By Anna Green (Broadsword)
Talent or lack of it, continues to be one of the biggest challenges for the events industry. The pandemic forced many people to find alternative employment and they haven’t returned.
Tackling the skills gap at grass roots level must be our ongoing priority.
This is where apprenticeship schemes are incredibly valuable.
Hiring an apprentice can be an effective way to increase your headcount and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce, while getting financial support from the government. It’s a brilliant way to open up your talent pool to individuals of all backgrounds and ages and therefore increases diversity, but also a clever way to upskill and develop current employees, which will have a positive impact on staff retention and overall moral.
So what are the barriers?
The most common objection I encounter from other businesses within our sector is a lack of capacity. Initially an apprentice will need guidance and support, just like any first recruit you hire. They will also need to spend some time working towards their qualifications and attending workshops. Speaking from experience, I’d say that three months into an apprenticeship, individuals can effectively execute the majority of the duties in their role with minimal supervision. This means within a short period of time, apprentices are effectively taking on non-critical tasks which free up more senior people in the organisation.
As an objection, capacity is therefore somewhat counterintuitive. Taking on an apprentice might seem like a lot of work at first. But overall you’ll see a marked increase in the productivity of the team as a whole, as a result of hiring an apprentice.
Second on the list of objections is the extra time to train and coach the apprentice. Of course we’re all busy – time is money, after all – but when was the last time you took on a new hire who didn’t need a fair amount of training and support up front?
Equally many agencies don’t think that teaching and learning can work effectively with the rise of remote working. Whilst I agree that this model presents some challenges, there are things we can do to make it work.
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln.
Personally I think this is the trick to making it work – it’s about mindset, responding to obstacles as opportunities, seeing the glass as half full, rather than half empty.
A thorough induction process with a guide to working from home is a good way to start, followed by lots of ongoing touch points with formal and informal catch ups and ensuring there is regular feedback and that the apprentice feels their voice is heard. It also helps to have more than one young person working in your team. Bringing in a pair of apprentices or ensuring a new hire has a buddy of a similar age and experience level, is a great way to develop confidence and encourage interaction and engagement.
Lastly, it’s essential that we reach young people earlier in education to make them aware of the industry and offer work experience placements so that they see it as a viable career path. Career advisors at schools and associations have a vital role to play in signposting opportunities. Equally we can’t solely rely on university graduates; not everybody wants to go to university or has the financial resources required. In the events industry, a lot of learning is done on the job and lacks formality. We need to think about how we create structured training and professional development opportunities as this is an area which is increasingly important to the younger generation.
Did you know?
Apprenticeships are a cost-effective strategy for upskilling too. If you’re a levy payer, you’re already paying towards an apprenticeship programme which will cover training costs. If you’re a non-levy paying organisation, the government will heavily subsidise the cost, so that the training is great value for a small business. Training isn’t aimed at a particular age group or career level either, there are apprenticeship programmes designed for every level, from school leavers to new graduates, career developers to changers. They can be ideal for upskilling or retraining existing employees.
As an employer, you can outsource recruitment to a reputable training provider which will save on hiring costs. Training providers often have a national reach and will attract, screen and shortlist talent to help you find the right people.
Apprenticeships offer additional opportunities for cost savings. If apprentices are 25 or younger, you don’t need to pay employer contributions for National Insurance. Employers receive £1000 for hiring an apprentice aged 16-18 years old, or 19-24 with an education, health and care plan, or who has been in the care of their local authority.
The success of any organisation depends on its ability to learn and grow. Prioritising learning and development encourages individuals to be curious and continually self-develop, both professionally and holistically. The world of work is evolving faster than ever and apprenticeships are an invaluable tool to develop a workforce with skills that are matched to a company’s future needs.
If you’d like to hear directly from an apprentice please read Amy’s story here. https://www.wearebroadsword.com/insight/meet-broadswords-digital-marketing-apprentice
Events Apprenticeships (EA) is a not-for-profit, CIC (Community Interest Company) organisation helping to develop and provide recognised routes into events, to allow people from all backgrounds and ages to gain experience and relevant professional qualifications within the industry. EVCOM are a supporter of EA. You can find out more about EA, and how to get involved, here.
Photo credit: Leo Wilkinson