Jake and Gus
The story so far
As a former senior HR professional and now small business owner, I recognise the need to develop staff from within your own organisation and to also give new individuals entering the workplace a chance to secure their first job. As a company, our hiring profile to date has largely been proven professionals as opposed less established or new starters to the job market. But with our workforce profile often niggling me and with a requirement to recruit some new staff at affordable rates to augment our busy support side of the business, we decided to try something different and see whether hiring workplace apprentices was a good way to go.
It’s very early days but this is the story so far.
The recruitment process
To look for suitable IT apprentices we paired up with the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals and their scheme manager. Initially things didn’t go well, and the prospective CVs sent to us fell far short of what we required. We didn’t invite for interview any of the candidates offered. After speaking with the scheme manager, we were advised to persevere with the process but to seek out those who were applying for the higher-level qualification as part of the apprenticeship scheme as it may garner candidates more suited to our specific roles.
We took the scheme manager’s advice. Immediately it attracted a more suited calibre of candidate and three interviews were set up. Feeling positive we invited candidates for interview. Unfortunately, of those invited who accepted the interview, only one actually turned up for interview but he wasn’t the right fit. So again, frustrated and a little annoyed, we were now three months into the process with very little to show for the time and effort already expended.
We were close to going back to our traditional methods of recruitment, but we agreed to try one further time via this apprentice route. Whether it was the right time of year when individuals had just received their college exam results or for different reasons this time, we got six solid CVs and six interviews were booked for July.
It was a long time since I had interviewed 18+ year olds, so on a hot day it was a fun distraction from normal activities. In the most part the candidates interviewed well, not withstanding a few nerves and the odd comical answer. What really stood out was that all of them had a passion for IT and an enthusiastic desire to work in the industry which was really encouraging.
At interview two candidates stood out – Jake and Gus – both from very different backgrounds with complementary skills. Jake was smart and polished in all aspects of his delivery, Gus less polished but with undeniable knowledge and depth of the subject matter relative to his age. Although we didn’t have a quota as to how many apprentices we would take on, for our first foray into this field we agreed that two would be a good number to start with. The same day both were offered positions and duly accepted.
The first month
Notwithstanding Gus arriving an hour late on his second day bleary eyed having overslept, it’s been a good month for both apprentices. It was a good decision to employ both as they have been able to learn together, lunch together and support each other. A decision I would definitely take again.
To ensure this positive start it was critically important also that we invested in a documented, comprehensive week-long induction that both introduced them to the company, its people and to our rules and procedures. It was good to plainly set these out so that there was no later ambiguity. We also wanted to ensure that Jake and Gus got a solid technical grounding on what they were going to be expected to do. With that in mind, week two work consolidated on from the first week. There was a lot to take in and it was intensive, but both said after it was enjoyable, albeit tiring.
From a results perspective, whilst it’s early days, Gus and Jake have embraced our technology with enthusiasm and determination and are dealing with their workload in an efficient, professional manner. Feedback from customers and colleagues is so far very good (Jake loves to get a thumbs up emojis from customers for successful support resolutions), so everything is looking encouraging. For what is a modest investment in relative terms financially and resource-wise it looks as though these hires may prove to be good bets.
Final thoughts on our experience so far
To absorb apprentices, give them the most from the opportunity and to get the most for your company they do (certainly in the formative few weeks) need supervision and support. If as a small company you can’t provide that then they are probably not for you. Don’t forget either that as part of the apprenticeships agreement you are paying for them to attend college at least three days per month so that’s another overhead to absorb.
As a small business, it can be difficult at times to have a social conscience but offering opportunities to college leavers does feel the right thing to do. Time will tell if Gus and Jake turn out to be good investments or not for Abavus but the signs so far are positive.