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TGt Meets... Jason Titcombe
As part of our Apprenticeships Employer interviews, we met with Jason from NKS, who are a medium sized construction company who directly employ the majority of staff to undertake social housing and disabled adaptation contracts for local councils.
Why did you choose to take on an Apprentice?
In the early days we took on apprentices as part of our social obligations and commitment that was forced on us when we were awarded contracts. Most contracts that we undertake are carried out under framework and long term partnering arrangements usually with local Authorities and Housing Associations. Normally it is a condition precedent for the successful contract to provide apprenticeships at both trade/office level on an annual basis based on size of the contract. For example – 1 apprentice per 500k turnover awarded.
Subsequently our company ethos has changed and the apprenticeship programme is an integral part of business model moving forward.
How did you go about finding an Apprentice to bring in to your business?
In the early days we established a close working relationship with a training provider. They provided us with the necessary advice and support from helping us find a suitable candidate that would suit our business needs through to securing the necessary funding.
Other means we now frequently use;
• Through recommendation, family and friends of existing employees
• Through schools and the work experience programme we run
• Through job fayres run for schools and colleges
• National careers service (two of our apprentices Katie Mumford and Will Woods star in a video scheme that is shown to students across the southwest)
What are the benefits of employing an Apprentice?
Train people to suit the needs of your business. We found it very hard to employ suitable people that could work within our specialist area of construction. Basically, the majority of our work is carried out for people who are elderly or who have disabilities. We found it was easy to employ trades people but they didn’t have the necessary “soft skills” needed for this work.
Hence a big benefit to us was that we could mould our apprentices into more versatile individuals who have skills both technically and verbally to suit the very high demands of the work they do.
· The also provide very good value for money
· They stay with the company longer
· More commitment to the company
What are the advantages of bringing in an Apprentice, over more conventional employment methods?
The main advantage is that they seem to have more dedication and commitment. They are not solely driven by remuneration but are looking to build a career and a profession within the company. As a result, we often find they stay longer and progress quicker within the company.
What role does your apprentice play in the day-to-day operation of your business?
From the very start we empower all our apprentices to play a key role in the business. Most of our apprentices are Trade Apprentices and so from the very beginning, under supervision are given key tasks to carry out. We also actively encourage them to attend job fayres and ask them to talk to potential new candidates and mentor 1st year apprentices.
Were there any challenges you faced employing an Apprentice?
Biggest challenge was getting other members of staff to buy into the Apprentice ethos. Some members of staff thought the whole apprentice idea was a waste of time and money. However, over time they began to change their way of thinking especially when they started to see the positive results.
The other challenge was providing them with all the necessary skills. Originally we didn’t have all the necessary mentoring and technical skills available within the business, so through our Training Provider we found another local company who could offer this training to the individual. They were seconded there for a short period of time to develop and learn these skills. Nowadays, we can do it all and so offer this advice and support to other start-up companies.
How did the training your Apprentice received fit around their responsibilities in your business?
As with most things in life the more time you put in the more you get out of it. Training is a long term commitment and so you must realise that before you reap the benefits, there will be lost productive time from both the apprentice and his or her mentor. However, setting aside ample training time both at work and college is vital for their development.
As a company we make sure that before we commit to taking on another apprentice we have ample resource and work within the company to give that individual the experience they need to complete the course. Through experience we have developed a range of apprenticeship programmes that fit nicely within our current business model. We have an established pool of mentors and have given sole responsibility to one member of staff who oversees the whole apprenticeship programme.
What happened once the Apprenticeship had finished?
Over the last 8 years we taken on over 26 apprentices (male and female) in both trade/professional disciplines. We have retained the services of 24. They make up nearly 20% of our Directly Employed Staff.
We have also encouraged some of those Trade Apprentices to further develop their careers by putting them into management and supervisory positions.
What was it like working alongside the Apprenticeship provider?
We would have never have succeeded without their help. Initially they held our hand through each stage and process, they identified things we needed to do, grants we could claim, put us in touch with other businesses who went through and were going through the same thing.
We have subsequently developed a formal partnership with one of our providers, together we promote opportunities within the construction industry. Jointly we have supported many events in the South West promoting our industry to Year 9 students through practical activities. Furthermore, together we are developing bespoke programmes to ensure new apprentices have the skills to succeed in our line of business.
What advice would you give another business that is interested in employing an Apprentice?
Make sure you have the got the time to set up it up correctly. Make sure you get existing staff members on side, explain to them the potential benefits. Make sure you have someone you can put in charge of the development of the apprentices, a figure head. Speak to other companies who have been through the same process. Speak to people who have been through the apprenticeship programme, draw on their experiences. Above all, strike up a partnership with a local provider.
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