Testing the waters…
When we last reported on the apprenticeship process at BHP, we were still impressed by the charisma and capabilities of Lord Sugar’s Young Apprentice candidates and I was looking forward to running my own selection process. Maybe one that wasn’t so terrifying for the candidates, but I definitely wanted to make sure we picked the right person, someone who would fit in well and understand our values.
Since then we’ve gone through the whole selection process; hiring, induction and training. As hiring an apprentice was new to me, and to BHP as a company as well, I thought I’d share my experiences and real life observations.
The joys of recruitment
From the moment we made the decision to go with the City of Bristol College as an apprenticeship provider, we were assisted all the way by their own apprenticeship team. It was a massive help that came when we needed it most: creating the position advertisement and sorting out incoming applications was a small weight taken off our shoulders.
After the application date passed we were provided with a selection of the best candidates that matched our criteria out of which we quickly picked the top five that we wanted to interview.
Every small business owner or HR manager knows how time-consuming recruitment is, especially when it usually comes at the worst moment – most companies leave employing someone til the very last minute, when their resources are so stretched that they can hardly cope. It is at this point that finding time to recruit and train as well as run day-to-day business activities becomes a real challenge.
This was exactly where all the help from the college’s apprenticeship team came in very handy. They not only offered help with the initial selection process, but also arranged the interviews. They would have even conducted the interviews for us, if we wanted them to, but since we are quite picky at BHP in terms of who we employ, we preferred to carry out the interviews ourselves. It was nice to have the option though.
Take it slowly
As the interviews we conducted weren’t 100 per cent conclusive (two particularly good candidates), we decided to take an additional step and run an assessment day for the finalists. Why bother you might say? Our reasons were simple:
- to see how the candidates feel, behave and cope in the real work environment within our company
- to test the candidates on a few simple tasks
- to check their ability to deal with what would be expected of them on daily basis
- to make sure the candidate would fit in well in our working environment and have a positive impact on our office culture
- to make sure that after that day both sides would still be happy to proceed with the apprenticeship
Whatever time you need to devote to prepare and run the assessment day will be worth it, as it brings you closer to the decision you need to make. The commonly known “hire slow, fire fast” approach is at least half true and it really pays off in the long term to devote as much time as you need in order to feel comfortable with your hiring decision. If need be, it is also better to re-run the advertisement and start the recruitment process again, than hire someone who won’t fit in or is simply not right for the job.
Our assessment day certainly clarified our decision for us and was well worth the effort and extra time.
As a result of this very smooth and successful recruitment process, Anthony Stackman joined our team as web & digital communications team apprentice in January 2013. It all happened within one and a half months from placing the advert with City of Bristol College, and that includes the Christmas break… so I think we’ve done pretty well.
Best time to hire?
Generally all year round. Apprenticeships usually last between 18 and 24 months, that is counted from the day the college course starts (one day a week), so if you hire in January, as we did, your apprentice may need to wait till September before they go to college. Is that bad? Not at all, it just means they will be with you full time until then, so you will actually be getting even more out of it.
Is it worth it?
Apprenticeships have become very popular with employers in recent years and, taking our example, the number of apprentices attending IT course alone at City of Bristol College went up from less than ten in 2011 to over 600 hundred in 2012.
If you are considering hiring an apprentice, I have to say it is a very cost effective way to get an extra resource in-house. At the same time it creates a fantastic opportunity for those young people (aged between 16 and 24), who are able to gain work experience while still attending college.
In fact, we are so happy with the way things turned out, the whole process and the opportunity that this apprenticeship has given BHP that we are already recruiting for the next apprentice.
So… the hunt for the next BHP apprentice is on…