National Apprenticeship Week: How I took on an apprentice as my first employee and have never looked back!

National Apprenticeship Week: How I took on an apprentice as my first employee and have never looked back!
Dan Martin
Dan MartinFreelance content creator & event hostDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Mon 5th Mar 2018

It's National Apprenticeship Week and we're publishing the stories and advice from small business owners who've taken on apprentices.

To kick us off, Jack McCaughtrie, Enterprise Nation member and founder of social media marketing company Core Tree, explains how two years after starting his business, he took on Georgia as an apprentice and his first employee.

Georgia is still with the business two years on after completing her apprenticeship. During that time, she was awarded apprentice of the year by her academy and Jack was awarded apprentice mentor of the year.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

Whilst studying journalism and media at Coventry University I had a work placement working with a number of professional football and rugby players to help them build their personal brand online and in the media.

On the back of this, I managed to secure a few more placements with local businesses and organisations in Worcestershire whilst studying to help them with their traditional marketing and PR.

During this time, I suggested that they should begin to look at using social media in their marketing strategy to appeal to their target audience.

In the months before graduating whilst assessing the employment market, I decided that I had built up a good deal of experience during work placements and wanted to be see if I could turn this into a viable business.

I approached the organisations who had given me work experience with the idea of them outsourcing the work I had been doing and thankfully all of them thought it was a good idea. This provided me with a small number of clients from day one.

Why did you decide to take on an apprentice?

I was looking at increasing the capacity within the business so assessed a number of options.

I arrived at the decision to take on an apprentice as it is great way to mould and shape someone who has a keen interest in what the company does.

I thought it would be worthwhile investing time in a young person who is just setting in the world of work to blend both education and training with working in a business on a day-to-day basis.

Although I went to university, I think it is essential that young people and students should be exposed to the world of work as much as possible. I found it hard to even be given the opportunity to talk companies about work experience and placements let alone being given an opportunity.

I wanted to be able to give something back whilst growing my own business.

How did you go about finding Georgia and recruiting for the role?

Georgia had come to us for work experience from high school on a couple of occasions. She got involved from the start and really understood what we are about.

We had kept in regular contact and Georgia mentioned that she was assessing her situation after the first year of sixth form. This happened to be at time when I have been considering taking on an apprentice.

An apprenticeship was an avenue that Georgia wanted to pursue so we set about identifying a training provider that matched both of our criteria in digital marketing.

Did you face any challenges taking on an apprentice as a very small business?

The main challenge was finding a training provider that delivered exactly what I needed for the business.

Initially, some providers didn't like the fact that I had already found the apprentice and I needed them to sell me the course. I got the impression that they would have preferred if they had offered me a candidate.

We found 3aaa in Worcester that provided a course that fitted my expectations and Georgia's personal expectations. From start to finish everyone at 3aaa was really helpful and supportive.

As Georgia was my first employee, I didn't really know what to expect with how the environment would change with having someone else with you as opposed to me working on my own.

I collaborate with other organisations on projects, so I know what it is like to work alongside others but not on a permanent basis.

I wanted to increase the capacity in the company in order to grow and I didn't appreciate how much time is taken up with training, answering questions, walking through projects and work.

This is all necessary and things that we now do on a regular basis but at the beginning it took a little time to adjust and embed into what we do.

What benefits has Georgia brought to your business as an apprentice?

Georgia is an enthusiastic young person who provides us with a different way of thinking and new ideas that has allowed me to sustain and grow my business.

Bringing in a different way of thinking is always great as it provides food for thought when planning campaigns for clients and implementing new ideas.

Why do you think both you and Georgia won the awards?

I believe Georgia won her award for the high quality of her work both in college and in the workplace. She went over and above by helping the academy with their open days, career fairs and school visits to promote apprenticeships.

I was given my award for the support I provided Georgia with. I worked closely with her on her assignments ensuring that she could implement the theory in college into our day-to-day work with clients.

I was an advocate of Georgia telling her story and sharing her journey with other young people so where possible I supported Georgia with taking an opportunity she had to speak at events or schools.

Do you think the government could do anything to make it easier for small businesses to employ apprentices?

I think it would be useful to provide more detailed information and support for small business for them to understand the challenges of taking on an apprentice.

There is a lot of information on the reasons why apprenticeships are great for business and why businesses should take on young people but do small businesses really know what to expect?

Workshops explaining how to integrate an apprentice into your business and what you need in place would be helpful.

Further funding to encourage businesses to invest in keeping apprentices and ensuring they carry on their training and education.

The aim is to develop a young person into a long-term employee so there could be further support around this.

Apprentices are often associated with bigger businesses. What advice would you give to the founders of small businesses for employing an apprentice?

  • You can never spend too much time researching apprenticeship providers

  • Go and speak to other small businesses who have taken on an apprentice. Speak to the apprentice too to understand what they want, why they chose the apprenticeship route

  • Don't overestimate the amount of time taken up with taking on an apprentice before you begin to see the extra capacity

Related Enterprise Nation resources

Dan Martin
Dan MartinFreelance content creator & event hostDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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