Andrew Dark is owner of Custom Planet, a company that specialises in providing customised clothing and promotional products to businesses and individuals. His business regularly takes on apprentices that are trained to work in their busy manufacturing and retail environment. He tells us why your business should invest in apprentices.
The apprentices in our company are young guys who come in and take on a basic role while training to become more specialised as they build experience. While many people might see apprenticeships as cheap labour, I don’t agree; they are a long-term investment in someone that you hope will reach their potential under your guidance.
I believe that apprentices are an excellent way to gear your business towards future success. The idea is that these young people come in with little to no experience and your company trains them, helping them to learn the trade. The beauty of this is that because you are training them from scratch, you create a skilled and loyal member of staff who has been moulded to fit in with your company.
If approached in the right way, taking on an apprentice can provide you with a future employee who holds as much, if not more, value than hiring a person who already has experience. Even if one of our apprentices doesn’t quite make the grade and continue their employment with us, I think the experience and lessons that they learn in their time here stands them in excellent stead to find a job elsewhere.
At Custom Planet, almost 40% of our current staff are previous or current apprentices with us, and we take on new ones every year. I take great pride in seeing how they progress into skilled members of staff. Training apprentices gives our company excellent continuity, and it is always nice to see one of our old trainees taking responsibility for one of the new ones. We usually have a bit of a party when one of our young guys comes through to work with us for full-time — there’s always a lot of cake and pizza around when we celebrate!
When we took on our first apprentice, I don’t think we were really prepared and ended up being too soft. Thankfully, he was eager to learn and has now been with us for five years and runs our embroidery department. I would advise anyone looking to take on an apprentice for the first time to show a lot of patience; progress can often be slow, but by working through any mistakes you can help them to improve.
Get a good training structure in place and assign them a more experienced member of staff as their trainer. This will save you the stress of deciding what they are learning and who they are learning from on the fly. For many apprentices it is their first job of any kind, so structure is incredibly important as it gives them a sense of progress and will keep them interested.
If you are looking to take on some apprentices, you should start by contacting your local training providers who will be able to advise you further — there is a great database available from the National Apprenticeship Service, where you can find providers close to you. There is also a pretty good guide to apprenticeships available from the government too.
National Apprentice Week (NAW) also runs during March of each year, and is a really good way to attract interested candidates. Our apprenticeships run from April to April, so the week comes at the perfect time for us to begin our annual recruitment drive. The week is hugely important to us, and we usually like to post a lot of information about how our current apprentices are doing and what our past apprentices have gone on to do — as well as a few embarrassing photos of course! If you are looking to take part in NAW 2016 you can find out how to get involved on the week’s website here.