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Two firms unveil why hiring apprentices boosts growth – and how others can do the same

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Implementing apprenticeship programmes into your business is a great way of improving the skills base of your employees, whether they are new or existing staff. With that in mind, we talked with two companies to find out how such schemes impacted the businesses.

In 2015, RealityMine paired with MMU for the Degree Apprenticeship in Digital and Technology Solutions. With support from the Tech Partnership, a company established to promote the development of skills in the digital economy, it welcomed apprentices to work with the company to gain a degree. According to Sarah Osbourne, HR manager at RealityMine, it proved highly successful in the first year, with the firm aiming to create skilled individuals to fill the current gaps in the candidate job pool.

We asked her a few questions to suss out why the company chose to start its degree apprenticeship scheme.

Why did RealityMine decide to start its degree apprenticeship scheme?

In 2015 our company experienced significant growth, increasing headcount from around 30 people up to 103. Although we were able to fill most roles via traditional methods of recruitment, the market was competitive and the process of placing people could be lengthy and costly at times. We soon recognised the need to invest in the tech talent pool via training and development and felt that the degree apprenticeship scheme would be a good way to do so.

What advice would you give to other fast-growth firms which are considering taking on tech apprentices but are perhaps worried the process will be difficult and the scheme ineffective?

The process was no more difficult than hiring a regular employee so I would not let that put you off. This was a brand new scheme for MMU and we are one of the first employers to sign up to the programme. That said, they have been a tremendous support from recruitment right up until today.

What benefits has ReailtyMine seen from hiring apprentices in terms of growing its tech talent pool?

We have hired two excellent employees who are not only excelling in their studies, but also in the work place. They are still in their first year of the programme but their work has been recognised by their colleagues as invaluable. The variety of the programme has meant that they are constantly learning new things that can be applied across the business.

How have the apprentices benefited?

They have been given the opportunity to learn and gain work experience not only on software engineering but other skills such as team work, project management and communication skills. They have also helped in the local community by running a code club at a local primary school and becoming STEM ambassadors.

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As for IT support firm Netstar, it decided to use Microsoft’s Partners Apprenticeship Programme. The programme takes nine to 12 months and provides apprentices with on-the-job training at Netstar. Hoping to find out whether the growth of the company was also its reason for hiring apprentices, we talked with the company’s office manager, Beth Wooster.

Why did Netstar decide to start its apprenticeship scheme?

Netstar started its apprenticeship scheme in order to find enthusiastic employees, likely to be “digital natives” from the millennial generation. The hope was that Netstar would gain loyal employees out of the scheme who would grow with the company and eventually contribute to the development of others.

What advice would you give to other fast growth businesses which are considering taking on tech apprentices but are perhaps worried the process will be difficult and the scheme ineffective?

The scheme is very easy to participate in, easier than a normal job hiring process. The scheme is very effective provided you’re not expecting apprentices to come in and perform without giving them the necessary training. We have some members of permanent staff in various technical and leadership roles who were once apprentices – so we’re proof that it can work!

What benefits has NetStar seen from hiring apprentices in terms of growing its tech talent pool?

Netstar has benefited by receiving staff comfortable with technology despite no formal training. Apprentices often are able to learn and settle in more quickly than other employees. Due to a lack of previous experience, it is also easier to train apprentices in the Netstar way of doing things. We have many current members of staff who have stayed on beyond their apprenticeships to become senior members of the team and contribute to the development of others.”

How have the apprentices benefited?

The apprentices have benefited by being exposed to many facets of a fast-paced, growing business. Working at Netstar has enabled the development of many skills – not only technical. Customer service, communication and teamwork skills are highly important to the role, arguably more so than technical ability. Many apprentices have benefited by gaining full time employment, increased responsibility and opportunities to further strengthen their new skills.

Real Business has revealed the UK leaders whose journeys to enterprise greatness started off with apprenticeships.

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