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Why Apprentices are Crucial for SME Growth

Why Apprentices are Crucial for SME Growth

In recognition of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, we spoke to our staff to find out what it's like to be an apprentice at Fleximize and how it benefits the business as a whole

By Rebecca Taylor

Nearly half of employers are struggling to fill job vacancies, presenting a huge challenge to business growth. For SME owners faced with a widening skills gap, hefty recruitment fees, and over-stretched staff, hiring new apprentices is the perfect solution to safeguarding their business' future.

Apprenticeship schemes took a sudden downturn at the start of the pandemic. However, recent figures suggest that business owners are aware of the pivotal role that apprentices can play in the UK's post-pandemic recovery, with the number of new starters growing by 43% in 2020/21

Apprenticeships enable people to learn new skills, gain experience, and complete their qualifications while supplying employers with enthusiastic workers who can be trained according to the business' needs. By offering paid work, apprenticeships also provide access to a wider, more diverse talent pool. As a result, companies can find the best candidate for the role regardless of gender, race, or educational background.  

In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, the Fleximize team has highlighted the benefits of apprenticeships and how such initiatives help individuals and businesses prepare for the future. 

Apprenticeships at Fleximize

Since launching in 2014, Fleximize has regularly employed apprentices across its operations, many of whom have remained with us upon qualifying. With a steady pipeline of future leaders, we’re proud to witness the long-term benefit of investing in our trainees’ knowledge and ideas. In turn, our apprentices have developed the skills and confidence to progress in their ambitious careers.

As a business undergoing rapid growth, apprenticeships have formed a vital part of our recruitment strategy in recent years, helping us overcome hiring challenges and future-proof our team. Fleximize’s record-breaking performance in 2021 was due, in part, to the contribution of our apprentices in underwriting and compliance, and we remain committed to providing such opportunities.

Fleximize currently employs seven apprentices studying the AAT accounting qualification and business administration, with further plans to recruit in 2022.

Tips for managing apprentices

The key to a successful apprenticeship is understanding that the relationship must be mutually beneficial, and both parties have a responsibility to each other. 

To help other employers looking to take on apprentices, we spoke to Fleximize team lead Emma Smith about her experience in managing and supporting new hires

1. Uphold a duty of care

An apprenticeship is often the first step into a professional working environment. This can be overwhelming, particularly for those of a younger age, so put measures in place to ease them into the company. 

At Fleximize, we often try to find our new recruits a ‘buddy’. This system assigns them a colleague to approach for support, whether about training or their general wellbeing.

2. Create a working structure

While many trainees find their own way of working, it’s useful to set time for on- and off-the-job learning at first to make certain the work’s completed. Some may not have much experience managing their own workload, so it’s important to assess their organisational abilities.

We create a plan outlining a new apprentice's tasks and deadlines so they have a clear schedule when they join. As I manage more than one apprentice, I use a work management platform that allows me to keep track of each person's workstream.  

3. Invest in their journey

Take time to understand your employees' motivations and ambitions and assist them in setting realistic goals. Communication must be a two-way street; offer your insight, but remember to listen to their point of view too.

Schedule regular one-to-one meetings to review progress and check that your apprentice is reaching key milestones in their development.

4. Recognize their achievements

Identifying areas for improvement is helpful, but don’t forget to celebrate your teams’ successes. I arrange fun and personal treats for my apprentices, like gift vouchers, as rewards for hard work.

These may be small gestures, but finding ways to show your appreciation can work wonders for staff morale and productivity.

Meet Fleximize's apprentices

To get the inside scoop on what it's like to be an apprentice at Fleximize, we invited three team members to share their experiences. Read about their stories below.

Ellie's story 

Having started my A-Levels, I quickly realized it wasn’t the right path for me. Instead, I wanted to study the AAT qualification as this was a key stepping stone to launching my financial career. While it was difficult to find a suitable apprenticeship during lockdown, and specifically one outside the accountancy sector, I managed to find Fleximize through my careers advisor and joined in June 2021.

Ellie McGarry | Office Support Apprentice

Ellie McGarry | Office Support Apprentice

Ayyub's story 

I had a very welcoming start at Fleximize. I was introduced to everyone in the office, and they’re all a friendly bunch which made me feel comfortable from the get-go. My manager's always on hand to help me and has been great at adapting their teaching style. I have a set day dedicated to my apprenticeship, so it fits in perfectly with my work, and the knowledge I’ve gained has really helped me become a more productive member of the team.

Ayyub Hussain| Compliance Assistant Apprentice

Ayyub Hussain| Compliance Assistant Apprentice

Bailey's story

I completed my AAT accounting qualification in 2021. As office support assistant, I now use the knowledge gained from my studies every day. This includes financial know-how, but also skills like time management. I'm able to plan my career path, whether progressing to a new department or a more senior role, with the confidence that I have the necessary qualifications and expertise. I'd recommend the experience to anyone looking to make headway in a rewarding career. 

Bailey Tuvey | Office Support Assistant

Bailey Tuvey | Office Support Assistant

Interested in an apprenticeship?

We’re looking to hire apprentices across the business, including underwriting, customer support, and marketing. If you're keen to learn, brimming with ideas, and ready to kickstart your career, we can't wait to hear from you. To find out more about our current opportunities, please email [email protected] or visit our careers page