Lisa Forde, Director of online event stationery companies Dotty about Paper and Tree of Hearts, talks about her experience of working with apprentices.
We have worked with apprentices for over four years now. The experience has been positive, benefitting both the company and the apprentices. It’s allowed us to grow our business organically while offering opportunities to young people.
We’ve had to adapt certain parts of the business to accommodate the apprentices.
For example, the recruitment and selection process needs to be tailored towards young people. Due to their age, our apprenticeship applicants usually won’t have much information on their curriculum vitae. When reviewing an older job applicant, the CV is invaluable in determining their skillset. To get around this issue, we use telephone interviews to learn more about the apprenticeship applicants as individuals.
With little to no job history to examine, we need to make sure the applicants are the right fit for our team – and that we’re the right fit for their career plans. Behavior tests help us learn what kind of person they are, so we can tell if they fit our core company values. Work trials will then let the applicant try the role and see if it suits them. This way, everyone can get to know each other before committing.
Often, the roles we offer will be the apprentice’s first real job. As such, we need to be aware of showing them how to conduct themselves in the workplace. Even teaching simple things, like learning to write a formal email and turn off mobile phones in the office, should be a priority for every employer.
The whole team needs to offer a supporting role to the apprentice, ready to help with queries in the office and possible issues happening outside the workplace. Employers should prepare their team for this responsibility.
We try to give our apprentices a wide variety of experience across different areas of the business. This helps them understand their role within the company and the way it impacts on other departments. They also gain a good foundation of knowledge by experiencing the various elements that form a company, which they can use in later life.
In addition, they are gaining a qualification while they work. Having both work experience and an academic qualification to add to a CV is a fantastic asset for young people looking to start their career.
When we take on an apprentice, it is always with a view to long-term employment. I knew that I didn’t want to run the kind of business that keeps an apprentice for a year and fails to help them beyond that point. They are all treated as normal employees and given the same respect as every other team member.
In conclusion, taking on apprentices is a fantastic opportunity for companies to expand their business while helping young people find their way into the working world. Watching apprentices gain confidence and develop skills which they can use to kickstart their future careers is a rewarding experience for any employer.