Can you provide a quick overview of your business?
ISO Quality Services Ltd is an independent organisation that specialises in the implementation, certification and continued auditing of ISO and BS EN Management Standards. We also offer ISO consultancy, training and internal auditing. We are one of the UK’s leading ‘total solutions’ provider and have adopted a simple, cost effective and no nonsense route to BS EN ISO certification and have been established since May 2000. We are a family business and work with a variety of clients including small one-man bands up to large international multi-million turnover companies.
Our apprenticeship scheme is award winning having been named Regional Winners in 2015 and 2016 for the Midlands in the category of Small Employer of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards. This year we also came runner up at the National Finals, being awarded Highly commended in the same category. In 2014 we also won overall Employer of the Year at the Worcestershire Apprenticeship Awards and in 2015 we won Employer of the Year at the Midlands Family Business Awards.
When did the business first start recruiting apprentices?
We first started recruiting apprentices in 2012, with our first apprentice studying Finance and Accountancy. Shortly after, we introduced two more apprentices in Business Administration. In 2015, we sought a Digital Marketing Apprentice to help grow our marketing team and a further Finance Apprentice. For us apprentices are a great way to expand our teams and grow our business. They also provide opportunities for our team to learn to manage others, as well as giving us the additional resource to work on projects such as a new website, move internationally and in our finance department, introducing new systems which have made a real difference to our infrastructure and the way the business runs.
Why did your business consider offering an apprenticeship?
We first considered offering apprenticeships as we were struggling to find the right candidates for some newer roles within the business. By going down this route, we could be confident that energetic candidates who fitted well with our ethos of learning and development would fill the roles. We also chose to invest in apprenticeships because we appreciated that we were investing in future talent and pride ourselves on providing a platform for young people’s careers.
How does the recruitment process work?
We aim to recruit 1-2 new apprentices each year, but in a small team of 12, this is actually quite significant. Our process has always began with the training provider. We have been fortunate enough to work with some experienced providers who have sent over some great candidates for interview. From here, we ensure the apprentice will be a right fit for the business, and ourselves the right fit for them and their development. When approaching a role, apprenticeships are always a viable first option, based on the direction we want the role to go in.
What were your first impressions of apprenticeships? And the apprentices you recruited?
Our apprentices have always been bright, ready to learn and knowledge, thanks to their training from their affiliated training providers. In our experience, they have always been happy to arrive at work and throw themselves whole-heartedly into new projects.
Do your apprentices have any specific support – induction process, mentors, additional training, etc, that you feel brings additional benefit to the business and apprentice?
Our apprentices undergo a strong induction process, just like any of our employees. In the first few months of our apprentices starting in their roles, they take part in a range of activities to integrate them into our close team. Job swapping, team building activities and spending time in different departments are just a few examples. We also like to monitor the development of our apprentices through quarterly one-to-ones, and apprentices are given a ‘buddy’ in their departments and the support of a line manager. As well as giving apprentices a good footing in the working world, we also put a strong emphasis on developing softer skills such as networking, phone skills and time management.
How far have your apprentices progressed in your business to date?
We have now had six apprentices and are pleased to say that we have offered all of our apprentices a role within the company once they finished their apprenticeship. Apprentices are welcome to stay on in their positions or move into different roles. From this, two apprentices have chosen to move into roles in our new business team, liaising with potential clients.
What challenges, if any, have you found with recruiting apprentices?
The main challenge in a small business has always been time! Giving the apprentices the development time that they need with members of staff, especially Directors, has always been tricky and in the beginning we were inexperienced in recruiting the inexperienced and were sometimes unsure about the best way to manage them. As time went by we were able to introduce a structured training program to manage their development and grow their skills, both internally and externally.
Operations Director Jennifer Appleton also stated that it can be challenging managing our apprentices’ ambitions, she said “As an SME we do try to create new roles but don’t necessary always have the variety of roles that a 100-200 employee company would have available, however the advantage of a small business is that apprentices can have increased responsibility and breadth of experience early on in their careers”.
What do you see as being the main benefits to your business?
The benefits to our organisation continue to exceed our expectations, which has encouraged us to carry on developing the scheme and creating new apprentice roles. We have nurtured some wonderful talent and they have reciprocated by enhancing our business. Our apprentices can have a direct impact on our bottom line and in the past apprentices have contributed significantly to our business targets and gaining new clients. One apprentice has significantly pushed the development of our training division, booking almost 20 delegates onto our training courses and winning an internal competition. The training division has continued to grow and last year we offered 22 courses, a 30% increase from last financial year.
What are your ambitions for the future of apprenticeships and/or the future of your apprentice in your business?
The company has a range of different plans for developing our apprenticeship program over the next 12 months. With the Apprenticeship Levy in place we expect the value of apprenticeships to continue to rise, which provides a great opportunity for young people all over the country and also small businesses like us!