Krueger Ltd is a family business in Poole which has been installing, servicing and repairing heating systems for boats and vehicles for nearly 40 years, in fact its team of experienced engineers has installed over 30,000 systems. The business requires specialist skills and knowledge which it has recently started to ‘home grow’ with its first apprenticeships scheme. Operations Manager Kirstie Thomson shared with us why they first decided to try apprenticeships in their small business and how it’s worked out so far.
Photo: The MD of Krueger training both apprentices on the fitting of a GPS system on the company RIB.
Can you provide a quick overview of your business?
Krueger was established in 1979 as a family business and we’ve been installing and supplying heating systems for different boats and vehicles ever since.
When did the business first start recruiting apprentices?
It’s all quite new to us. Owen was our first apprentice and he’s now in his second year. He’s been fantastic, so it’s been a great experience so far. The reason we tried it was that we were getting a lot of enquiries about whether we’d take any apprentices on so we finally decided to give it a go. We needed more manpower, but it was nice to be able to offer an opportunity too. Once we got going we discovered it was a lot easier than we thought it would be. We had a lot of help throughout the process from the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights too, they provide so much assistance around apprenticeships for businesses, they really made it very easy.
How did the recruitment process work?
In the first instance we contacted Poole College who run a Marine Engineering course and they sent us CVs of interested candidates. We did do lots of interviews but we actually ended up taking on someone we knew of through our networks, he’s the son of a business nearby. He was really just the right person, really enthusiastic and a great fit so it’s worked out well. Our second apprentice is also someone we knew was interested through our networks.
How do you help your apprentices settle into the business?
When they first join they do tend to do some of the less exciting but essential tasks just to get them used to the business. Owen did a lot of work on vehicles when he first started. Once he was clued up we let him out on the boats which they’re always keen to do.
Do your apprentices have any specific support?
We give them the same induction as everyone that joins the business gets, and then train them as they go. As well as the apprenticeship training they also attend training courses here which are focused on the specialist skills and knowledge needed for our business.
How far have apprentices progressed in your business to date?
Owen has progressed really quickly and has passed all of his units so far. He’s already out and about doing client work for the business.
What challenges, if any, have you found with recruiting apprentices?
I wouldn’t say there have been any challenges to be honest. If anything I’d say it was easier. When you’re recruiting an apprentice you’re looking for potential rather than their experience. If they have enthusiasm and a willingness to learn we can train them in the skills we need from the outset. For us it’s all about getting the right person.
It’s really difficult to find a marine engineer that also has the specialist knowledge in heating installations, we’d still have to train them up. We do something so specific that we wouldn’t be able to find an experienced person unless they work here. Recruiting someone more experienced can make it more complicated sometimes as even the installations we do are different from anyone else’s.
What do you see as being the main benefits to your business?
Bringing that enthusiasm and energy into the business is one of the great things about apprenticeships.
Do any apprentices stand out for you in terms of what they’ve achieved?
Yes, they both have, it’s been amazing how quickly they’ve come along and how quickly they can add value to the business.
What are your ambitions for the future of apprenticeships in your business?
As the company expands we’ll carry on taking them on.
From next year it’s likely that businesses will be required contribute 10% of the training costs to an apprenticeship, do you think it would make a difference to your decision to run an apprenticeship?
To be honest, I’d still say it’s worth it. It’s been invaluable to us really. It’s an investment for the company.
What advice would you give to a business considering apprenticeships?
I would say that if you’re thinking about doing it, do it as soon as possible to factor in the time it takes to find the right person and to get them trained. There is a development time, but once you get them up to speed they can be a fantastic asset to the business.