It’s a fair bet that you’re hearing more and more colleagues talking about apprenticeships. It could be, in fact, that you’re currently harnessing or considering this as a potential route to bring additional skills into your business.
During the 2014/15 academic year, more than 872,000 were employed on government-funded apprenticeships. So, with apprenticeships gaining speed, we ask RDT’s managing director, Chris Roll, to discuss the value of apprenticeships to business.
Q) Do you currently employ apprentices or do you intend to in the near future?
RDT have had an active policy in place for more than 10 years to recruit apprentices. We are a firm believer in giving back to the local community, and providing employment opportunities is part of our commitment to the community. Today, there are many exceptional schemes in place that support businesses employing through apprenticeships, and if you have the infrastructure and means to mentor staff, apprenticeships provide an excellent source of talent that can be nurtured to grow within the business.
Q) The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) cites a number of business benefits associated with hiring apprentices, including the fact that 92% of employers taking on apprentices noticed a more motivated workforce and 80% saw an increase in productivity in the workplace. What has been your experience? Do you concur/disagree with these findings?
15% of our existing workforce joined us as apprentices and we’ll typically take between 3-4 new apprentices per annum. It’s not easy to attribute productivity and motivation to the influx of young apprentices to the business, but there is certainly a noticeable link in the supportive culture within RDT and much of that stems from the fact we have employees that started as apprentices all across our business. Our experience has been very positive and we recruit on the basis that if the candidate has the right work ethic we can provide them with an opportunity to learn a little about the whole business before deciding together where they’d be best placed.
Q) 83% of apprentice employers believe that they are investing in the future of their business. What are your views on developing apprenticeships to build key skills within your company?
Apprentices are fundamental to our business today and will continue to be so in the future. RDT have excellent employee retention by any standards, and this is primarily down to the fact we develop staff across the whole of our business, which in turn builds loyalty and trust. We run an academy that provides staff with a programme of development based upon their chosen career path. Apprentices benefit significantly as they’re able to gain accreditation across all the key business functions. This gives them valuable knowledge of our business operation that you wouldn’t typically gain by employing within a specialised field such as sales or finance.
Q) How do you balance apprenticeships alongside investment in other areas of workforce training?
From our perspective it really isn’t an investment that requires much consideration as apprentices have always proved to be a reliable ROI compared to other workforce training options. Direct costs are typically negligible, and providing you’re allocating the necessary time, and have the right processes in place to identify individuals that have characteristics that match the business profile, it becomes a simple decision.
Q) In spring 2017 the way the government funds apprenticeships in England is changing. Larger employers will be required to contribute to a new apprenticeship levy, and those that are too small to pay it will have 90% of the costs of training paid for by the state. Extra support, worth £2,000 per trainee, will also be available for employers and training providers who take on 16 to 18 year-old apprentices or young care leavers. There have been concerns expressed that this may impose additional administrative red tape on smaller firms and discourage them from taking on apprentices at all. (What are your views? Will this change the way you view apprenticeships/prompt you to hire or stop hiring?)
There are clearly pros and cons from the new scheme but we don’t really have enough information yet to understand how it will impact our business. We have every intention to continue developing apprentices at RDT, as they have proved essential to nurturing new talent. It would take a significant increase in costs for us to reconsider apprenticeships in the future.
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At RDT, everyone is united in growing careers by growing the businesses of clients. It’s a joint effort and because we work in-house, together as a team, we are able to respond with agility to our customers’ needs. Above all, working at RDT is real fun.
If you have the right mix of drive, skills and passion to help RDT build a stronger, more competent strategy for our clients, what are you waiting for? The time is now …
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