Not every apprentice is a new employee. For some, an Apprenticeship is the next step with an existing employer. This was the case at The Forge Clinic. Established in 1995, the clinic offers therapies such osteopathy, physiotherapy, chiropractic massage and acupuncture. The bulk of the business’s work is related to physical problems caused by manual work.
Receptionist Victoria Baars was given the opportunity to undertake an Apprenticeship – the business’s first. Osteopath and clinic director Jerome Boisard talked us through how the Apprenticeship came about:
“What we did is a bit counter-intuitive in that we didn’t take an apprentice on. We discovered that one of our receptionists was eligible to enter into an Apprenticeship scheme.”
For Jerome and The Forge Clinic, Victoria was someone who had already proven she had the right sort of attitude, common sense and ‘people person’ skills required in a front of house role. However, the Apprenticeship was the opportunity to take these a step further:
“The Apprenticeship has allowed us to formalise Victoria’s role. Basically, she’d demonstrated a lot of management skills and the scope of her job was growing. So for us it seemed the perfect time and the perfect mix of academic qualifications and on-the-job experience. Our objective is that once Victoria has finished the Apprenticeship she will take on the duties of a clinic manager. It’s also a way for her to progress in her career.”
Jerome is an active member of his local Chamber of Commerce and has connected with other businesses in preparation for running the Apprenticeship.
“I’ve met with business people to talk about Apprenticeships – businesses have been making quite a lot of noise on the subject recently. I’ve also been researching Apprenticeships because my son is 16 and he’s looking into them too!
“Apprenticeships are very interesting from a small business’s point of view because they let you test someone during the learning process and they also allow the apprentice to understand what the business needs. That means that the young person can spend their time acquiring skills related to what that particular business does.”
Through the Chamber of Commerce, Jerome has spoken to many small business owners and he understands their reservations when it comes to Apprenticeships:
“To be honest, when I chat to businesses, people are not looking at the £1500 Apprenticeship grant. It’s more about ‘convince me I need to get someone on board who isn’t qualified.’ They’re thinking about the dynamic of their team and how having an apprentice will impact on the way things work. The basic thing I hear people say is ‘I am going to take a boy or girl into my business, they have never worked, they are young, where am I going to fit them in?’“
As Jerome explains however, these fears are often unfounded and small businesses have much to gain from Apprenticeship schemes:
“I think it’s a great move. That’s why I’m happy to promote it as much as possible and challenge the image of a teenager who doesn’t know where to sit or what to do – that’s just false! These are young, talented people who are very willing to work and very honoured to have the opportunity to prove what they’re worth.”