ATF Professional spoke to Tom Hayward, Managing Director of I Need Spares Ltd, a vehicle recycling and green parts retail specialist, about his company’s experience of taking on apprentices.
Tom, can you tell us what apprenticeships are you offering and how it works within your company?
We offer two apprenticeships, one for a warehouse operative and the other is for a business administrator. I have wanted to offer apprenticeships for about the last two years. However, during that time, we were building the company’s systems and health and safety processes. I wanted to make sure that we were ready to take on apprentices as, in some cases, it would be their first place of work. I also want to offer the apprentices my full attention and support without any distractions elsewhere in the company.
Fortunately, I can dedicate time to the apprenticeship because the company has been set up to have production days for four days a week; I can spend day five allocating more time to the apprenticeship staff. The apprenticeships work on a 20% job training and 80% working on the day to day tasks, which means I need to allocate 20% of the week to training, so having a day in the week where we are not involved in the production allows me to do this.
Which apprenticeship partnership are you working with, and why have you chosen to have an apprentice over an already qualified member of staff?
It’s called TheLightBulbApprenticeships, based in Basildon, Essex. They have been very helpful with the whole setting up of the scheme for me.
I wanted to offer an apprenticeship as I felt it would be the best way to get the right candidates who are willing to learn a new skill and perhaps those who prefer on to job learning rather than classroom-based. I have developed a training schedule for these apprentices, and so far, I have been very pleased with their commitment to the role and jobs at hand.
Gary Samuels, Sales Account Manager at The Light Bulb said:
“Apprenticeships are designed to help businesses of any size, offering an adaptable and accommodating training schedule to suit both candidate and employer to great success.
Typically candidates are aged between 16-24 and are predominantly straight from education, college or university who seeking an opportunity within an industry sector that they are keen to develop and progress a career within. Apprentices offer fresh ideas, an eagerness to learn and energy to develop and be a part of the company and most of all recognise Apprenticeship opportunities are not only as an Apprenticeship but a long term opportunity to develop a career within a company for years to come.
Thomas Hayward from I Need Spares has recognised the many benefits Apprenticeships bring to a business model and has embraced the scheme with open arms.”
When asked why he chose the apprenticeship route, warehouse operative Charlie Dine said:
I choose an apprenticeship because I was interested in training in this specific sector and wanted to earn money at the same time with a view to further my training and skills. It’s also interesting to see how this type of industry operates.
We asked 19-year-old Sasha Childs, the Business Administrator apprentice at I Need Spares, why she chose the apprenticeship path too.
I went to my local college, and the next step would have been university, but I decided that this wasn’t for me. I wanted to get a job and start earning money, so I started looking at other options. And one of the main ones was an apprenticeship as this offered the opportunity to gain training whilst earning money at the same time.
I studied business at school and college for about four years in all, and it was one of my favourite subjects. So I knew that it was something I wanted to continue doing. In the apprenticeship, I looked at anything relating to business ICT, and that’s when I found this placement.
The apprenticeship is for 18 months, and I have been here for five months now. I don’t attend college, as it is all on the job training, but I’m in contact with The Light Bulb Apprenticeships, where I have a mentor who sets my work and asks how I’m getting on.
Tom, how has it been taking on someone who has only learned the theory of business?
It has been a great way for us both to learn and great to have a fresh pair of eyes on tasks. There are always different solutions or possibilities for more efficient ways, which I always like to take on board from any staff member. Having a member of staff that is qualified in the theory has also been a great advantage when explaining tasks.
The VRAC, over the last 18 months, has developed Grading training which has helped staff members become more aligned in the industry. I also use software called Trainual to host all our SOPs where the staff can take some time out from their day and sit and learn about specific tasks.
Having this training on-site and the onboarding process with Sasha worked really well, and she was up to speed on the tasks at hand within a few weeks.
Sasha, when it came to transitioning from college to the workplace proper, was it an easy process? And what is your impression of working in a vehicle recycling yard? Is it was you expected?
I was a little nervous at first, but over time, my confidence just grew. It was just ‘practice makes perfect’. The more I did it, the more I thought I could do it independently without Tom being there.
Referring to my impression of the vehicle recycling process, I didn’t realise what was involved; it isn’t just about stripping a car and selling parts, it’s a process where a vehicle comes into the yard to be dismantled, and parts are prepared as products to be resold. There is a lot of paperwork with this process, which I hadn’t considered before I came here.
Sasha, what do you hope to gain from your apprenticeship, and how do you feel about the learning process?
I want to gain experience and knowledge. It’s not just about gaining the qualification and earning money; it’s more about understanding the process of how the business operates.
As for the learning process, it’s a different way of learning, which is good. It’s not the traditional way of sitting in a classroom with 30 other kids with someone just talking to you all day. It’s hands-on by you, and you’re involved with a real company instead of just learning about the theory.
What about you Tom, what do you want to achieve from this process?
I want to give our apprentices the best start in their working career, for them to understand all elements of the business. This, I feel, will give them an understanding of how certain decisions are made or what the knock-on effect is of something to the business. It would be great to know that Sasha may want to stay on after her apprenticeship. There will also be the opportunity to move up into another level of learning with the apprenticeship scheme. I am also fully aware that at the age of 19, all I wanted to do was go and see the world, so I am sure there will be travels ahead. Either way, I know I am focused on the business presently, and everything the team is doing is going in the right direction. My achievement will be having the business do well and to have given something back to new younger members of staff who are keen to learn.
The company is only as good as its staff. And I think, by investing in staff and involving staff, whether it’s an apprenticeship or not, this is the right way, and I feel this is why we’ve been in a good position over the last five years.
So, you’ve talked about the business admin and the warehouse operator apprenticeships, do you have plans to take on more?
These are the two at the moment. I have been looking into a specific vehicle dismantling technician and parts quality apprenticeship. Still, I have not been able to find this, but I guess it’s quite a niche thing. Of course, I would be happy to be involved in creating such an apprenticeship, and it could work alongside the VRA standard. It’s definitely something I want to look into next, but at the moment, probably for the majority of this year, it’s business admin and warehouse operative.
Tom, what are the benefits of having apprentices?
For me, it’s a good opportunity to involve/introduce new talent to an exciting and growing industry and give specific training. I can provide a fresh approach to the way vehicles are processed and teach someone who is willing to learn a new skill and open to learning our SOPs.
And what would you say to other companies about taking on apprentices?
I recommend the apprenticeship scheme to everyone – In my case, I found the process with The Light Bulb informative and straightforward. I would also suggest that having a structured onboarding and training schedule set up already will ensure a smooth transition for the new employee.