SYLO | Beyond HR was founded more than 10 years ago, to provide HR services to businesses just like ours. HR is what we do best. All those people-related support, development and management functions are ‘our thing’.
Maggie joined us as an apprentice in October 2021 and we are so pleased we took the decision to appoint her. We asked Sharon Smits (SYLO stalwart) and Maggie (SYLO newbie) to tell us about their experience and thoughts around apprenticeships.
We are a small business, so any recruitment decisions are considered carefully. We had thought about employing an apprentice for a while. Our business was growing, and this year seemed to be the right time for a couple of reasons. The pandemic affected our business initially, but we are now seeing an increase in demand for HR services.
Mindful of budget, but keen to encourage people to get into HR, an apprentice was the perfect solution:
- We benefit from Maggie studying CIPD Level 5, with access to the latest thinking
- Appointing Maggie is relatively low risk to us as a business
- We want to support young people to develop their career and were able to offer Maggie the opportunity to deliver hands-on HR services to our clients, under the guidance of an experienced HR business partner
- As an HR consultancy, Maggie is exposed to a wider range of HR cases than a single HR department would provide
I had some work experience at SYLO in 2018 when I was studying at Lord Williams school. I was focused on a career in HR and although I was only with SYLO for a week I had a very rewarding work experience. I knew it was the profession I wanted to pursue.
At university, I tailored my studies around units that would help me in my chosen career path and when it came to my final year, I began looking at graduate jobs, but I struggled. Issues such as lack of experience, companies not replying/removing graduate positions due to COVID-19 and me personally not wanting to enter a huge company through the fear of not getting enough support, all became apparent.
I was almost ready to give up, but then remembered the small friendly company where I did work experience four years prior. After doing some research online, I could see they had grown but still incorporated many of the values I had been looking for in a company. I emailed one of the directors, and as fate would have it, they had been thinking of adding an apprentice to their team. After a few emails, phone calls and zoom meetings I was lucky enough to fit the bill.
Maggie contacted us about an apprenticeship/intern role. Her previous work experience with us and her approach showed us how serious she was about pursuing a career in HR.
We then had a sharp learning curve to understand how to take on an apprentice. We had a very informative discussion with John Browning at Bucks Business First (Skills Hub), which was invaluable. It ensured that we:
- Followed the right processes
- Chose the right trainer and course
- Secured government funding
We used the Government website to research the trainers, checking their rating with Ofsted and deciding which training Maggie was going to undertake. Our selection was based on the course available, their Ofsted report, the reviews of previous students and talking with them directly.
They were helpful in ensuring we had set up the apprenticeship portal, allowing them to access the funding. They explained what we needed to pay and explained the process for enrolling Maggie onto the course.
There are many benefits to SYLO of employing an apprentice:
- We are showing our clients that we practice what we preach, regarding the benefits to their company of employing an apprentice
- Passing on our varied experience is fulfilling for the team
- At the end of the two years, we should have a qualified HR Advisor who may join the team permanently
- The majority of the training is paid for by the Government
- It’s also highlighted the need to encourage CPD in our team and we have taken action to implement this
The benefits of going for an apprenticeship:
- It is a good way to enter a company. If you have done well, the company may offer full-time employment at the level of apprenticeship achieved.
- On-the-job work improves my ability to understand the theory through real-life application
- SYLO funds my studies, and gives extra guidance
- At the end of my apprenticeship, I will have a recognised qualification that will help my career
- A more rounded understanding of the job through combining study with work
- Learning the technicalities of the job through off-the-job training
- It is a good way to enter a company. If you have done well, the company may offer full-time employment at the level of apprenticeship achieved
Challenges to recruiting an apprentice include:
- There is a lot of information to digest to ensure compliance with Government procedures
- Procedures vary depending on the age and support required for the apprentice
- We had to hit specific deadlines for the funding and training enrolment
I would offer the following advice to companies considering employing an apprentice:
- Ensure you leave plenty of time to do your research, especially if you have not employed an apprentice before
- Decide what position they will fill, and which training courses fit that requirement
- Research thoroughly what funding is available, the deadlines and how you apply for it
- Talk to the training provider to understand what you need to do to ensure your apprentice completes their training in the allocated time and the correct number of study hours
- Find out how much support they give you as an employer
- Ask your apprentice for feedback on the whole process, so they tell you what they felt was good, or not
- When your apprentice starts with you, set up a training record so they note everything they do from day one. The training provider should give you a formal one, but they may not start their course straight away, so an individual record is a good idea
The advice I would offer to anyone considering an apprenticeship:
- If you know the career you want to have and can combine work with studying for a high-level qualification, it might be the best route for you
- Research all avenues available to you before deciding
- Due to the commitment of studying alongside your employment, be sure you have the intrinsic motivation to push yourself through or else you will not reap the full rewards and apprenticeship have to offer
- Be sure the company you join is fully equipped to take on an apprentice, can provide the necessary support, and the right resources to accommodate an apprentice’s needs
SYLO | Beyond HR. have created a “crib sheet” based on our experience. If you would like us to share that with you or for any other HR-related conversations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org