Chris Darling, Operations Director, MRM Solutions

Can your SME benefit from hiring an apprentice?

North East electrical company, MRM Solutions, understand the benefits of working with apprentices, having relied upon them as an integral part of the work force since the company was founded over ten years ago.

Here, Operations Director, Chris Darling, dismisses the stereotypes and outlines the key benefits that apprentices can bring to any business.

A recent government report identified that apprenticeship participation is at an all-time high, with over 490,000 new apprentice starts in the 2016/2017 academic year, and with these figures set to rise, there’s no better time to recruit an apprentice worker. But, with misguided stereotypes disturbing how apprentices are viewed in a profession environment, is it surprising that so many UK businesses are reluctant to introduce the scheme?

Chris Darling shuns this idea saying, “Regardless of the industry your business operates in, with the right guidance, apprentices have the potential to thrive as productive and loyal members of the workforce. Whilst young apprentices will need to adapt from the school environment, to a professional one, this should not act as a deterrent for employers.”

A common problem faced by most trade based industry’s is finding the right employee with the right skills to suit the role. Often business processes are so unique, it is more efficient to mould a young employee to align with your company’s culture from the get-go. Positioning more advanced, junior employees as mentors to new apprentices can have a significant impact on their personal and professional development. Allowing existing employees to hone their management and delegation skills, so they can advance in the business.

Chris advises “Having worked my way up from an apprentice to a company director, I believe that training others increases knowledge, professionalism and confidence. By giving a junior employee shared responsibility for a trainee, you can unveil their business potential and determine whether they are worth investing in”.

Apprentices should not be labelled as a burden, businesses should see the scheme as grounds for business development, giving both experienced employees and trainee’s the opportunity to excel in the workplace by taking on new responsibilities and challenges.

Chris continues “At MRM, our experience of employing apprentices has been entirely positive. The scheme has been a driving force in the company’s growth from a 2-man-band, to becoming one of the largest electrical engineering firms in the North East.”

Whilst apprentice schemes were once only available in large corporations, the introduction of the Apprentice Levy in March 2017 has made their funding more sustainable for businesses in their infancy. The new scheme enables companies paying out less than £3million annually on wages to receive 90% of the costs towards the associated fees.

Any employer taking on apprentices aged 16-18 will receive a lump sum of £1000 to support training. And in addition, employers no longer pay national insurance for apprentices younger than 25. This government aid makes apprentices a cost-effective way to expand your work force.

Chris explains “Even with support from government schemes, I still hear small businesses questioning whether it’s worth hiring young apprentices, because of the time needed for training. We see our apprentices as assets to our business and view their training as a long-term investment into both our company’s and our employee’s futures”.

Apprentice schemes are said to increase employee satisfaction and reduce staff turnover. Chris agrees, stating “almost all of our apprentices have remained with the company since graduating from the scheme. Showing employees that there is room for growth and development within the company keeps them motivated and encourages company loyalty.”

Training apprentices from scratch gives businesses the opportunity to form the individuals working nature from day one, ensuring that their methods and ideologies are 100% tailored to your company’s culture and business requirements. According to the National Apprenticeship Service apprenticeships benefit employers by boosting the skills of the workforce, closing the skills gap and thus improving economic productivity.

Now is the time to reject the negative associations that have tarnished the humble apprentices’ name for too long, and embrace these individuals as the future of your company!

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