Why apprenticeships are one of the best ways to onboard staff.

It comes as no surprise when I say it is hard to scale a business. Thousands of books have been written on the issue, thousands of blog articles are posted monthly on the subject and it is a constant topic of discussion in business forums around the world. It is not just the problem of bringing in the leads that cause anxiety, it is the struggle to find the right talent to provide the service. The worst situation to find yourself in as a growing company, is having plenty of enquiries, but not the staff to cover the work. The challenge of finding good people to fulfil your contracts is a big one. 

During my years as a business owner, I have tried different ways of recruiting new team members as our business has grown and I have determined that, whilst we have employed amazing team members over the years, one of the best ways to expand your team rapidly is through an apprenticeship scheme. 

There are lots of reasons for this. I wanted to share them with you to save you some of the time and stress we have had. But before I do that, let me just summarise what an apprenticeship scheme is and what it entails, in case you have never thought about it before. 

What is an apprenticeship scheme?

Apprenticeship schemes allow you to hire someone (normally someone starting out in their career, although they can be any age), who spends part of their time working for you and part of their time studying qualifications with a local education provider. Apprentices are paid at least the minimum wage and you are expected to ensure that they receive adequate training in your company. 

Normally, you choose an apprentice (or contact an apprenticeship training agency who will find you a suitable candidate), find an organisation that provides the training program your apprentice requires and then check what funding is available. You are able to receive an incentive payment when you take on an apprentice, but there are other funds available and the incentive is different depending on where you live. All information can be found on the gov.uk website, although I have had difficulties in the past actually getting any money from these schemes!

Once the apprentice has passed all their qualifications, they are fully trained and can continue to work for you as an employee if you wish.

At NDT Group, we have trained five apprentices to date and have had an excellent experience. We use Skills Training UK, a training provider, and a local college Coleg Cambria to fulfil the academic requirement of our apprenticeship scheme. 

So, what have been the benefits for us as a company from using this method to onboard new staff as we have grown? I believe that there are five main reasons why I would always promote apprenticeship schemes as a way to sustainably build your team.

1. You set expectations early on

At NDT Group, we have a very clear set of values that we aim to adhere to. We have found that by taking on apprentices, we have been able to instil these values of high-quality, responsive work in our newcomers right from the start of their careers. Expectations are set early on, not just in terms of the technical skill that we demand, but the interpersonal skills that we require too. All of the apprentice’s work is measured against those expectations and values. 

We have a strong team-family feel at NDT Group, and so we are able to develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork and resilience in our apprentices as they interact with all the members of our team. 

It is easier to instil such qualities at the start of someone’s career. If you are onboarding someone who is used to a different work culture, it is very hard to change ingrained habits. 

2. It provides a steady stream of technicians

There has been plenty in the news recently about the difficulty in finding suitably qualified candidates for vacancies. This has been true across most industries post-pandemic, as people have reassessed their career paths and found their circumstances have changed. 

Securing your new technicians with an apprenticeship scheme means that you do not have to compete with other companies when hiring during this time of low candidate numbers. 

3. It is cost-effective

As I have already mentioned, there are financial incentives to taking on apprentices. I can hardly ignore this fact as a business owner. It is not the most important reason why apprenticeships are great, but it is something that has supported our efforts to develop our business. 

There are also other grants available in certain circumstances. The gov.uk website is a good starting point for finding out about the different financial incentives out there. 

4. It is low risk

It has not happened to us yet, but if an apprentice is just not coping with the demands of the role, you do not have to commit to providing them with a permanent contract at the end of their tenure. If their work ethic or technical skill just does not meet your expectations, you can decide not to take them on. It is rare though. According to UCAS, 90% of all apprentices are taken on by the same company that trained them. 

5. It supports your local area

This benefit is one that is particularly unique to NDT Group. We have a real heart for our local area; all of our founding management team went to the local secondary school and most of the people who work for us were brought up around our site on Deeside, North Wales. We care deeply about the welfare and future of employment in our local community and choose to take on apprentices who are residents or connected with our area. We feel it is a way to pay forward all the time and effort invested in us as we grew up. This might not be something that resonates with your company, but for us, it is one of the most important reasons why we choose to employ apprentices. 

I hope that this little dive into the reasons why I believe apprentices are the best way to onboard new staff has given you food for thought. Young people are the future of our industry. We have a duty to instil the values and work ethic we think are important if we are to raise the next generation to develop our businesses in a way that will secure the longevity of our economy.

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