Traditionally, apprenticeships were seen as a practical and hands-on way to learn a trade. Now they are increasingly viewed as the start of a career, and that should always be the focus of any apprenticeship programme.
Any area where you can predict a growing need in the future is perfect for an apprentice, but HR covers a wide remit, and is therefore a role with an abundance of learning potential. HR may not always be someone’s first career choice, but it gives businesses the opportunity to nurture their own talent.
The first thing to establish is whether there is a genuine need for an HR apprentice. Then you can plan a progression path. Consulting with the team about what resources are lacking is a good starting point.
If your organisation is not an employer-provider, it’s important to do your research and choose the right training provider to partner with. At Eden Project, we partner with two local colleges to provide the training aspect of our apprenticeships. If you’re recruiting directly, making the application process as accessible and easy as possible will encourage more candidates. You need to be inclusive and open about your processes so no one feels excluded; that may involve taking a slightly different approach for those with learning difficulties, for example.
Once on board, remember that your apprentice may not know how to do something you do every day, such as using certain technologies or having a good telephone manner. You’ll need to preempt any questions they may not want to ask for fear of looking stupid or letting you down. Remember – no question is stupid.
You also need to ensure your HR team and senior staff can dedicate enough time to the apprentice for feedback and mentoring, so they grow more confident and competent throughout their learning journey. Having line manager and team buy-in is important for someone who is settling into their first job, so make sure they have time to invest.
Achieving high retention rates depends on the quality of your succession planning. Apprentices can help to plug upcoming talent gaps created by an ageing workforce or retirement, and effectively build a skills pipeline. HR directors need to look at their budgets and ascertain if there is a succession path for the future. Apprenticeships are not a stop-gap for support – they should be used as a route into a desired career.
Dawn George is HR director at Eden Project