With GCSE and A Level results around the corner you may be thinking seriously about taking on an apprentice, perhaps for the first time.

With hiring presenting huge challenges of late, many companies have looked at how they bring in new talent and offering Apprenticeships is high on the list of options.

Our Apprentices bring a wealth of enthusiasm and fun to our company, and we can’t imagine our team without them. However, we have learnt over the last 2.5 years, in order for both parties to get the best out of the approach, the management style has to be adapted to accommodate their needs.

In order to get the best out of your apprentices you need to understand that their needs may be different. Here are our top tips on hiring and managing apprentices and junior members of staff. Our very own apprentices have inputted their thoughts too so you’re hearing it first hand!

Sourcing the right person

Being a recruitment agency certainly puts us at an advantage in terms of knowing how to find the right people and you can use your standard recruitment channels to source your candidates. Not everyone realises this!

Your Apprenticeship provider may certainly provide you support in putting forward suitable people but you may find you are in for a bit of a wait if you rely on this alone. You can put your own ads out and use your other recruitment methods to find people and then ask your provider to check their suitability for the apprenticeship. This has worked very well for us.

Our recruits have included people who had only finished their GCSEs months before, through to people who have finished their schooling several years ago, worked in customer service and admin but found they had little training and development options.

Our vetting and hiring process has largely always remained the same when sourcing apprentices and more experienced staff but the management of both is very different.

Tips for management

1. Tips for management

Whilst this may seem like a standard management tool the regularity and the contents of those meetings can be very different. Individuals who have never worked in your environment before will need to have regular constructive feedback to ensure that they are delivering the work that you expect but to also allow them to feel reassured and grow in confidence in their ability.

If they are straight out of education, they are used to the active learning environment with regular feedback and assessment so can be very receptive to this hands-on approach.

2. Don’t assume that they know the basics

As individuals well versed in the office setting, you may take for granted simple “office rules” that may have never been discussed.

  • Office etiquette – do apprentices and junior staff know what’s appropriate to be discussed and what should be kept private i.e matters pertaining to pay/bonuses etc
  • Workplace dress code – if you had an apprentice or office junior join the team in lockdown where you were working remotely or operating in a dress down culture do they know what is appropriate work wear should look like for clients visits or visitors to the office?
  • Social pointers – whether that is around networking, client visits or general interaction with people outside of the organisation, make sure you discuss what they could/should do in order to make them feel comfortable in the environment and feel a part of a meeting.

3. Create a welcoming and positive culture

For anyone joining a new company the first couple of weeks and months are really important in terms of onboarding to ensure someone feels happy and that they’ve made the right choice. But what happens if you’ve never worked in an office before?

As an apprentice or junior joining an office full of adults they may feel quite isolated and so it’s important to make them feel welcomed and included from the beginning. Offer a hot drink, provide a team lunch or even just take the time to talk to them and get to know them better.

Create a physical or virtual area where they can turn to if they are stuck. We give all new recruits a folder with printouts as well as a folder in our Cloud based Shared Area that is clearly labelled for that member of staff. You naturally want them to feel comfortable to ask you any questions they may have but, it can be quite reassuring for someone young and new to the office world to know they can sit and try and find out the answers for themselves.

In this area you could have copies of the handbook or signposting that helps the new recruit understand exactly where they need to turn to should they have an issue.

You can also put a copy of their Job Description in there, so they are fully aware what the expectations are from the beginning.

Even a quick how to guide might be useful when it comes to things like;

  • Signing in (if applicable)
  • Submitting expenses
  • Opening and closing of the office
  • Requesting holiday
  • Reporting a sickness or absence

4. Keep up communication to make work / college work manageable

An Apprentice is required to complete their college work during the office working hours of the day. You can agree with an apprentice what works best for both them and the business in terms of when they complete their work but make sure you have that conversation from the beginning. If you know your apprentice has college on a Wednesday expect that whole day to be taken out for college work followed by homework and essay deadlines.

We encourage our apprentices to use and share their Outlook calendars with us, this is so we know in advance when they have their dedicated learning times. That also helps us manage workload and divert urgent things if and when needed.

Ensure the dialogue is maintained between the apprentice and their line manager with regards to their workload to ensure that they don’t feel too overwhelmed but also anything important doesn’t get missed.

5. Keep tabs on wellbeing and stress levels

Going from a school or college environment to a full time job can be a bit of a culture shock to someone who may not have had a job before. Maintaining wellbeing and stress is really important to help the apprentice enjoy their role but also ensure their quality of work remains high.

Make sure they leave their work at the office and use their evenings to unwind and destress. It can all be too tempting to check emails or even LinkedIn when you’re invested in a project but it’s important someone is looking out for them.

Work can be stressful for anyone at any point no matter how long you’ve been in the game. If you can see your office junior becoming stressed and overwhelmed try and have a quiet chat with them. It might be a really easy to fix problem that has been worrying them and you can fix in minutes so don’t let them suffer in silence!

5. Explanations are clear and understood – what can seem simple to you might not be to them

Technical jargon, embedded company processes and even daily instructions that may seem like everyday language to you and your colleagues can be easily misunderstood or confusing for someone who doesn’t have any experience of a formal office environment.

Encourage questions, an open door policy and a ‘safe’ environment where no question is a silly one.

Be clear with your instructions and suggestions, you may ask them to write an email to a client writing about information they have no idea about. Whilst we write hundreds of emails in a week, your apprentice or office junior may be stuck with what to write, how do they write it and does it make sense?

Take the time to sit down with them and check off technical jargon that will crop up daily. ‘Can you find me an AE or a handler in the Bristol area?’. If you don’t have an insurance background that is going to be a really confusing for that person and the chances are they won’t want to look at that task because they don’t understand.

As we move more towards a world where we look to grow our own talent it is important that you know how to manage junior staff effectively. We are fortunate to have used the Government Apprenticeship Scheme for all of our apprentices and we can safely say it’s been a fantastic experience and one we definitely plan to continue to use.

If you don’t think an apprentice is the right option for you but you still want to recruit, why not give us a call to discuss different options and we may be able to support you.