Mace Montessori & Lifetime Training
The Business: Mace Montessori
Since 2012, Mace Montessori, a nursery school business in London, has employed apprentices in almost all of its seven branches. Business Development Director Jon Lloyd explains how the business’s growth presented an opportunity for Apprenticeships:
“We’ve opened a new nursery every year since 2007. We had a strong foundation of qualified people but needed more junior employees. We also wanted to encourage fresh blood into the industry. The business was growing steadily and that meant more roles to fill so I decided to look at Apprenticeships.”
Jon chose Bristol-based Lifetime Training to provide Apprenticeship training and he works with George Dee, Vacancy Matching Team Leader. Despite the distance they have a close working relationship. Of 130 current Mace Montessori employees, nine are apprentices.
So how has Lifetime helped Jon locate the right people to fill his Apprenticeship positions?
“Lifetime finds candidates who want to learn on the job – classroom learning doesn’t suit everyone. I speak to George, and I tell him my requirements and which nursery the Apprenticeship will be based in. Then he tries to match-make.”
For Jon, a good working relationship with George is key. Mutual understanding means he can trust Lifetime to find the right candidate for the business again and again, making it easy to get each Apprenticeship off to a good start:
“Lifetime knows our expectations as a company. That’s important to me. I know that Jon will have personally spoken to these people or a tutor who knows them.”
Once the candidates are chosen, Jon interviews them himself. Ultimately, he is the person who makes the final selection and he knows what he’s looking for:
“I look for somebody who’s personable because we work in an industry that deals with people. Someone with some confidence who can communicate well. I always ask ‘What makes you want to with children?’ The answer tells me an awful lot about that person.’
At Mace Montessori, the apprentices are working towards becoming trainee teachers or nursery teachers. They study for the City & Guilds Children and Young People’s workforce qualifications. This forms the academic part of their Apprenticeships. Not all of the apprentices come via the training organisation:
“Some have approached us directly – just knocked on the door with a CV and a cover letter. I think someone who does that deserves 10 minutes. Then I’ll contact one of the training providers and we’ll take it from there.”
Before Jon’s apprentices formally begin their Apprenticeships with the business, he gives them a ‘cooling off’ period. For two weeks the apprentices work full time in a nursery to make doubly sure that the industry is right for them. Since 2012, when Mace Montessori took on its first apprentices, three have become full members of staff and are going further in their studies:
“They’re on their way to completing their level 3 now, a real success story. They’re part of the family now. I really like to see the apprentices gaining confidence and starting to use their initiative, developing team skills and then leadership skills as well. I’d love one of these people to become a room leader then head towards management. Anything could happen for the right person.”
One of the reasons Mace Montessori returns to Lifetime training again and again is that beyond recruitment and selection, the training organisation provides strong tutoring and support.
“Each apprentice is assigned to a Lifetime regional trainer who will come into the nursery and get them going with their studies. The trainer comes back every six to eight weeks, talks with the manager to make sure everything’s OK, makes sure we’re looking after the apprentice but also checks the apprentice is doing what they are supposed to be.”
Jon is keen to point out that successful Apprenticeships don’t simply happen. Once an apprentice has been chosen, they need nurturing:
“You need the team in place to support, train and mentor apprentices. They need to have patience and to understand that this may be someone with zero experience, not only in your industry but also in the workplace.”
The Training Organisation: Lifetime Training
Lifetime Training, a national provider of Apprenticeship training, covers seven sectors: hospitality, leisure, customer services, retail, IT, childcare and the adult / elderly care sector. Around a third of the businesses Lifetime Training works with employ fewer than 20 people. George Dee, who manages the organisation’s apprentice recruitment service, tells us what Apprenticeships deliver to these small businesses:
“Apprenticeships improve staff retention, promote productivity, improve customer service, increase skills and create job satisfaction. Plus, recruitment is cost-free, which is important to smaller companies.”
With 350 regional trainers operating across the UK, George has a busy time filling Apprenticeship positions. Employers come to Lifetime Training via a number of routes. One of these is the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). Having received an enquiry, the NAS small business team may decide Lifetime Training is a good possible match for that business’s needs. George explains what happens next:
“Each business is assigned a Lifetime Training account manager. That person will become the single point of contact for that employer and take them through the apprentice recruitment process.”
Lifetime Training takes the lead on recruiting apprentices, although they work with employers to determine eligibility criteria. George and his team advertise vacancies widely to attract a high calibre of candidates. Adverts appear on the NAS vacancies website, Job Centre Plus, universities, private job sites and sector-specific sites. The team then screens candidates, checking their suitability for roles, before shortlisting and passing CVs to employers. George says:
“We make recruitment easy for employers. They don’t have to do anything except meet the candidates. Once they’ve reviewed the CVs they decide who they’d like to interview. Then we arrange the interviews too.”
And it’s not just the employer who receives support. Lifetime Training also mentors the potential candidates. As well as an online resource to help candidates prepare for interviews, George’s colleagues give one-to-one support:
“If a candidate’s CV isn’t quite up to scratch we offer advice and a template to follow. We help them prepare questions to ask at the end of an interview and do a couple of practice questions over the phone to make sure they’re ready.”
“Each apprentice is different. Some are fighting to go to work rather than carry on with full time education. Some are fresh from school, just finished their GCSEs and have never been in a work environment. That’s what we promote – the fact that they can gain valuable work experience whilst working towards a recognised qualification.”
Meanwhile, Lifetime are also taking employers through the recruitment process, ensuring that they fully understand how the service works and writing email summaries to create a handy record of all the details.
For some Lifetime Training clients, Apprenticeships quickly become an essential part of everyday business. George offers an example:
“We have a childcare nursery business in London with seven different premises across the city. One manager took on an apprentice in January 2012. Since then we’ve placed apprentices in almost all those nurseries. One manager speaks to another and they’ve ended up with eight apprentices. People are spreading the word about Apprenticeships.”
Although Lifetime Training works across a broad range of sectors, the organisation offers a bespoke service to each employer. George explains how this is done:
“We’re flexible about different frameworks and we always listen to employer requests. For example, they may like us to add a particular IT module to an apprentice’s training.”
Once the framework has been established and the candidate recruited, it’s time to get started on the Apprenticeship. George outlines the process:
“The apprentice is given a start date by the employer. Then the apprentice goes in and usually they’ll do training for a few weeks. The Lifetime Assessor visits to ensure they’re happy in the environment
Often they want to get used to the system before the trainer comes in.
”Like any other employee, an apprentice requires a contract of employment. They also need an Apprenticeship agreement. Some employers incorporate the terms and conditions outlined in the Apprenticeship agreement into their existing contract of employment.
George and his team let employers know that following an Apprenticeship they’re under no obligation to retain that person as an employee. However, it often happens that an apprentice becomes a full time, valued member of staff.
“We hope that employers will increase apprentices’ duties and responsibilities as their skills develop through our training. As they up-skill their future opportunities grow until, ideally, they’re ready for permanent employment. ”