It’s that time of year again. Nights are drawing in, the leaves are warm shades of brown and gold, our woollen jumpers have been dug out, and The Apprentice is back on our screens.Yes, ‘tis the season to watch Alan Sugar put a group of aspiring apprentices through a series of gruelling tasks to test their resilience, creativity, teamwork and leadership skills. The final episode will see the business magnate select his new business partner, and invest £250,000 in their company idea. But what happens next? Indeed, the winning candidate may have had a taste of what it’s like to work with the baron, however, to make the new business succeed, it’s crucial Lord Sugar harnesses his new apprentice’s talents in the right way. As a business owner, Alan Sugar isn’t alone in investing in an apprentice. Last year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills released figures showing that almost half of all firms will hire apprentices by 2019. Most apprentices aren’t expected to be archetypal reality TV candidate types with enough employment experience under their belts to run a company. But, it’s important for business owners to see the value in hiring an apprentice, and consider how to utilise them properly. Last week, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wiltshaw criticised the quality of apprenticeships, stating that some aren’t benefitting businesses or young people. Yet, a well-crafted programme can be mutually-beneficial for both parties, by fast tracking people up the career ladder and creating a diverse, highly-skilled workforce. However, when hiring an apprentice, it’s important a scheme is tailored to suit your business proposition. So how can you make the most out of your apprentice? (1) Do it for the right reasons A business may form an apprenticeship programme for a corporate social responsibility initiative. However, this should not be the sole reason to recruit apprentices. Instead, think about the new skills you need for your business, and how you can grow and nurture talent within it. Ultimately, this is an investment and should carefully align with your company vision. (2) Seek external support When you work with a training provider or external consultant to help you with your programme, it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve so they can build a programme to suit your needs. Also don’t be afraid to ask about funding and how they may be able to help you further – it’s crucial to maximise value to support your goals. (3) Treat them like any other employee When recruiting and managing an apprentice, follow the same interview and induction process that you would with any other employee. This will help them to settle in, understand your values and feel part of the team. As part of this, review their progression and evaluate what training they may need during the apprenticeship programme. After all, any new skills will benefit the company in the long-term. (4) Coaching on the job It’s a good idea to “buddy” apprentices up with the type of employee you would like them to become, ideally someone that understands what it’s like to be in their position. A strong buddy can teach them new skills, and crucially, set the benchmark for the type of behaviours and professionalism you expect. (5) Plan for the future Although you’ll recruit an apprentice based on their ability to learn behaviours, values and become a solid member of the team, ensure you have a plan in place that will help them to become effective employees and add value over time. Apprentices can introduce new skills to the business, so harness talents and interests that will suit the business in the long term. The easiest way to identify additional skills is to challenge apprentices with specific projects that will really test them. (6) Get buy-in from the rest of the company Finally, the most successful apprenticeship programmes secure buy-in from all areas of the business. To do this, you could offer all employees the same accredited training that is available to the apprentices, as many are unaware that they are eligible for the same funding. Steve Doyle is managing director of Itec Skills and Employment.
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