From education to employment

Leading Midlands Recruiter Doubles Apprenticeship Intake to Tackle Skills Crisis

Aleks Malczewska and Greg Latham, Encore CEO

Encore Personnel (@EncorePersonnel) is responding to the unprecedented spike in job vacancies, documented daily in the national media, by investing more time and energy than ever before in apprenticeships. 

Established in Leicester in 2001, Encore Personnel – which operates 10 branches and 22 Managed Services sites across the Midlands, employs more than 200 staff and places 4,000 workers each week – specialises in warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, driving, managed services and engineering recruitment. 

In recent months, the business has seen a staggering increase in the number of vacancies its customers need fill, from packing jobs to HGV driver shifts, due to a perfect storm of the pandemic, Brexit and a growing skills gap. To tackle the challenge head-on and lead by example, Encore has invested more resource than ever before in growing talent internally from the roots up through its apprenticeship programme, with 12 apprentices currently completing qualifications within various divisions of the business. 

Company Learning and Development Manager Nikki Westwood, who has worked at Encore for more than 16 years, said teaching “business etiquette” and recruiting the right person rather than sticking strictly to cardboard cut-out lists of criteria, was the key to developing a gold-standard apprenticeship culture.

She said: “We’re firm believers in and loud advocates of apprenticeships at Encore and we always have been. We have 12 apprentices currently onboard and eight more ready to start in the coming weeks in roles across all of our teams from HR to IT to our recruitment consultant apprenticeship – so we’ve doubled the amount of apprentices we invest in in just two years, since 2019. All are funded through the apprenticeship levy, of which we use about £50,000 per year from our allowance. 

“We’re currently looking into how we can ensure none of our levy pot of cash expires, by passing the funds we don’t use on to our customers and charities local to our branches. We value apprenticeships so much and see them as integral to the evolution and stability of all manner of disciplines and industries and we want to spread that belief and resource as far as we can. Investing in apprenticeships is crucial to upskilling the workforce, tackling the growing skills gap head on and instilling a firm grounding of business etiquette from the get-go.” 

Nikki added that despite popular perception that apprenticeships are only for school leavers, there is now no age limit on who can apply for one. Combined with the government’s plans for flexi-apprenticeships which will allow apprentices to work across several jobs to gain their qualification, she said the time is now to seriously consider taking on more apprentices. 

Nikki added: “We have apprentices on board at Encore ranging in age from 17 to 43 which shows it really is not a route purely for young people straight from school. The on-the-job learning and real life experience of an apprenticeship appeals to people from all walks and stages of life and given that by 2037, 64% of people will lack a skill to be able to do their job, now is the time to pre-empt that crisis. My advice to other businesses looking to grow and help tackle the skills gap is: take on more apprentices right now. You won’t regret it!” 

22-year-old Aleks Malczewska joined Encore when she was 19 and has just passed her Team Leader/ Management Level 3 apprenticeship with Distinction. 

She said: “When I started working at Encore I had just come out of sixth form with no life experience. I was offered a temporary contract for three months which turned into a permanent placement after two months. Thanks to my apprenticeship I have now progressed into a senior member of the team. 

“I’ve loved every minute of my apprenticeship and have found it so useful. I have picked up so many skills that I will carry for the rest of my life, for example one of my biggest obstacles was conflict – however by completing this apprenticeship I have learned so many useful ways you can approach conflict to change it into an opportunity for improvement. 

“The best thing about the apprenticeship was the fact that I was never alone. I could turn to my teacher or my coach with real life scenarios at any time and find solutions together and learn from them. Now I am a 22-year-old manager of four people, with just under four years’ experience within the industrial resourcing sector and I have just bought my first home. I can honestly say that this would not be possible without Encore’s constant support in developing me, not only in my role but in myself too.” 

Encore prides itself on its exceptional client and candidate service. It puts the customer and candidate/ employee experience at the centre of all strategy with dual value propositions of ‘your business, your culture, our priority’ and ‘your future, your wellbeing, our priority.’  It places its success on following its key values including avoiding negativity, creating loyalty and communicating with a refreshing openness.

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