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A manager’s guide to supporting your apprentice

on Monday, 20 September 2021. Posted in HR, People

After a record-breaking year for GCSE results, apprenticeships have become a real prospect for many more school leavers.

A manager’s guide to supporting your apprentice

After a record-breaking year for GCSE results, apprenticeships have become a real prospect for many more school leavers. Nick Ridgman, Apprenticeship Manager for Bupa UK, shares the ways that managers can support their new starter and retain their talent. 

For someone excited for their first step into the working world, an apprenticeship can offer the opportunity to learn on the job, develop their skills in a real-life setting and earn a wage. 

From an employer’s perspective, taking on a junior apprentice also provides exciting opportunities, giving your company the chance to develop a fresh mind in line with your business needs, whilst instilling your company’s values from the off.

Alongside your company’s influence shaping their skills and values, your apprentice can also share up-to-date industry knowledge insights – thanks to their studies – helping you to stay ahead.

Choose the best training provider

Supporting your apprentice starts before you’ve even recruited them. Take the time to consider what kind of experience you’d like to your apprentice to have with your business, and what you need from a provider to help make that happen. This gives you the opportunity to ask several providers key questions before committing to using them, e.g., will customised learning be an option?

Remember that the provider is there to help you monitor the apprentice’s learning experience – make sure that this is a focus, especially in the first few months. 

Embrace diversity

As well as celebrating individualism, embracing those from different demographics and with different cognitive styles helps to open the floor to ideas from all employees at all levels. This can harness insightful views from a range of backgrounds, leading to a wider understanding of what your business offers and can provide, from a diverse mindset. 

If your new apprentice is from a background that’s not yet well represented across the rest of your organisation, think about how you can specifically support them so that they feel comfortable and included. 

Helping your apprentice to grow into your team starts with getting to know them. Especially if this is your company’s first apprentice, it’s important to embrace what makes them different from the rest of your workforce. In doing this, you’ll create an environment where your workforce is celebrated and encouraged to be themselves. 

If you’ve more than one apprentice, think about ways you can help them to bond and collaborate with other apprentices in the business – for example, you could conduct a shared induction or regular apprentice check-ins, as well as providing access to dedicated online forums and channels. 

Employees who feel that their organisation takes an active interest in their wellbeing are more likely to stay motivated, engaged and loyal too. Think about arranging an informal get-together, either virtually or in person, to welcome your new apprentice and help them to feel part of the team from the off.

At Bupa UK, we launched the ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ pledge to reiterate that everyone in our business – from all backgrounds – is welcome to be themselves working here. By celebrating and supporting people’s differences, we aim to promote collaboration, encouraging everyone to feel comfortable enough to bring their true selves to work. 

Check in

Taking the time to check in with your new apprentice can go a long way to helping them feel listened to and appreciated, which can foster better wellbeing and company loyalty. Additionally, an open-door approach can help apprentices to feel psychologically safe approaching you with any queries or concerns about their learning. 

Think about introducing a workplace mentor to develop your apprentice’s motivation and engagement across their scheme. This mentor could be another person who’s already completed an apprenticeship.

Regular appraisals or one-to-one sessions give you and your apprentice the chance to speak freely, helping you to gauge what your apprentice is enjoying about the scheme and make any adjustments to help them enjoy their scheme more. As well as listening to them, these check-ins provide the chance to provide any constructive feedback, too. 

Don’t forget to praise

The value of a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ goes a long way to boosting an apprentice’s feeling of worth. Feeling properly rewarded for workplace efforts helps to boost mental wellbeing and decrease stress.

Think flexibility

As apprentices balance working alongside studying, it’s important to remember that by its very nature, an apprenticeship needs flexibility. Developing ways for your apprentice to manage their time can help you to strategise when they’ll be around and when they’ll be at lectures and webinars, or when they need time to carry out their coursework. 

The last year has shown us that empowering your team to manage their own time can be done successfully and make a big difference for wellbeing. If your company isn’t already thinking about flexible working policies, start thinking about putting them in place to help your apprentice feel supported and eased into working life, along with helping your other employees adjust to a faster post-lockdown pace.  

Time management

Instil good time management skills by working together with your apprentice to plan how they’ll manage their time between learning and on-the-job tasks. In getting to know your apprentice, you’ll get an idea of what their home situation is like, and what a good work-life balance looks like for them. 

It’s important to refer to the ‘20% off-the-job-learning’ rule (a legal requirement of apprenticeships) in gaining this balance and being flexible where needed to adjust the plan to make it achievable. Your apprenticeship provider should be able to support you with this. 

Keep checking in with hem to make sure that the time management plan in place is working. Again, be flexible with this where needed. 

Promote good all-round health

If you introduce your apprentice to a workplace culture that places value on the benefits of being honest and open about both mental and physical help, they’re more likely to follow suit and feel confident to put their health first if they ever need to.

Promoting a positive culture like this will encourage your apprentice – as well as the rest of your team – to bring their full self to work. Finding out what makes your apprentice tick can help you to understand them better, spot any signs that they need further support, and generate an inclusive team spirit with increased productivity. 

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