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Our ‘dos and don’ts’ guide to successful apprenticeships

From our time working in apprenticeships across a variety of disciplines, we have plenty of experience of what works and what doesn’t! Below is a series of ‘dos and ‘don’ts’ that we would recommend anyone new to apprenticeships to consider.

We have split this into upskilling existing staff and recruiting new staff.

Upskill Existing Staff

  • Carry out a clear set of diagnostics – a full training needs analysis and meeting/attending sites/observations. We can help you with this and it results in clearer goals for what you want to do
  • Get buy-in from senior staff that they are supporting their team going through the programme; otherwise ‘business priorities’ take over the development of staff
  • Different types of groups have, in our experience, different learning requirements. Managers often want to learn as they go and have 1-2-1 sessions. Customer services staff, who often have only really had product training, welcome classroom sessions as a way to bounce ideas of each other.
    Sales people love coaching as often they know the skills they need to use but need to look at what behaviourally blocks them from using them.

     Recruiting New Staff

  • Recruit staff on to the programme in 2 ways:
  1. Be clear as to why you want to do a programme and identify staff you think would benefit from this programme, then approach them directly
  2. Advertise the courses but vet anyone applying – staff need to have a history of reliability and a strong tenure in their role
  • New staff are an investment – do not expect an immediate return
  • There will be some issues around attendance and time-keeping. These are the 2 biggest issues employers always mention. This is not because apprentices are ‘lazy’ – for some getting into a full-time job is a big step; for some it can take 3-6 months to find their feet
  • DO NOT put anyone on a course as a mandatory part of their job – this just puts them in obligation. If you want to make, say, a team leader qualification for any new manager, that’s fine but make sure applicants know that before they apply for an internal promotion and the value of doing an accredited course.
  • Spend as much time as you can upfront defining what behaviours are needed in the role and then recruit against these
  • Consider some form of ‘Boot camp’ for new staff, particularly in sales, to give them the basic skills they need to be productive before they go out on to the ‘shop floor’
  • A really useful way to get learners to actively use their learning is to give them a project. This should be something that you will get business return from, so have it agreed with their manager. For example, in customer service it might be increasing their customer sat scores by certain activity, in sales breaking into a new customer, in management improving their staff morale by a certain amount. This gives clear deliverable results which help justify the learning time and incorporate learning into daily activity, which is the best way to embed skills.
  • Give them a mentor – not their immediate line-manager, but someone who they can go to and discuss any issues they are having confidentially. Apprentices often feel they have no voice and so the only option they have if they aren’t enjoying their role is to leave.
  • Have a coaching mentality. Let them make mistakes and help them not to make them again
  • Work closely with us to map the course so that we can use your existing training language and models. Don’t get us to train the elements you will obviously be better at, like product/company knowledge
  • Shadowing other staff is a great way for them to learn – incorporate it into their weekly activity.
  • Have a coaching and mentoring mentality. Give each learner a learning ‘buddy’ or someone internally they can go to and discuss their progress. This can be their manager but if you can, think creatively about someone else who could mentor them while on programme
  • New staff will naturally need more classroom training as there will be elements of the job they just don’t know.
  • Make all learners clear as to their responsibility when signing up – neither you nor we can afford drop-outs and we have had experience of learners dropping at the first sign of trouble.
  • Give them a development path – have a role in mind for them to go into once they have completed their apprenticeship.

View our factsheet here

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