I sometimes think of myself as more of a matchmaker than a programme manager. Setting up apprentices and your business to be successful takes more than just following a project plan and implementing the plan. It takes a passion, commitment and an understanding of what makes both parties “tick”.
First of all you have to have the right framework and programme to bring people together. For Capgemini one of the parts of the framework has been finding a world class apprenticeship training provider to work with and nobody knows what training the apprentice needs more that the business you are working with. If you are an organisation that uses a training provider to the deliver your apprentice programme, then go out and talk to other organisations. Network. The best for me is truly employer led. The training provider and your business working hand in hand to identify the right training and most importantly ensuring that the business feels the sense of responsibility and ownership they have to own and develop the framework for the apprentice as well as the individual themselves. Once you have that framework in place you then set about bringing two very keen and eager parties together.
Bringing your business and your potential apprentice together to assess suitability for the programme is almost like the first date. The recruitment phase where first impressions count and the pressure to impress means the heat is on. Making your organisation the one that the future apprentice wants to join as well as a fantastic recruitment experience is what will make you stand out from the crowd. Setting up both the apprentice and your business to be successful at this stage is crucial. As like a first date both parties are assessing compatibility and for Capgemini that is using strengths based recruiting with Cap to understand the more about the young people we are recruiting so that they really align and both the business and the apprentice are made for each other.
Onboarding and onwards – As the matchmaker you have to ensure that expectations of both parties are matched. The apprentice will have certain expectations and the business too. If these expectations are not fully explored right of the beginning of the relationship you have two parties who think they know what they are undertaking, but in reality there is a mismatch. A successful programme will have honest and open communications between the apprentice and the business that gives transparent & supportive feedback to help both parties grow and develop.
You then take a back seat. Watch the apprentice learn, grow and develop supported by the business and on the other hand watch the business see the potential, the value, fresh thinking and innovation that the apprentice brings to the area they are working in. A successful business is guided and checks back in for maintenance with the programme team, but really now by this point they know each other like an old married couple and maintain a support each other.
How do you know when it is a success? Well I always evaluate this at certain points in the lifecycle of the programme. The data we now have access to allows you to know what good looks like and bench mark year on year, but for me is sometimes is as simple as good old gut feel. When you know that something is right it’s just that. Right.
Rebecca Plant is programme manager for Capgemini’s Higher Apprentice Programme, and has progressed to take over all responsibility for the Graduate and Apprentice programmes. She will be speaking at the Apprentices and School Leaver Conference 2014 on the 2nd December in London.