Pictured right to left: Julia Gardner and John Vincent, Vector 7, Newcomer SME of the Year, Nigel Fenn, South West Water, Large Employer of the Year and Jonathan Taylor, Alcoa Power & Propulsion, Advanced Apprentice of the Year, at the South West National Apprenticeship Awards 2015.
Having been nominated by Samantha Jackman, Apprenticeships Manager at Plymouth College of Art, dynamic web design and marketing business Vector 7 has won recognition at the South West regional final of the National Apprenticeship Awards.
Vector 7, which is based in Honiton, Devon, has won the EDF Energy Award for Newcomer SME of the Year at the South West Regional Apprenticeships Awards 2015. We caught up with the company’s two directors, Julia Gardner and John Vincent, just a few days after their win, when they were still fielding a storm of media interest and a flurry of well wishers. The business partners, who moved to Devon from London around twenty years ago, each bring years of experience in advertising and marketing with them to the enterprise. Although it was originally established in 2003 as Vector Ltd, it’s only more recently that the apprenticeship model has become central to Vector 7’s success, as Julia recalls:
“We’ve taken on eight apprentices in the last two years. Five last year and three this year. We’re a company of just 15 people in total, so that’s quite a big increase!”
Although the company had had one or two apprentices in the past, it is only in the last two years that it has developed the carefully designed in-house training programme that sets it apart from other small business employers, as Julia says:
“We’re offering something pretty unique to young local people looking for an apprenticeship because ours has been developed in-house specifically for web marketers.”
John explains that there’s more to the Vector 7 apprenticeship than simply becoming a great web designer; the company wants to give the young people the skills to reach clients’ customers intelligently, by becoming both informed about the industries they operate across and acquiring a high level of professional skill:
“Using advertising psychology, we train the apprentices to understand the industries our clients are part of. We work for joineries, window companies, flooring companies and we help them to understand what’s going through the mind of, for example, someone buying a new kitchen, new flooring or bespoke furniture. The more we can help them understand what a customer’s thought process is when choosing these services, the better equipped they are to offer a good service.”
Vector 7 apprenticeships are designed to give each individual apprentice the optimum in hands-on experience, making them part of the full service journey rather than just an isolated cog in the machine. For a small business offering a quality service to other small businesses, this is essential. John says:
“We don’t work with multi-nationals or big corporations. We’re dealing with, for example, a heating engineer with just five engineers under him. Vector 7 trains apprentices to help customers like him to find their voice online. If we were Yell, then all we’d need from our clients would be a logo, four bullet points and a telephone number. Our service is comprehensive, and can include things like video, photography and case studies of clients at work, demonstrating happy customers. The apprentices are taught to deliver the service from start to finish. They’re not part of a conveyor belt, they need to talk to the clients, to pick up the phone and learn about the industry niches that they’re working in. It’s about teaching them to really think.”
Sarah Jamieson is an apprenticeship tutor and assessor for Plymouth College of Art. She comes into Vector 7’s offices every Friday to delivery training to the apprentices. The level 3 apprenticeship takes 18 months to complete and comprises two qualifications – the BTEC Subsidiary in Art and Design, and the AIM Award NVQ. Along with her colleagues at the college, Sarah is thrilled to see Vector 7 receive well-deserved recognition for its outstanding apprenticeships. She said:
“I think it’s fantastic for Vector 7 to have won this award. It just tells the world that the students here are having a wonderful experience. They’re gaining a lot of technical skills but they’re also getting to put those into practice and excelling. I love to see what they’re up to and what they’re creating. This is a really great place to get your foot in the door.”