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Analysis / Business

5 Top Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Apprentice

Apprentice

Maybe you are considering hiring an apprentice but are wondering if you would put them to good use. Or maybe you recently took on an apprentice and are looking to help them fulfil their potential. Fear not, lots of IT sector businesses have been down this path and you can benefit from their experiences.

Firstly, it is important to consider the huge transformation that apprenticeships have undergone over the last decade. From a traditionally manual labour focused affair to now providing software development apprenticeships for tech savvy teenagers. They cover such areas as programming and digital marketing, as well as other areas ranging from accountancy to business administration.

In addition, apprenticeships in many areas are now a formidable alternative to university degrees and why wouldn’t they be? They provide young people with an opportunity to get hands on and gain industry experience while still learning the tricks of their trade and honing their skills.

Apprenticeships are also a positive for IT businesses looking to hire entry level talent.

For instance, Kano, an innovative and award-winning British tech firm that creates build-your-own PCs and screen kits for children of all ages, took on two apprentices last year.  Mathew Keegan, its Head of Customer Care said: “Both apprentices have made incredible contributions and brought a unique perspective through being young and straight out of school. This fresh take has been really insightful, especially for a young business that’s used to working with older groups of graduates.”

Here are five top tips to get the most out of your apprentice:

1. Line Manager Vs Mentor

Firstly, apprentices should be managed by experienced line managers. It is often easy for a line manager to slip into ‘mentor mode’ however; this can have a damaging impact for both parties, with the line manager burning out and the apprentice becoming easily confused as to who he / she should turn to in times of need. Find a suitable mentor, not the line manager, within your organisation for your apprentice and provide clarity from the beginning the roles of each.

2. Build A Cohort

You can give an apprentice all the support and guidance in the world however you cannot overlook the value of peer support. Where possible, buddy your apprentice up with someone who is going through the same experience as they are and encourage skills sharing. This will help boost retention for your organisation whilst allowing them to build a professional network for the future.

3. Take An Interest In The Individual

Apprentices like to feel valued within an organisation so take the time to understand why they’re doing an apprenticeship, what their intentions are post-graduation and how you can help them get there.

4. Set Weekly/Fortnightly Goals

It is important to have face-to-face 1:1 contact with your apprentice on a weekly basis. This is a great opportunity to set expectations, understand where their challenges / limitations lie and how you can best develop their workplace learning.

5. Give Them Ownership

An apprenticeship should be a real role with real accountability, adding real value to your organisation. Find a suitable project for them to own throughout the duration of their apprenticeship, give them the necessary tools needed to make a success of it and watch them flourish in their role whilst boosting productivity.

How many apprentices should you have? Well Kano found that there are benefits from having at least two. Its Mathew Keegan said: “My advice for employers is that if you are thinking of taking on one apprentice, consider taking two. At Kano, our apprentices are by far the youngest team members, and I was worried it would make it difficult for them to acclimatise. Training two people doesn’t involve any extra work for me, but it allowed the apprentices to have form a close bond with someone of their own age that they can relate to as they transition from school to the workplace.”

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Kyle O'Brien is a Senior Business Development Manager at apprenticeship provider Step Forward.