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Why apprentices make sense for startups

The ecosystem of Tech City is one of innovation, forward thinking, and strong ethics – traits that should be reflected by the companies and initiatives that come into contact with it.

Apprenticeship programmes are one of the greatest ways in which Just IT have made themselves known in Tech City and been able to add value to the exciting new startups emerging around Silicon Roundabout.

Talent acquisition is especially important in a time of such drastic skills shortages.

The challenges of apprenticeships

One of the most difficult challenges we’ve faced with apprenticeships rears its head at the first hurdle.

Despite the dramatic growth in the popularity of work-based learning over the last three years, it’s still very common for people (employers in particular) to have no idea as to what an apprenticeship is or does.

On our part as a training provider, it’s less about selling apprenticeships as a product, but instead educating hiring managers about the benefits for both businesses and young people.

FlatClub

One such startup that has embraced work-based learning as a way to fill important entry level roles is FlatClub, the online marketplace for short term accommodation within trusted networks.

FlatClub have revolutionised the short term renting market since their inception in 2010, which has been reflected in their rapid growth. Investing in the right people is of paramount concern for any startup experiencing growth on this scale, as explained by Head of Marketing Matt Chic.

One of the characteristics that we look for in hiring is a desire to grow professionally with the company. Apprenticeships are designed exactly for this purpose.

Apprenticeships are government-funded, meaning that all of the training an apprentice will need to get up to speed within a business and continue to develop professionally costs an employer nothing.

Neither is there a recruitment fee involved, so the apprentice’s discretionary salary is the only expense in return for a well-trained and supported individual.

How to hire

There are apprenticeship programmes available in over 170 industries and across 1,500 job roles, but it is only a handful of these that many tech companies would find especially relevant and useful to explore for their own junior positions.

Technical apprenticeships exist for IT support and networking as well as web and software development – perfect for 1st line support and basic web development roles with a lot of room for growth.

Despite his young age, FlatClub’s web development apprentice Dimitri has been able to add value to a variety of projects, from site enhancements to advertising creative. Between his technical training at Just IT and the hands on experience that he earns on the job, Dimitri is acquiring new skills quickly enough to be able to contribute to product development cycles in a big way.

 Preparing for placements

Importantly, the coaching that an apprentice receives from their training provider isn’t solely technically focused.

It’s not uncommon for an apprenticeship to be a young person’s first experience of employment, so the soft skills training is often as valuable to both the apprentice and employer as the technical education.

By preparing apprentices before their placements begin, allowing employers to have control and flexibility over who they take on, and providing several layers of support in the form of dedicated assessors, an effective apprenticeship programme will ensure that all parties are happy and successful.

Expectations are key

When asked to offer advice to other employers who may be initially hesitant to take that first step, Matt explained that expectations are key.

In order for apprentices to succeed on the job, you need a well-defined set of expectations for work output and an active feedback loop.

Apprentices are young, which we see as a positive because they are motivated and quick to learn. As an employer you have the opportunity to train a young professional from day one.

 It’s on this sentiment that the decision to explore apprenticeships makes sense for a startup – successful growth for a small business is strongly tied to investing in the right people, which is why we’ve seen many companies like FlatClub proudly embrace apprenticeships.

No doubt as the number of success stories continues to grow, we’ll see many more Tech City startups ready to jump on-board.

Tom Coakes is a Marketing Executive at Just IT. Since 2011, Just IT have been running a government-backed apprenticeship programme that fills roles across a wide variety of sectors.