After almost a year of coping with the financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing many small-to-medium sized (SME) business owners might be tempted to do is spend money on staffing. But there is a compelling argument to invest in your business’ future now.
Whether it’s through upskilling existing staff members, or taking on a student, employing a surveying apprentice can help ‘future-proof’ your firm’s range of skills, helping you gain a competitive edge in a tough market – plus, you can even get paid to take one on.
Apprenticeships enable someone to be educated and trained to grow in surveying knowledge, skills and behaviours, while they are working at a professional firm. The benefits of taking on apprentices to the company include upskilling staff, improving employee retention, increasing staff diversity, and helping to attract new employees.
Paul Brown, managing director at Brown & Bancroft Interiors, co-founded his business in 2012, and decided to bring in their first apprentice surveyor in their second year.
“We felt it was a great way to have members of our team grow with the business,” he explains. “By investing in our employees at an early stage in their careers we are able to mentor and support them, by sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience we already had within the business.”
Brown & Bancroft’s current degree apprentice, senior estimator Claire Hill, already worked within the pre-construction department of the business, but had an ambition to progress her career in quantity surveying. “I explored what schemes were available and presented the options back to the directors,” she says. “We decided the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) scheme was the right fit, because of its flexibility with online learning.”
Supporting Claire in her degree apprenticeship route has been a huge investment in the future skills of the business, says Brown. “The more qualified and diverse our teams are, the better we can adapt to an industry that is constantly evolving.”
Brown recommends all SME surveying firms should consider taking on an apprentice. “It depends on the organisation’s size and structure,” he says. “But once you do, you will not only strengthen the skill set you have in the organisation, but also generate enthusiasm and desire for the apprentice to grow into the organisation’s culture, which is priceless.”
“By investing in our employees at an early stage in their careers we are able to mentor and support them, by sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience we already had within the business.” Paul Brown, Brown & Bancroft Interiors
What’s more, if you are a ‘micro firm’ of fewer than 50 employees – you can take on an apprentice for 56 months at no additional cost except paying a salary, as long as the apprentice is aged between 16 and 18, or between 19 and 24 if they have been in care.
Meryl Bonser, director of enterprise business development at UCEM, explains, “Furthermore, when any firm takes on a new 18-year-old school-leaver (or 19-24 year old if they have been in care), they currently get an additional £1,000 incentive”, she says. In addition, there is no upper age limit for apprenticeships. They are open to all ages from 16 upwards and can be used to train existing staff members as well as new ones.
“In terms of building capacity and investing in the future, it is a win-win programme for SMEs,” continues Bonser. “Plus, in the last two years of their apprenticeship, the apprentice will be studying for their APC, knowing exactly which pathway they want to take, which gives the employer added confidence that this person will be dedicated to the profession.”
To get the most out of an apprenticeship, firms must ensure apprentices have their full support, as well as opportunities to flourish within the firm. “It is important not to rush the learning process and to take time to mentor apprentices,” adds Brown. “It’s essential they feel supported and can digest the information they learn to enable them to implement it in their daily roles.”
As part of this, the funding rules state that 20% of the apprentice’s contracted work hours must be given for off-the-job training – this is approximately one day per week for study time.
If you would like to know more about employing an apprentice, contact the UCEM Business Development Team:
0118 467 2315
“If you have fewer than 50 employees, you can take on an apprentice for 56 months at no additional cost except paying a salary, as long as the apprentice is aged between 16 and 18, or between 19 and 24 if they have been in care.” Meryl Bonser, University College of Estate Management