Since opening its doors in 1987, Kirton-based Fairfield Control Systems quickly realised the benefits of taking on apprentices to its business development and went on to be awarded “Small Employer of the Year 2013 Regional Winner” for its Apprenticeship programme by The National Apprenticeship Service.
Oliver Mangham, Director at Fairfield Control Systems (pictured) said,
“Having started as an apprentice myself nine years ago I can testify to the value of Apprenticeships – to both the company and the individual. As a small organisation operating within the engineering industry we would struggle to find trained engineers to allow our business to grow – the recruitment pool just isn’t big enough. By taking on apprentices, we are able to stay one step ahead of our competitors by training young talent early on.”
Fairfield has recruited 10 apprentices during its years of operation, through natural approaches, the local schools and colleges and Semta, an industry-specific training provider. Currently Fairfield has five apprentices and is looking for another two to begin before the summer.
“It’s incredible how much value an Apprentice adds to your business,” Oliver continued.
“Fairfield has a three year business plan to double its turnover, and one year in we are ahead of reaching our target – this quite simply wouldn’t be possible without the support of our apprentices. 30-40% of our business is apprentices. We don’t look for ready-made engineers, we only need the basics – those who have good English, Maths and Science qualifications, who are wanting to learn, understand what it is to act professionally and have the enthusiasm to help us grow.”
Every Apprenticeship is different and an employer has the freedom to tailor the apprentice’s experience to suit their business needs – in line with their training.
“Technically our Apprenticeships last five years – from AS/A-Level through to the end of university or Level 2 – 3 to Level 6,” Oliver explains.
“The first two years will be spent rotating within each function of the business – whichever sector of the business they are working within (eg: pharmaceutical, steel, water etc). This will mean a two-three month stint working within the likes of sales, designing, handling call-outs, onsite service visits etc to ensure they have an excellent understanding of how the business operates as a whole. We also have a Skills Matrix which lists all the items that we would want an employee to know – from correctly sending a fax to programming a unit – which we can benchmark an apprentice’s experience against at each evaluation session to ensure they are on track. The senior engineers are in charge of ensuring that they get the correct opportunities and I oversee their progress. Essentially though, it’s up to the employer to ensure both parties are benefiting from the experience.”
After the three years, apprentices will go onto university to complete their education, and Fairfield will fund their degree course – highlighting the high esteem in which they place their apprentices. Oliver continues,
“I’m always surprised that more students don’t get involved in Apprenticeships. However, the more businesses, particularly SMEs, that get involved will help to change this. I’m delighted to see the advent of Apprenticemakers which will help small businesses access others that have benefited from apprentices, allowing them to share their valuable experience. As an Apprenticeship Ambassador I could preach the benefits of Apprenticeships all day long, and am personally interested in encouraging our supply chain to consider the merits of training young people early on. In doing so all our businesses will grow as the resources will be there to support each of us.”