How apprentices can be good for business

A quick little prologue to today’s entry. It’s often hard to create truly personal content in this sort of corporate context, especially given that we try and make so much of the articles that fill the bloggo-sphere straight lace, unopinionated and informative. But, who said we can’t try and use a mix of both. Consequently today we are going to discuss the efficacy and advantages of using apprentices in your company, with particular reference related to our company and the staff who work here, Seelocal.

First it’s probably best to discuss the origins of Seelocal. It was created as sister company to 8-digital, a channel marketing company started in 2008 by two well-travelled and experienced entrepreneurs. As 8-digital grew and took on more customers with more varied needs there arose the need to employ more members of staff. Consequently, the partners bought two new members into their small cadre, those two were Laura and Alex (names have not been changed, let’s just hope they don’t mind). Being very much of the world and brought up to respect hard-work, and with an understanding of the opportunities they had been afforded, the partners had hired Laura and Alex as apprentices. Alex was a commercial whizz with great business acumen and a good head for marketing theory, while Laura was an eager brand creator and designer with a creative flair. To help cope with the increased demand and new services they got asked for the partners decided to split the business keeping 8-digital as a B2B channel marketing enterprise and creating Seelocal to deal with online marketing for small to medium businesses, uniquely, in their own localities. Having excelled and flourished during the time they spent as apprentices the partners felt Laura and Alex were the natural fit to take on the challenges of building this business from the ground up, made them into partners in the new business, and they didn’t disappoint. Several years on Seelocal has become a local advertiser with an ever-increasing influence and several big names on its books! Sufficed to say this experience has informed the policy of Seelocal from its very earliest incarnation. Now in its third year as an innovator and marketing expert the company goes from strength to strength, but pays homage to its humble origins by employing a bevvy of dedicated and go-getting apprentices.

One of those apprentices, though too humble to consider themselves go-getting, is at this very moment writing this blog. So, if you’re after unbiased reporting maybe best to stop there! If, however, you’d like to hear more about the possible benefits of hiring an apprentice for your business, lets continue.

Currently apprenticeships in the UK are undergoing something of a renaissance. Having been popular for many hundreds of years in manual industries, in more recent times the reduction of primary and secondary industry in favour of tertiary and quaternary meant the number of apprentices took a steep dip. However, in the late 2000’s, especially when university applications far outstripped places even after the huge increase in tuition fees, apprenticeships were flouted by the government as a viable alternative for the youth to further education. Given more structure, more funding and governmental support they soon began to become a mainstay of the employment industry. Without being heavily supported and subsidised by the government their growth would likely have been much less prolific. The way this works is while an apprentice is in place the business pays them as it would a normal employee. They do, contrary to some people’s belief, still have full employment rights and in most cases enjoy the usual holiday and healthcare benefits of their peers, however they are exempted from the usual minimum wage rules and held to a significantly lower level. Coupled with this apprenticeship programmes involve out of work training in theory and practical skills associated with an academic institute. The main bulk of governmental subsidy comes in here, they will, for the vast majority of young apprentices pay all their education for them and the business. The fiscal side of things can be boiled down to, ‘the business will receive a young inexperienced but willing, and with a good ability to learn, employee. They will give on the job training for somewhere between 1 and 3 years, paying them likely half or less the wages of a regular employee to hopefully, by years end, be able to perform all the tasks anyone else might’ the cost is usually one day or less a week out of work training. So far so good? There really is nothing else to say, no big catch, if you have an able and obliging person who wants to learn your trade but has no experience and you’re willing to take them on at a reduced rate of pay while they learn to be an effective member of your team you should definitely consider the possibility of taking them to a college or recruitment company to see if they will take them on as an apprentice.

Many employers will still see apprentices as 16-year-old children with no desire to work or learn that still cost you a lot of money. The reality is decidedly different. With the growth of the apprenticeship market and support for apprentices by learning institutions never having been higher, there is a decided move towards these roles becoming the way people who really want a skilled but non academically driven career follow. You have to remember, todays 18-year olds, who would have been going to university in 2008/9, are a decade later contemplating apprenticeship as a possibly more profitable course of action, both in terms of financial stability and future prospects. While apprentice numbers have grown significantly in the construction and manufacturing industries where the true heart of the modern wave of roles lies are in the finance and tech sectors. Almost any vocation can have an associated apprenticeship programme, with almost purely beneficial information being passed on both in work and outside, a clean un-cluttered style of education. As for the argument of naivety or inexperienced juvenile applicants; I sit here, a 30 year old apprentice doing something I never really believed I ever could, surrounded by several other apprentices from 17-25 and completely unable to dissect their considerable abilities, after their 9 months of training, from the people who have been in the industry decades, they having trained them of course. The take away, the advertising industry, like so many others doesn’t require 7 years at medical school or 1000 hrs flying a plane as an entry point. It requires hard work, dedication and desire. That is rarely more present in a 40-year industry veteran than a complete novice. If you’ve got the time, patience and a bit of money you really can create the next generation of marketers in your companies’ image. A point proven by 2 young, enterprising marketing apprentices, and the company they built with a view to being the best online local advertiser around. They really are the living proof it works.

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