeships offer so much value to businesses and young people alike.

Why we use apprenticeships

Cost

Like many businesses our initial foray into employing apprentices was a decision based on financial circumstances. We were a young, growing business with only a handful of clients, and, while we were thriving, we were only as secure as our ability to retain those clients. A large financial outlay on a new experienced member of staff at that time was a huge risk, but we wanted to sustain the growth we were experiencing so we decided to engage with an apprenticeship provider to see if we could find a candidate who we felt we could show the ropes and mold into a PPC account manager. It just so happened we found two, and one of those apprentices, Glen, is still with us today nearly 7 years later, now managing his own team of PPC staff and leading our enhanced feed service.

Since then we’ve gone on to employ 18 apprentices in total across both our Middlesbrough and Glasgow offices (15 of which are still in our employ) and taken advantage of various grants and received funded training to help with the staff cost. It has meant we’ve been able to continue to grow our staff numbers at a very healthy rate and maximise our growth potential.

But if you’re using the apprenticeship scheme for cheap labour you’re missing a trick!

Glen Barker, PPC Team Manager

Training

We place a lot of emphasis on in-house training at Mabo but the additional study and rounded apprenticeship teaching programmes our apprentices get access to lets them gain a fantastic depth of relevant industry knowledge and prepares them for future roles within the company. But another huge advantage of the apprenticeship training (that is often underappreciated) is the emphasis on employability skills – making apprentices good employees. They don’t just learn subject based material, they are coached in things like time-management, communication and working to deadlines – combine that with the real life work experience and we often actually find apprentices can be better prepared for the reality of full time employment better than many University graduates.

Drive and ambition

Conducting interviews with apprentices pre-employment is just as important as it would be for any other member of staff, but we’ve found the simplest of questions “why have you chosen to do an apprenticeship” has provided us with some of the most important insights into the character of the candidates we speak to. What you will likely find is that many apprenticeship applicants are just really eager to get into work and apprenticeships can often be the most effective route to do that. But how valuable is it to any business to employ people who actually want to work?!

And we’ve found that many of our apprentices have started an apprenticeship as an alternative to other forms of further education, not simply because that route is blocked off to them, but because an apprenticeship is actually their preference. We’ve certainly found those who have chosen an apprenticeship possess the same drive and ambition to learn, succeed and progress as any other staff member.

Sam Hood, Training and Development Manager at Mabo said,

“Working with apprentices definitely makes my job a lot easier as apprentices are more open to learning and often come with little or no experience in the field. This is great for me as it means I’m opening them up to something new which they find exciting and are more engaged in the training which in turn creates a natural buzz amongst the training group and proves for better development. You’re also able to see more of a direct impact and how appreciative people are in an apprenticeship as it’s commonly their first experience in a workplace and are more open to taking things on board – for both personal development and professional development.”

Incidentally Sam himself started with Mabo as an apprentice and is now responsible for the training and development of each new member of staff at Mabo (whether an apprentice or not).

Sam Hood, Training and Development Manager

Loyalty

Every business understands the difficulty of recruiting staff and staff retention is something hugely important to Mabo. But one thing we have found is that being the business that took the risk on an apprentice and the one that gave them the opportunity they craved certainly buys you a level of appreciation and loyalty.

Now by no means is that enough, we’ve got to earn that ongoing loyalty by ensuring we have the right culture and staff are given the right opportunities to thrive, but you will definitely be given a head start in the engagement of your apprentice employees.

How to get the best out of your apprentices

Pick the right provider

There are numerous apprenticeship providers out there and all have to adhere to government regulations as well as monitoring to check the quality of their delivery, and at Mabo we have used several in the past. The best advice we can give is to do your homework. Speak to different providers and see how their offerings fit. The schedule for training and even the means of training will not be the same for each provider. Also you will be able to find ofsted reports online that should give you some quality assurance of each provider. Currently at Mabo we are using Northern Skill Group at Middlesbrough College and City of Glasgow College as our providers to our staff spread across our offices in both cities.

We prefer to use providers based within educational institutions over private companies as we like the access to classroom learning it provides our apprentices and as larger providers the organisation, engagement and feedback we receive is fantastic. We’ve built up really close relationships with our providers and it enables us to ensure we have a mutually beneficial relationship as summed up by Peter Donnelly, Business Development and Commercial Manager at Northern Skills Group,

 “Middlesbrough College is training people at the cutting edge of technology and knowledge so it is fantastic to see organisations such as Mabo invest in apprenticeships and training in the tech sector. They are building from the ground up and understand how an apprenticeship can benefit all parties as it adapts training to the needs of the business and builds loyalty amongst young staff. We love working with such an exciting company!”

Supplement their training

There is a requirement to ensure a certain percentage of off-the-job training in order to receive the necessary ESFA funding, but investing in your apprentices training in-house shouldn’t just be for the sake of meeting a requirement. These are people who are keen and eager to learn so use that enthusiasm to your advantage by really pushing their learning to maximise their development and therefore value to your business.

Sam Hood said

“I think it’s vital that we provide our own training in addition to the apprenticeship learning as it gives the individual a full picture of an overview of what digital marketing is and then we’re able to develop that knowledge and mold them into a good Mabo employee. Then when they’re able to put everything into practice and develop their skills, it’s great to see and watch them grow.” 

Give them opportunities

An apprenticeship is only the start of someone’s career, and no-one intends for their career to stop at the point where it started. We’ve found that providing a clear route for your apprentices to progress and earn a full-time permanent role is a great motivator in encouraging them to show their best work and strive to take on more responsibility. Last year we had two more staff completing their apprenticeships and continuing in roles at Mabo and we fully expect the 6 staff we currently have undertaking their apprenticeships to do the same. It has become an integral part of how we build up our business. We are gaining new staff and they are getting the rewards they deserve. 

We now have numerous staff who have started as apprentices who have moved multiple steps up the hierarchy in roles such as PPC Team Manager, Training and Development Manager, Account Manager and PPC Executive.

Treat them like all your other employees

The benefits of having engaged and motivated staff don’t really need explaining but ensure your apprentices feel like a genuine part of your team. Give them the same advantages and opportunities available to everyone else. 

In this day and age the stigma of being the apprentice and having to do only the menial work or being the butt of the jokes should be gone. We all had to start our careers somewhere, treat them with the respect they deserve, give them the opportunity to show their talent and they will repay you.  

Lacey Harvey, Junior PPC Executive and Megan Tipper, PPC Executive

What our apprentices think

We thought we’d let our apprentices past and present have the final say, so we asked a few of them for their thoughts on their apprenticeship…

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship?

“I chose an apprenticeship as I see it as a more efficient way into the working world compared to other educational routes such as a university. Also, I enjoy the freedom of doing both practical and theoretical work all at once.” John Cochrane, Junior PPC Executive.

“An apprenticeship for me was a better option as I knew I didn’t want to commit to anything like university and the style of learning that they were offering. However, with an apprenticeship, I knew it was going to be hands-on, on-the-job training which suited me more and I knew would prove more engaging but also useful. Not only that but I was keen to get onto the employment ladder and develop skills which you only can in a workplace environment and of course earn a bit of money.” Sam Hood, Training and Development Manager.

“I chose to do an apprenticeship so that I could gain more practical experience in the field.” Alicia Owens, Junior PPC Executive.

What have you gained from doing your apprenticeship?

“I’ve benefited from excellent training and support from both my mentors at Mabo and my college tutors and I’ve achieved a number of qualifications through my course. Furthermore, I have been able to gain experience in the PPC industry whilst studying for my apprenticeship.” Harry Henderson, PPC Executive.

“I have gained many benefits from doing my apprenticeship. I have gained new skills such as learning to communicate with new people, learning from their ideas and implementing them into my own work. As well as expressing my own ideas and concepts to the people I am working with which has helped me to further my learning. I have also gained many other skills such as time management, team work, problem solving and strategic thinking.”  Lacey Harvey, Junior PPC Executive.

“I have gained a permanent role in this company and valued experience that has helped me progress quicker.” Katherine Henderson, PPC Executive.

“I have discovered a booming sector that I hadn’t realised existed before researching for apprenticeships, leading to irreplaceable hands-on experience in a career that I would like to continue to pursue, surrounded by professionals helping me succeed in this goal.” Sam Fickling, Junior PPC Executive.

Why would you recommend an apprenticeship to young people looking to take the first steps in their career?

“I would recommend doing an apprenticeship to any young person looking to progress their career, as it gives you a foot in the door whilst providing you with valuable experience to really be able to learn and progress as a person. You are able to gain confidence and progress as you see the knowledge you gain from the apprenticeship being put into action at the same time. It provides a clear picture of how you can progress your career.” Andrew Nelson, PPC Account Manager.

“I would strongly recommend an apprenticeship to anyone wanting to get started in their dream career. Whether you’ve just left school, or like in my case, are an older student looking for a career change, an apprenticeship is the perfect entry into the industry.” Harry Henderson, PPC Executive.

“It’s an overall great way to ease you into the development of “work life”, helping you become more confident with communication, teamwork and problem solving. There are so many different apprenticeships out there for a wide variety of industries and if you get the opportunity to apply for one, I would take it!” Megan Tipper, PPC Executive.

“I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone, it was by far the best thing I did at 18 years old and I haven’t looked back.” Glen Barker, PPC Team Manager.