We spoke to Dave Hayward, Planning Manager for Parker Technical Services, about the support apprentices can expect during their time at Parker, why the human touch is so important and how apprentices are the key to business succession.
“I remember being an apprentice – and it could be a pretty difficult and at times lonely affair – so that’s probably why I feel a certain responsibility to try and make sure our Parker apprentices get the support they need to thrive as they start out into the world of work.”
We try to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for apprentices to feedback on their experiences and feel supported throughout the duration of their courses with Parker. Apprenticeships are incredibly important to the succession of our business – 12% of the workforce is made up of apprentices and this figure is set to rise. By providing support and a feedback loop from the off we’re able to not only identify and nurture the best talent early, we’re also able to spot those who might be struggling and offer them extra support or place them on a job where the site supervisors have more time. We want to encourage our apprentices to feel valued and try out the entire spectrum of works – helping them get a feel for which parts of the business they’re most passionate about and enabling them to envision themselves as a long-term Parker team member.
Formal support comes from several places and people; we get regular feedback and integration with training provider JTL, who let us know feedback throughout the course duration. This feedback drives conversations with supervisors about providing more support on specific things or giving apprentices responsibility if they are ready. . It’s important that we can offer early progression to those who stand out. We plan a series of face-to-face meetings during the year, which allows myself and my colleague to meet with the apprentices. An important part of these extra meetings is not only to discuss the work they’ve been doing, but to try and get a handle on how they’re feeling – are they happy? Do they feel supported? Are they being made to feel part of the team?
Discovering what you love
The only way apprentices will learn what they are most passionate about, and what they’re most skilled at, is if apprenticeship providers give them the opportunity to experience all different types of work and working environments. To make sure our apprentices aren’t stuck on a single job for the entirety of their placement, we have an ‘apprentice tracker’- it shows where each apprentice is working and allows us to implement a rotational scheme, so apprentices are never stuck on one job for long periods. There are many different types of work we undertake at Parker, and it’s important that apprentices get the chance to work on all of them: major works, small works, data, processing and panel building.
The human touch – confidence matters
Whilst we’re keen to offer apprenticeships to those already working in the business who wish to upskill and reskill, it’s a fact that many of our apprentices are school leavers, which means they are young and often lacking in confidence. Apprentices know they can contact me or my colleagues at any time.
Removing barriers to success – our Training Facility
Something we’re particularly proud to offer to our apprentices is our Training Booth. The AM2 is a practical performance skill assessment administered by the National Electrotechnical Training (NET). It’s the final unit that every NVQ Level 3 Electrical candidate must complete to gain their electrical technical qualification and be eligible to apply for their JIB ECS Gold Card. Needless to say, for apprentices it’s a big deal. From day one, our apprentices are working towards the AM2 practical test – and there’s often a huge amount of pressure (and a lot of nerves) when the big day arrives. With equipment for the booth supplied by Rexel and CEF, our apprentices can now undertake a mock test – helping them see what will happen on the day, highlighting any weaknesses they might need to focus on and generally building up their confidence. So far, apprentices who have used the training booth have had a 100% pass rate. It’s a standout part of our programme.
If I could offer those considering an apprenticeship any advice, it would be to not only do your research prior to the interview but to research your apprenticeship provider too. Having support available and working for a business who values apprentices will be a big decider on the type of practical work you get access to and will likely make a big impact on how much you enjoy your apprenticeship. Be enthusiastic and come ready for lots of different opportunities. Our apprentices go on to be electricians, supervisors, project managers and work right through to director level, so it’s up to you what you make of it.
If you would like to apply for an apprenticeship at Edwin James Group, please email your CV to [email protected]