Why more British manufacturers should take on apprentices…
Next week the sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week will take place. Here at Benchmark we’re passionate about the benefits of apprenticeship schemes so we’re delighted to hear that it looks set to be the biggest and best yet, with hundreds of events expected to take place across England.
Our apprenticeship scheme is the cornerstone of our business and is fundamental to us maintaining our competitive advantage. Excellence in design, and craftsmanship form the foundation of Benchmark yet when the business was founded 25 years ago, by Sean Sutcliffe and Terence Conran, there was no local skill base in woodworking.
Our award-winning apprenticeship scheme has played a key role in the development of a highly skilled and reliable local workforce. Replicating a traditional apprenticeship in cabinet making, the scheme took on its first apprentice in 1987 and since then over 50 apprentices from the local community have qualified in cabinet making and wood machining, as well as accountancy and administrative qualifications. The apprentices learn their skills and techniques on the job and with day release at college. More than half of the apprentices are still with the company and with further training and mentoring have gone on to senior positions including workshop and production management.
Retention of trained and motivated staff is one of the main benefits we enjoy from apprenticeships. As our apprentices qualify and gain more experience and training, there are opportunities for them to progress to senior positions such as workshop foreman, supervisor and even director. Steven Huzzey who joined as an apprentice aged 15, has been with the company for nearly twenty years and is now a director.
The ecological value of apprenticeships in terms of human sustainability is also important. We are training local youngsters in a highly skilled profession that is on their doorstep. They can live and work close to home reducing the need for expensive and lengthy travel time allowing them to spend time with their families rather than sitting on a train or in traffic. They are also spending their money in local shops and with local businesses.
Our message to other British Manufacturers is that apprenticeships are not just good for business but essential. Currently small and medium-sized companies can benefit from a £1,500 Apprenticeship Grant for Employers when they recruit their first apprentice, so there has never been a better time to get involved.