Ebsford, founded in 2011, say offering apprenticeships has enabled their company to rapidly grow a turnover of £50,000 in the first year to £3 million now.  Nick Hartley discusses apprentice retention and community impact.

Ebsford Environmental Ltd, an environmental contractor and consultancy based in Wakefield was recently crowned Unilever Small Employer of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2016 and named one of the National Apprenticeship Service Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers. The business, founded in 2011 first introduced apprenticeships in 2012 and since then the business has boomed, as has the company’s apprenticeship programme, with 100% retention of apprentice’s. Managing Director, Nick Hartley, attributes this to the strong mentoring culture and family ethos fostered by the business.

Here, Nick explains the company’s success as an award-winning apprenticeship employer and why he is committed to developing the company’s apprenticeship offering even further:

Apprentice retention

Ebsford Environmental Ltd was set up in 2011, with the aim of offering low impact environmental solutions and it continues to grow rapidly – we currently employ 29 staff. At Ebsford we work with organisations including Internal Drainage Boards, Local Authorities, Housing Developers, National Trusts and Framework Contractors. We’re committed to maintaining an employment strategy that ensures 20% of our staff are currently on, or have completed an apprenticeship with us.

We offer apprenticeships in Horticulture, Business and Professional Administration, Marketing and Customer Service. We employ six apprentices across this range of frameworks and we plan to recruit two more in the coming months.

Wakefield is an area with high levels of economic deprivation and as a business we are committed to enabling social mobility in the area. Our candidates come from a range of backgrounds and levels; from school leavers to one apprentice who joined us at 22 after having a baby.

Community impact

As a family business we are keen to create an atmosphere of mentoring, which also underpins our ‘whole of life approach’ to our work. As an environmental business we want to show we are committed to the local community and ensure our workforce is sustainable. Through offering structured training we can ensure sustainable growth of the business whilst simultaneously improving youth unemployment.

We launched our apprenticeship programme just one year after the company was founded and since 2012 the business has gone from turning over £50,000 a year to £3 million in the last year.

When we first set up we were committed to being an exceptional employer and our aim was to maximise retention. We have a strict financial and leadership plan for apprentices, which ensures they are always working towards something, which helps keep them motivated. Additionally our mentoring and development process means that once people have moved into management they are given the chance to manage people’s training, which we believe leads to high levels of job satisfaction.

Additionally, training apprentices and seeing them flourish into successful young professionals is rewarding to see as an employer. Especially if they’ve come from difficult family backgrounds or from areas of high levels of unemployment. We now have former apprentices in leadership roles, working as site managers and supervisors.

Business is booming

Apprenticeships are a vital part of the way Ebsford operate and as a business we believe it is integral to our success. We often bid for local authority work – and we build our apprenticeship commitment into these bids. It’s not just about apprentices assisting us with work but about improving community engagement – we are finding more businesses are asking for organisations who have a track record in offering apprenticeships.

At Ebsford we’re keen to expound the benefits of apprenticeship to other businesses and we work with the local council and attend apprenticeship open days as ambassadors and set up links with local businesses, to promote apprenticeships. In addition we talk to educational bodies in Leeds and Sheffield, attend workshops and talk to students in sixth form who aren’t attending university about the opportunities apprenticeships can deliver.

Apprenticeships are one of the best and most rewarding ways of finding staff; you are changing people’s lives in a way that you don’t get just by giving someone a job. As a business owner you have the opportunity to help young people at a crucial stage in their development, especially in socially deprived areas and using doing this is a fascinating way to grow the business.

Those looking to take on apprentices can find out more by searching ‘apprenticeships’ on GOV.UK.