Finding and training your future stars

Starting an apprentice during lockdown - How to make it work for your business

The latest AELP (Association of Employment and Learning Providers) COVID impact survey has found that 60% of employers have stopped recruiting apprentices altogether and 75% of them have stopped at least four-fifths of starts normally expected at this time of year.

Whilst this is somewhat inevitable, at Starting Off we have been working with our clients to enable them to continue to recruit and train apprentices from home. Our training team was quickly able to transition into a remote delivery model, where we can use online resources and video calling, and a web-based e-portfolio platform to set and assess work.

We are regularly contacting our apprentices for training support but also to complete well-being checks and to see how they are doing on a more personal level during these unprecedented times. Due to these measures, we have seen a relatively low number of apprentices (around 25 out of 250) be put on a break in learning (a hold on their training) but for Starting Off our biggest change has been the reduction in new apprenticeship starts.

At a time when years 11 and 13 would normally be sitting their exams and starting to look at steps to enter the workplace, we will be looking at key local businesses to play their part in the community to reinvigorate their workplace. We are hopeful that over the coming weeks and months, new announcements will allow local businesses to look at their key role in the employment of apprentices.

During the lockdown we have seen our apprentices adapt to the changes incredibly well and we believe, moving forward, apprentices will be key to supporting a new way of working in the market that seemingly will have to be more digital for some time to come – after all, for these digital natives, this is very much part of their nature!

By key local businesses, we know that accountancy, HR, IT and a lot of marketing or digital agencies have seen a change in how they work, but they have continued to work full-time positions. As a local SME ourselves, we can fully appreciate there will be many reasons why right now may not seem a viable time to start an apprentice. However, if one of the reasons you are holding back is because you are still working from home and you have concerns around the feasibility of a new staff member, we want to put your mind at ease. We want to share with you the experience of one of our apprentices and clients relating to how starting an apprentice during lockdown has been for them and how it is very much a possibility.

Alice is completing a digital Marketing Apprenticeship through Starting Off. She started working for All Things Management in May and was set up from home. We have new procedures in place for signing paperwork to make this an easy process for the employer. From the perspective of marketing, businesses still need to communicate during these changing times of COVID, whether that be changes in business procedures, or how a business can help. Due to the attributes of a digital marketer, our learners have found the switch to home learning and working transferable and natural. So, when Alice was set up at home on a laptop for team meetings, tasks and her learning, it was an easy step to make.

We asked Alice how she has found starting a new job during lockdown: “I felt like all of the training I had received from Starting Off and my Squared Online course was really beneficial for me starting my new job at All Things Management during lockdown. I was used to group calls over platforms like Zoom and using cloud-based collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams or Google Drive to edit and share documents with my peers.

“It’s definitely a strange experience to start a new job from my home and meet my new colleagues for the first time over Zoom! But I’ve had great support from everyone at All Things Management and I’ve had lots of training through screen sharing meetings as well as daily video calls and using platforms like Slack which makes communication really easy when everyone is working from home.”

Alice’s Digital Marketing Trainer, Laura Taylor, added the following: “I have new learners who have only been signed up from late February and March, and even May like Alice. Some are working from home and are playing an essential part in their digital team. Others are furloughed and taking this opportunity to get their training up to speed ready for in the workplace. There certainly has not been a slow down for me. I am enjoying this time with my learners’.”

Alice’s manager Chloe McGowan also shared her experience with us:

“Alice joining the team during lockdown and working from home seemed daunting at first, as we were worried we wouldn’t be able to give her the in-depth one-on-one training that we usually would. However we did take the plunge and threw her in at the deep end with online training platforms such as Skill Share and by using Zoom to share screens and walk through processes and tutorials. We also have a team video meeting to start and end every day, which has allowed Alice to get to know the team, albeit virtually.

“Alice has adapted so well, we couldn’t be prouder of the team effort surrounding her on-boarding process. We now simply can’t wait to be back in the office so we can all welcome Alice as part of the All Things Management team and interact as we would in normality.

“My advice to other businesses who are working from home but waiting to start staff members or apprentices, is to go for it! If you have picked the right candidate, they will adapt, work hard and fit in, from home.”

If you are interested in finding out about apprenticeships, please contact katie.goodall@startingoff.co.uk or call 01604 622855.