Now you have your apprentice on board you need to give them the best chance to succeed. Apprentices can be school-leavers, graduates (16 – 24-year-old scheme) or more mature individuals (the Adult Apprentice Scheme). Each group, and individual within the groups, will have different needs and expectations of themselves, the placement, and what being an apprentice is all about.
All will need the same basic support or pastoral care when they become an Apprentice. So, what does this involve?
(Note: If you employ a young apprentice (16 – 18 years) you will need to ensure you meet the additional requirements of employing a minor such as health and safety requirements and working time restrictions. See http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5410 for more information)
11 Steps to Looking after your Apprentice
1. Make that initial welcome warm!
The first day is very important so be prepared and make sure everyone provides a warm welcome to your Apprentice. This will help alleviate first day nerves and put your Apprentice at ease.
- Tell the team they are joining that day
- Have someone ready to meet them on arrival
- Have a desk ready for them with all the essentials they will need. You might even want to include a small welcome gift like a mug and a chocolate bar or voucher for the local sandwich shop
2. Set up a mentor
A mentor is someone who can advise and guide the Apprentice on the job they are apprenticed to, but also at a more caring level can be the ‘go to’ person for everyday queries and concerns. Mentors are usually a more senior colleague working in the same department as the Apprentice.
The mentor should be someone who:
- will be able to relate well to the apprentice,
- have lunch and coffee with them until they settle in and make friends of their own
- they can go to with ‘stupid questions’ without fear of ridicule
- who is willing to keep an eye on the apprentice and be friendly, supportive and helpful towards the Apprentice.
- will meet regularly with the Apprentice and give pragmatic advice to the Apprentice on ‘how things are done around here’ and with anything they might be finding difficult in the new role.
- Makes it easy for them to ask questions or ask for help
3. Have a comprehensive Induction
Induction is key to the successful onboarding of all employees and Apprentices are no different! Plan the induction and ensure it covers all the key elements such as health and safety, overview of the company, who’s who (a photo company structure or photo phone list can really help new starters get to grips with the myriad of new names and faces, core HR elements, overview of the role and so on.
Make sure you review at the end of the first day to see how it went (and check that they are coming back tomorrow!) and then at the end of the first week which is quite a milestone for them. After that I would recommend regular reviews throughout the probationary period.
4. Set clear goals & objectives
Make it clear what you expect of your Apprentice. You may know what you want from them, but unless it’s made clear, it is very unlikely they will guess what is expected of them.
Try not to overload them with goals and objectives – make them bite size chunks and build them up as they develop and get more confident.
This will also help them to manage their time but make sure you give time for them to attend to the studies element of the apprentice scheme.
5. Provide effective supervision
Some apprentices may find it hard to ask for help, so make sure you’re approachable and have the time to guide them appropriately. Have regular meetings with them to talk about ‘how it’s going’, what they are finding interesting, more challenging etc.
6. Monitor progress
Track their skills, knowledge and ambition from the beginning of the apprenticeship through to completion. Track any correlations and offer further advice or training where necessary. Regular reviews of progress both with what they are doing with you at the workplace and how the college work is going. Give feedback – both positive (praise) and feedback for improvement. Don’t shy away from pointing out anything that is not going so well but make sure you do this in a supportive way and help them to identify what they need to do differently next time to get a better result.
7. Be an effective communicator
Have an open ear and be a good communicator. Take the time to not only talk with your apprentices but be a good listener too! Try and observe your Apprentice in action – this will give you a much better understanding of who they are and how they are doing and will inform your feedback first hand.
8. Open up opportunity
An apprenticeship should give a person a range of skills and insight into not just their own job and department, but also an understanding of the entire business. Link up with other departments to give your apprentice a fuller understanding of your business, it will really help them understand the processes and will help them develop fresh ideas.
An ideal time to do this is during the induction period – introduce them to the company as a whole – who you are, what you do, what different departments do. As the Apprenticeship progresses, they could even work shadow in other departments to get a full picture of the business and how it comes together to be successful.
Give your Apprentice the opportunity to observe fully trained staff – this will give great insight to them and help them understand what they are aiming for and generally how things operate in your business.
9. Practice what you preach
Set a good example, and don’t tell your apprentice to do something that you would not do yourself! Having positive role models at work are important to the overall education of the Apprentice in the workings of the business.
10. Developing your apprentice
An apprentice isn’t just for the apprenticeship. At the end of the programme you and your apprentice should have a good understanding of where their skills lie and where they want to develop their career. Offer them an opportunity within your organisation. Research has often shown that apprentices remain one of the most loyal members of your workforce.
11. Review and reflect
Once they have completed the apprenticeship programme, think about what you’ve learnt from the experience – what’s gone well and what has not gone so well, and refine your apprenticeships to offer an even better opportunity for your new recruits.
Ask your apprentices for feedback on the scheme and incorporate their feedback into improving the scheme for the future.
If you need help with looking after your Apprentice give us call to talk things through - 02920 090500.