Neal Sheppard, Assistant Director of Sport – Operations
Are there any particular barriers that were overcome to embed apprentices in your team?
The main concerns we had was around how we could support apprentices within our teams as they all operate on rotas and shift patterns. After finding out more about the delivery of the programmes, and meeting with Exeter College we realised that we could have a number of apprentices in each of our teams.
All the staff we approached were very enthused about the prospect of learning new skills and obtaining a qualification. Often operational staff miss out of CPD training so it was nice to reward staff so the will for obtaining new skills was there to start with
How are apprentices embedded within your team?
Our apprentices are mainly focused around the leisure industry and management roles. We now have 10 apprentices on courses such as Team leader Level 3, Personal Training Level 3, and Leisure Management Level 3.
We are about to go out for our first external apprentice Business Administrator Level 3, as we have been really impressed by the quality of the candidates, and the excellent support we are getting from Exeter College and the Apprenticeship Team within the University.
Describe your experience of the recruitment process and quality of the candidates?
All our apprentices so far were enrolled from our current staff. The process was easy to follow and Exeter College were really helpful. Exeter College came in to meet with our staff to go through the apprenticeships that were available, and were able to answer peoples questions.
What are the benefits of having apprentices in your team?
They bring in a fresh perspective, as their courses progress they are able to ask challenging questions.
They also learn a lot from their peers on their course who will have shared similar ‘real life’ examples of problems but also their solutions to these which our apprenticeships can take back to the work place.
Give examples of where your apprentice has delivered exciting changes, made a valuable contribution, and added value to your team?
One of our apprentices used the skills she learnt on her management apprenticeship to be able to take forward and implement new ways of working in environmental sustainability, waste streams, and energy management. These changes have delivered real savings, reduced cost and our carbon footprint.
The work she has done on her apprenticeship will also be put forward as part of our report in our forthcoming Quest audit.
Another example of new ideas, would be when one of our gym manager apprentices redesigned the layout of our gym floor plan. This involved consulting with gym users and gym staff, feeding back on both adopted ideas and those that were not adopted, and organising the equipment moves.
How are you actively managing your apprentices “Off-the-job” training time? What impact does this have on the role?
As all our staff work on rotas, there was an initial challenge to factor in the time they needed for college and their off-the-job training.
Some of our apprentices attend college one day each week, so we ensure that is added to the calendar so that they have dedicated time scheduled in to do their apprenticeship work. Outside of college term time they will still use that day for their college work, and either work from a quiet room on campus or work from home.
With some of our other apprentices, their training is delivered at the workplace, so we schedule in time throughout each week for them to do their college work and visits from the tutors.
Describe how you support your apprentice in the workplace and any on-the-job training you do?
Our apprentices have the opportunity to ask managers any questions and advice about their learning and talk through any scenarios. The aim is to relate their learning to ‘real life’ work-based examples.
For our forthcoming Business Support Apprentice, which is a new role, they will follow a full induction process where they will learn about our timetabling, finance and booking systems. They are given access to user guides and manuals and it generally takes the first 6 months before they are proficient in these systems. They will also be fully supported by colleagues and their line manager through this process.
What has been your overall experience of apprenticeships in your team?
We are really pleased with the Apprentices we have and are excited about being able to offer apprenticeships to both new and existing staff. This is a great way for our operational teams to gain valuable qualifications, to learn on the job and ultimately ensure they are in the best position to obtain an internal promotion if a suitable vacancy where to arise.