Stephanie Palmer advises employers on the best ways to mentor apprentices to become long-term assets to a company.
After spending eight months studying sports therapy at university, I decided that it was not the right route for me.
I was unhappy with the quality of the course I was paying a huge amount for and decided to explore other non-university career paths.
At school, training as an apprentice wasn’t endorsed with equal merit as going to university, so I hadn’t really seen an apprenticeship as a viable route.
But after being disappointed with my university experience, I decided to research the option.
It was then that I came across the opportunity to work as an apprentice business coordinator for Fujitsu.
I leapt at the chance to train with such a highly regarded company.
The prospect of walking into a real working environment was quite daunting — far more intimidating than turning up for the first day of fresher’s week at university.
But as soon as I started my apprenticeship these nerves were put to rest.
I was working in a fun and supportive environment that was driving my career forward and allowing me to learn while earning.
As I progressed over the three years of my apprenticeship, I saw a need within the company for someone to mentor new intakes.
I was appointed as the overarching apprentice mentor for Fujitsu UK and Ireland to ensure Fujitsu could support them professionally and that they completed the scheme as highly trained and experienced employees.
From my experience of running apprenticeship workshops and as an apprentice ambassador, there are a few key steps I believe employers can take to ensure that they mentor successful apprenticeships.
Apprentices are here to learn and making mistakes and learning from them is a part of that
Firstly, take the time to find the right candidate.
The most important attribute for an apprentice is an eagerness to learn and a passion for your company.
If a candidate does not seem fully engaged at the start, they are less likely to stay with your company after their training.
If you have invested valuable time and money into their training, of course you would be disappointed to see them leave, so it is important not to rush the hiring process and make sure they are passionate about their role and training and the company itself.
Secondly, foster a happy working environment.
Be mindful that this is likely to be the first working environment that your apprentices have worked in.
This is naturally daunting, so in order to keep the candidates motivated, it is important that they feel relaxed and comfortable in the working environment and with their new colleagues.
A great way to achieve this is to ensure they are integrated fully into the workplace and treated as other permanent members of staff would be.
A nice strategy to introduce is allocating an individual mentor or ‘buddy’ to each apprentice.
This is something that has worked really well at Fujitsu, allowing the apprentices to have a friend and sounding board for any concerns they might have.
And finally, allow them to make mistakes.
Mistakes happen, particularly in your first working role.
The beauty of an apprenticeship, is the opportunity it provides to learn in a real place of work, so it is important that employers remember apprentices are here to learn and making mistakes and learning from them is a part of that.
What is crucial is that they are shown constructively how to get around issues, feel supported and learn from these mistakes.
Stephanie Palmer is a former apprentice for Fujitsu, apprentice ambassador for GetMyFirstJob, and winner of the 2015 West Midlands Higher Apprentice of the Year award