Andrew Payne: Why investing in apprentices means investing in business success

Fujitsu’s Engineering Services director explains how apprentices can go from a clean sheet of paper to being a company director

There are plenty of reasons why companies should run an apprenticeship scheme. Hiring apprentices can help you boost the business, develop specialised skills and do your bit for the economy. Investing in apprenticeships means essentially investing in your business’ success, but many organisations are yet to learn the full potential of having an apprentice.

For once, apprenticeships help organisations develop a talented and loyal workforce. For many apprentices, the first contact with the world of work makes a lasting impression and it comes naturally that many choose to progress their career at the company that originally employed them - thus reducing churn and improving employee retention rates. Investing in young people also means that organisations are able to train them to their own standards and focus on those skills that are essential but currently lacking on the market. Finally, not being used to conform to a working culture before, apprentices bring with them a heap of youth enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on the business, as they often think outside the box and come up with creative ideas.

Some may of course argue that graduate recruitment offers similar opportunities for businesses but that’s not always the case. Graduates would have spent the last three to four years in academia, focused on studying and developing a certain skills set. Apprentices are like a clean sheet of paper, whereas graduates might need some time to adjust to the new working environment and re-learn some of the skills they have already learnt at university (e.g. academic writing vs. business writing), which can take a long time.

I, for example, started my apprenticeship in 1986 with Fujitsu (then called ICL) in the customer service division. Well over 28 years later, I now head up the engineering division in which I started my career, with responsibility for leading a team of over 1,300 people. This is something I never envisaged when driving round in my company van, wearing my company suit and dealing with the day to day IT problems the customers encountered. It’s also something that many companies don’t expect to happen when they think about apprenticeships. More often than not, apprenticeships are still seen as a necessary, short-term solution to the growing skills gap, squeezed somewhere between the cost analysis and CSR conversations. But what those companies do not realise is the fact that apprentices can bring real value and become a differentiator to whether your business is mediocre or successful.

Looking back at my career, my apprenticeship not only helped me get to where I am today, but it also gave Fujitsu a skilled and loyal employee. I have always lived by the motto of ‘if you do a good job the opportunities will present themselves’ and they did. I would recommend the same approach for companies thinking about hiring an apprentice – if you give young people a chance, they will repay it twofold.

And the greatest thing about creating apprenticeships schemes is that they don’t only benefit the company – apprenticeships are also an opportunity for young people to learn on-the-job skills, while getting paid. In addition, apprentices also often get to explore different career options within the business before committing to a certain area and as such end up being more satisfied with their careers in the later life, which in turns makes them more efficient and reliable employees.

Andrew Payne is the director of engineering services at information and communication firm Fujitsu.

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