Investment in plant and equipment is an easy calculation when it comes to payback. You do the math’s and make your decision. There are accepted formula to determine the return on investment and you can even account for it in your Balance Sheet but when it comes to one of the largest investments, Apprentices, there are no such definitive calculations.
Some people in our industry have said that apprenticeships is pointless because you end up spending money on training someone up and then they leave when you have invested a great deal of time and money into them. It has even been suggested that ‘let someone else have the hassle of training, recruit them after someone else has trained them by offering them a bit more money’. Well, it’s a thought but hardly a long term strategy we would suggest.
If everyone took this view in our industry the skills slowly disappear and we will have done nothing to replace them, so it is vital that we bring on our apprentices. Secondly, if you do the right thing by your apprentices, they won’t leave you.
We ‘dipped our toe’ into apprentices some two years ago an our success rate to date is 50%. Not good some might say? Perhaps as a company we have made mistakes in the selection process? Or the supervising of young people, maybe it was a mentoring issue or something to do with education? But we prefer to focus on the successes and it has certainly not deterred us from maintaining our investment in the future. We recently held an ‘Apprentice Open Evening’ where we invited youngsters and their parents to come and see our facilities and meet our management, our current trainees and representatives of the collage that will be involved in their continuing education. The turnout in terms of numbers and quality was outstanding.
That’s the way business works – but if we all stop training apprentices, everyone loses and, ultimately, the industry dies. Not only that, apprentices are great for the company. To start with, it really focuses the mind when it comes to processes and the way you work because that has to be 100% correct before you can take on an apprentice.But it is important that we learn from our successes and our failures, we look after apprentices and we show them that there is a career progression here for them if they want it. We would suggest that it is better to develop young people through the ranks to have a future pool to choose from for technical, production, sales and management roles. Of course, the odd one will slip through the net but, we can live with that because, those coming through our system will understand our philosophy and our exacting standards for meeting quality and reliability standards
It’s vital that you don’t pass on bad habits that invariably, can build up over time in any industry or business so it really sharpens the emphasis on health and safety and other procedures. But apprentices also give fresh impetus to the business. They look at things differently and are prepared to ask questions and challenge the status quo.
Taking on apprentices should not be seen as a luxury that businesses can pull the plug on when times are tough. We have a responsibility to invest in our own company’s future and, indeed, the future of our industry because we can all have the best policies, procedures and practices, without people none of that matters.
David G Griffin
Managing Director CPM/NDC Group