5 Top Tips for SMEs looking to hire apprentices

How do you recruit?
How do you recruit?

Merchant banking group Close Brothers has launched an apprenticeship programme whereby it will fund an apprentice for 20 engineering companies in an effort to help bridge the skills gap in this sector.

The apprentices will spend six months training at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield before joining the workforce at their new company. To celebrate Small Business Advice Week, SMEWeb spoke to five of the engineering companies benefiting from the scheme asked them for their apprenticeship top tips at a meet-and-greet event held at the AMRC this week. Here is what they had to say:

• There may be some red tape and financial hurdles, but one apprentice is better than nothing if your company is facing a widening skills gap and an ageing workforce. It’s important to have a succession plan in place, or one day you will find there’s nobody at the helm

• An apprenticeship is often viewed as a last resort, but it is a legitimate alternative to going to university, so do not be afraid to recruit for a high calibre of candidates. You know best what academic background the applicants will need to have, but one thing that we heard over and over was that passion and enthusiasm is really key, and should shine through during the interview process

• If you’re having trouble narrowing down your candidates, try offering the shortlist a week’s work experience. Any truly enthusiastic candidate will jump at the chance, and it gives you a chance to make a more in depth appraisal. If you can afford it of course it is nice to pay them at the end of the week, but even if they are not paid or selected for the apprenticeship they have a week’s work experience to add to their CV. Everyone is a winner!

• Research the training provider you are planning on sending your apprentices to – there are no two alike. While the AMRC received glowing praise from the SMEs for its modern facilities and organisational skills, some of the companies had less than impressive experiences elsewhere. Visit the centre and find out what exactly your apprentices will be trained in

• Lastly, it is important not to forget that your apprentice will be bringing in a fresh pair of eyes with more current training than a lot of your employees will have. Do not be afraid to learn from them!

The five SMEs we spoke to at the event were Davy Markham, Multiplex, Senex, Fernite and Rotherham Industrial Plastic Company.