Ebsford Environmental Ltd provides environmental solutions in the areas of flood defence, river restoration and vegetation management. The business launched in 2011 and they recruited their first apprentices not long after, a strategy which has contributed to the rapid growth of the business.
Ebsford has found recruiting apprentices to be the best and most rewarding way of recruiting staff, and as such they support their apprentices with mentoring support and leadership plans which help their apprentices quickly develop. The business also celebrates a 100% staff retention rate.
In recognition of their supportive and forward thinking approach to apprenticeships, the business won Unilever Small Employer of the Year the National Apprenticeship Awards in January 2017.
Can you provide a quick overview of your business?
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.
When did the business first start recruiting apprentices?
We started offering apprenticeships shortly after we set up the business in 2011 and so far we have a 100% retention rate. Offering apprenticeships has enabled our business to grow rapidly from £50,000 in the first year to £3 million a year turnover.
Why did your business decide on the apprenticeship route?
When we first set up we were committed to being an exceptional employer and our aim was to maximise retention. 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 of apprentices we can ensure sustainable growth of the business whilst simultaneously improving youth unemployment.
How does the recruitment process work?
Ebsford initially contacts a training provider dependant on the framework to be studied. We create a job description and they then send us a selection of candidates who are potentially suitable. Candidates are evaluated against our criteria and invited to interview which follows our normal recruitment process.
What are / were your first impressions of apprenticeships? And the apprentice you recruited?
We have been impressed by the quality of the apprentices so far. They have all adapted to suit the needs of the business and in some cases exceeded our expectations. The apprenticeship scheme has been well supported by the colleges and it has been a simple process getting our apprentices qualified whilst undertaking our in-house training.
How do you help your apprentices settle into the business?
Apprentices join Ebsford and immediately follow our mentoring process. Through being introduced to the whole team and spending some time in various departments gives the apprentice a good understanding of how we operate before they begin to progress in their own role.
Do your apprentices have any specific support that you feel brings additional benefit to the business and apprentice?
We are 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 other peoples training, which we believe leads to high levels of job satisfaction.
How far have your apprentices progressed in your business to date? How far have previous apprentices progressed?
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.
What challenges, if any, have you found with recruiting apprentices?
Ebsford haven’t found any challenges with recruiting apprentices. The training providers are generally very supportive and the process has run smoothly to date.
What do you see as being the main benefits to your business?
We believe apprenticeships are one of the best and most rewarding ways of finding staff; you are changing peoples 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 doing this is a fascinating way to grow the business.
What are your ambitions for the future of apprenticeships in your business?
Our aim is to maintain an employment strategy ensuring 20% of our staff are on, or have completed an apprenticeship with us. It is likely we will take on a further two apprentices in the near future.
Congratulations on winning the Unilever Small Employer of the Year Award, how did the business find the experience?
We are very proud of our achievement, it is great reward for the dedication our apprentices have shown and for the commitment we have made to nurturing all our employees. We are grateful for the recognition and it is encouragement to continue developing our apprenticeship scheme further as we continue to grow.
Photo: The MD and HR Manager of Ebsford Ltd, with three Ebsford apprentices at the National Apprenticeship Awards.