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de Poel's tips on how to build a successful apprenticeship programme

Sarah Marrow, Group Head of HR at de Poel Group (part of Brookfield Rose)

With National Apprenticeship Week 2016 taking place this week, there was never a more opportune time to celebrate the achievements of our apprentices at de Poel Group.

As pioneering and responsible employers, we should encourage apprentices into the world of work, and recognise the key role they play in building a foundation for our future economic stability.

Apprenticeships are an integral part of our business’ recruitment strategy. Since launching our official programme two years ago, we have appointed seven apprentices accounting for 4% (and rising) of our total workforce, working across a number of departments at de Poel Group including marketing, HR, legal and operations.

In a short space of time, each of our seven apprentices are working hard to make a difference and contribute toward the success of de Poel Group, and shape the future of the organisation.

As we continue to increase our client base, we are always looking to create and fill vacancies and apprentices will continue to play a part in this recruitment.

Here are my tips on how to create a successful apprenticeship scheme:

  1. Consult the experts

As your first port of call, visit the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) online for information and advice, alongside checking Gov.UK’s apprenticeships website. This will provide an overview and help you to determine how an apprenticeship programme would work in your organisation.

  1. Partner with training providers that share your ethos

We have invested heavily in our training, working with a network of training providers – including Total People and Damar Training – to partner on providing the very best apprenticeship programme.

When it comes to selecting the ideal training provider, check this against your list of criteria. Ask yourself, do they fit both our culture and what we want to achieve? It is crucial to make your intentions clear from the outset, and then continuously communicate with that partner to get the best out of the relationship.

  1. Appoint mentors and ensure support is available when needed

Set clear goals and objectives and have regular review meetings, so your apprentice has a defined progression plan. You may know what you want from them, but unless it’s made clear, it is unlikely they will know what is expected of them.

Each apprentice at de Poel Group has direct access to various mentors within the organisation who they can go to for help, support and guidance.

  1. Make your programme accessible, in every sense of the word

When it comes to accessibility and inclusivity, your apprenticeship programme should be no different from your regular recruitment process.

Whilst we appreciate that barriers still remain in the job market, as a committed member of Business Disability Forum (BDF), we ensure as much as possible is being done to achieve this goal of creating a level playing field for all when it comes to employment.

  1. Offer something different

It is our belief that an apprenticeship can be the gateway to a career and an opportunity to carve out a niche, rather than simply a short-term job. All our apprentices are employed on a permanent basis and paid well above the average rate of pay for an apprentice – something that sets our programme apart and helps us to attract the very best talent.

We have also found that offering a level of autonomy and responsibility, where appropriate, has been a USP of our programme. All our apprentices have a perfect balance of support and self-sufficiency to reach their full potential.

  1. Practice what you preach

For most apprentices, this will be the first step in their career and so will be looking to you for guidance, support and to set the example. It is not just about communicating best practice, but ensuring your apprentice/s understand why processes and systems are like that in the first place – and that they all stem for your overarching vision and ethos.

  1. Do some internal PR

As an HR Director, hiring manager, or someone that is closely involved with the company’s recruitment process, you will see first-hand the value each apprentice adds to the organisation. Ensure this is communicated to the entire company, in the same way that you would celebrate other employees’ successes internally. Celebrating this positive message will also set your business apart when it comes to attracting new clients, improving supplier engagement and of course attracting new talent to your organisation.

  1. Ensure there is a perfect fit for both parties

When it comes to attracting talent, ultimately, the crux is if they will fit within your company culture and be an ambassador of your company values and ethos.

Ask yourself the questions ‘will they behave in a way that fits your organisation?’, ‘will they fit the specific role they’re applying for?’ and ‘will they feel engaged and motivated to achieve their potential?’

Their behaviour will be dependent on their values, work ethic and attitude to learning – reflected in aspects such as reliability, punctuality and conscientiousness. Think carefully about what you expect from them beyond this – for example, does the role involve data and so would require someone analytical with strong attention to detail?

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