An introductory coffee with one of our new intake of apprentices recently gave me cause for thought. This individual, 18 years old, was eager to learn, enthusiastic and surprisingly mature for their age. It felt great to be providing them an opportunity and their first steps in what I hope will be a long career in the industry.
Six years ago, we made the decision to change how we went about recruitment. Rather than constantly taking on people to fill gaps, we decided to try a different approach – to bring on young people, train them up and set them on their way in our company.
Today, our youngest apprentice is just seventeen years old – he joined us when he was sixteen. Working in our product management function, he has made massive progress in a short period of time and is already presenting to clients and attending internal and external meetings, ably assisted by more experienced colleagues.
Our oldest former apprentice, at 23, is just celebrating five years’ service with the company, which makes me really proud. She goes back into schools now and evangelises about the apprenticeship pathway as an alternative to higher education.
This turns a huge flywheel, encouraging young people interested in an apprenticeship to knock on our door first, providing an exceptional pipeline of future talent for our company and for the industry (whilst also saving on recruitment costs).
Solving the so-called talent crisis can’t just be a question of paying ever more for the increasingly scarce resource of experienced people put forward by recruitment companies; short-term thinking always comes at a cost. For us, investing in apprenticeships is a mid to long-term solution to the problem. Our target, in line with national guidelines for good practice, is for 5% of our total workforce to be undertaking an apprenticeship.
If you’ve not yet taken on apprentices in your business, I’d encourage you to do so. Not only does it change your age demographic, bring new ideas and energy to your culture and provide more senior employees with a focus for sharing and passing on knowledge, it makes you more resilient as an organisation by building your talent pipeline from the bottom up.
Having a fresh cohort that buys into your culture and your way of doing things can only be good for your business in the long-term.
See you out there.
Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK