Gas Manager & Deputy Manager for Direct Works
Apprenticeships bring young people into our industry, many of them with huge potential. If they work hard enough, like our three apprentices Georgie, Jon & James have on their Apprenticeship, we can build on their training so they become a vital part of our service. They get a future in commercial maintenance and construction and we get quality employees. That’s worth its weight in gold.
Apprenticeships are part of the DNA within local communities, we challenge our apprentices to learn as they go, and split their development between the classroom and the field. It’s good for both parties: they get skills that help them in their careers and we get talented people who benefit our service.
If you’re prepared to invest your time in apprentices, the rewards are huge. They don’t just generate more income/productivity, they become part of the team, with younger, fresher eyes and ears for us to learn from. It’s very satisfying to watch them grow over time.
Of course, their skill levels are very basic when they arrive but in my experience, with correct candidate selection, you get colleagues who are very motivated and eager to learn. And when you’re facing a skills shortage that can make all the difference.
Having an apprenticeship scheme is about recognising raw talent, over qualifications or work experience, with both parties investing the time and effort to get an end result which is mutually beneficial. The business is kept up to speed with new skills and methods of work and the apprentices bring new ideas and innovation to the business.
Integrating the apprentices within the team has been a simple process. With work shadowing of key members of the team, slowly adding responsibility, and building their confidence this has to be a managed process. The line manager/team leader needs to have clear understanding of where the apprentices are within their syllabus to challenge them and ensure what they are learning is being practised in the work place.
Our apprentices at Engineering & Direct Works have added real value to the service by being keen, motivated, and excited about the challenges they face daily in the work place – this has had an overall positive effect throughout the service. Internally this has created increased interest in training amongst other colleagues with a higher level of engagement across the whole service.
My personal experience of managing our apprentices has been very positive. I have mentored/managed three apprentices over my career as a manager and gas engineer, and they truly keep you engaged and on your toes. As with in anything in life you get out what you put in.
There is a commitment from a management perspective of training and mentoring, but when a service buys into an apprenticeship scheme I have found that the whole service engages with the apprentice and wants to support that individual.
Managing the 20% off the job training is relatively easy in year one; I have found as the apprentices skill and competence advances over years (depending on course length gas engineering is minimum of five and a further two years to gain commercial accreditation) we have highly skilled colleagues which the service comes to rely on. This requires greater planning and management; but as a service we are really starting to bare the fruit of our labours.
In my professional opinion training apprentices are critical for individual services/companies to improve skill retention; apprenticeships have allowed our business to secure a supply of people with the skills and qualities that the business required and which are often not available on the external job market.
We can especially see the long term benefits with future planning for potential replacements for an ageing workforce, external recruitment can often be more expensive to recruit experienced workers from the external labour market because of recruitment costs plus the costs of induction and any necessary training; And by training apprentices the service has contributed to the pool of skilled and certificated professionals for the local community.
Other benefits include lower labour turnover. We are recognising that our apprentices have a greater loyalty to the service, also apprentices provide a cadre of employees from which to select future managers.
A good Apprenticeship scheme can be reflected in an enhanced reputation for the business both within the industry and in the local community with most recently our service being awarded commercial employer of the year for services to apprentices in the South West.