Let’s celebrate our apprentices

STEM Learning apprentices

There are lots of reasons to employ an apprentice, but many businesses are not aware of the breadth of apprenticeship frameworks available.

It is not just construction industry apprenticeships these days; pretty much every sector has a number of options available. More importantly, lots of businesses are unaware of the skills, vitality, ideas and energy an apprentice brings to the business that can have a positive effect on the culture as well as the bottom line.

Apprenticeships can be an ideal solution when filling skills gaps within your business. By training an apprentice specifically around the needs of your business, they can help you bridge these gaps making your business more productive and competitive. Whether you train a new or existing member of staff, you have the ability to shape the development of an apprentice so that they meet the exact requirements of your business.

"Becoming an apprentice has really helped me as I get to put into practice what I learn at college. It has given me experience in a range of accounting aspects and I continuously get to learn more. It felt so proud winning Apprentice of the year York (SME – 16-24 years) and I would recommend apprenticeships to anyone, especially school leavers." - Lauren Armstrong, Finance Apprentice

For many businesses whose employee demographic is a little more mature or they are a micro-sized business, it is a scary prospect of employing a young person – will they fit in, have I got time for this? Apprentices as well apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes – lots of mature people now do an apprenticeship as a way of entering new industries as well as progressing their qualifications and skills. Also, employees are more likely to stay with an employer that takes the time to invest in their training and development. A company that places emphasis in the development of its employees is most likely to receive greater commitment and in turn, greater productivity.

Another barrier can be the cost – not just the cost of the apprenticeship itself, but the time required to support the apprentice in their new role alongside balancing their studies and the assumption there will be a raft of paperwork. Yes, there is a time commitment – some apprentices require more support than others, but the training providers are there to help – you don’t have to do it on your own. And if you are employing a young apprentice aged 16-18, their apprenticeship training is free.

A great source of information and support is the 5% Club. The 5% Club is focused on creating momentum behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce. Its members consist of large and small employers from a wide range of sectors who want to make a difference and support the UK’s ability to compete in increasingly tough global markets.

Why did STEM Learning make the decision to grow their business through apprentices?

We took a strategic decision back in 2011 to introduce apprentices across a number of departments. The cynic might say this was a cost saving exercise – it certainly wasn’t. These first five apprenticeships were new additional roles to the business. Our aim from the start was for the apprentice to complete a minimum one year apprenticeship programme and then we would retain them in the business and continue to progress their training, qualifications and experience. We wanted to grow our employee talent pipeline – and we have!

“After 4 years at college, I never really thought about myself doing an apprenticeship. This apprenticeship has opened my eyes to new things that I can achieve in life. I’ve only been here for 5 months, but I have learnt so many new skills, and achieved some new qualifications along the way. I have gained confidence in myself and I’m becoming more and more confident in the work that I’m doing every day. Apprenticeships can change your life and create new opportunities in every direction that you decide to take, whatever path that may be.” - Steph Yarrow, Facilities Trainee

STEM Learning’s overall mission is to provide opportunities for young people. Our core business is to provide a world leading STEM education for every young person across the UK. Our apprentices are directly supporting this mission, as well as having amazing opportunities to increase their own education, skills and expertise. We are raising their aspirations and confidence to enable them to progress career opportunities.

How do we do this?

Year on year the quality and enthusiasm of our apprentices continues to astound us. We have employed apprentices fresh from school but also those who have been working for a while, or even completed a degree and join us a trainee.

The main driver for us is to develop all staff at all levels to actively grow our business through successful succession planning. We have found there is no better place to start this process than at the grass roots level with our apprentices.

The apprentices and trainees follow a programme of education and vocational skills as part of either their formal apprenticeship framework or a bespoke training plan. They also have access to key in-house support, education and skills training to enable them to successfully integrate into the workplace.

"I chose to do an apprenticeship straight after finishing my A levels as I knew university wasn't right for me. Not only has doing an apprenticeship allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge in a subject I'm passionate about, it's developed me as a person and I've achieved things I never thought possible." - Joanne Woolley, Marketing PR Trainee

Over the years our apprentices have been involved in various projects. Some of the projects are now business as usual and many of these projects have had a direct impact on our profile and impact in the education sector.

Recent examples 

Our current laboratory technician has developed a number of pieces of inexpensive apparatus that pupils (or technicians and teachers) can build and use in their laboratories within the current curriculum. These resources have been made available within the courses we provide to technicians as part of our core business as well as part of our online resource collection. The resources have been well received by technicians and teachers and are part of STEM Learning’s overall mission.

Our current Digital Marketing Apprentice (who won Microsoft’s Apprentice of the Year for Sales and Marketing 2016) is responsible for managing our Twitter account and has undertaken a project to revamp our style and approach to how we use Twitter to engage with our key teacher audiences. She has excelled in the project and has implemented various improvements such as use of imagery, picking up on national trends, more informal tone of voice, making STEM Learning approachable and more conversational on Twitter.

Her work has resulted in increased engagement with Twitter from our followers. There has been a dramatic improvement in the number of retweets – achieving over 1,000 retweets in one month compared to a previous average of 500 retweets in a month. Since she has taken on this project we now average 800 retweets a month and we have developed a much more interesting and engaging Twitter persona.

"An apprenticeship in STEM is perfect if you like some variety in your work, enjoy problem solving, being creative and sharing new ideas. They are a great way to start a career in STEM, as you will have access to a large support network consisting of enthusiastic and highly driven colleagues who show you the same respect as someone who is fully qualified." - Chantelle Lawrence, Trainee Laboratory Assistant 

One of our Finance Apprentices actively made contact with apprentices from across York (not just Finance Apprentices) to give them the opportunity to take part in the live link up to the International Space Station which was hosted by STEM Learning as part of our Tim Peake Primary Project.

The apprentice was responsible for liaising across all departments of our organisation who were involved in the project to ensure the external apprentices received the correct information and were able to actively participate in the activities during the day as well as being part of the live audience with Tim Peake. This was a once in a life time opportunity and resulted in positive press coverage and forging ongoing links with other businesses across the city.

Conclusion

By encouraging apprentices and trainees to come on board, we have discovered not only are our apprentices and trainees integral to our success, but we are positively growing our talent pipeline to support the future of STEM Learning.

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