Building a pipeline of talent for the future

One of the major advantages of putting in place a robust apprenticeship programme is its ability to build a sustainable pipeline of talent bespoke to the business.

19 August 2019

As well as ensuring the organisation is equipped with the skills it needs, apprenticeship programmes can also deliver a return on investment in terms of lower attrition rates and loyal and motivated employees.

One of the best examples of this in action is the hairdressing sector. For decades, apprenticeship programmes have been almost its primary channel for recruitment. Hence, hairdressing businesses are among the best champions of apprenticeship programmes from whom other employers can learn a great deal.

“As an industry, we’ve always embraced apprenticeships and they are intrinsic to what we do,” says Charlie Collinge, Managing Director of Andrew Collinge Hairdressing, which has salons in Liverpool, Chester and Manchester and roots going back to 1940. “It is our sole method of recruitment and training, so we owe apprenticeships everything.”

As well as skills training, apprentices learn about the company culture and values which is essential to delivering the salons’ high level of customer service, as well as instilling loyalty. “Apprentices make great long-term employees,” says Collinge. “Which is probably why we’ve been in business for so long.”

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Many sectors and industries face tough skills challenges in the years ahead, and factors such as Brexit, digitalisation and the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are changing the business landscape and compounding recruitment problems. Apprenticeships offer a way to insulate against some of these concerns with a constant flow of qualified employees.

Experts predict the construction industry, for example, will need to recruit 168,000 skilled workers over the next five years. Long-established construction firm, O’Halloran and O’Brien (OHOB) is using the Levy as a catalyst for change and has an ambition to significantly increase the number of apprentices it recruits across the next two to three years to tackle the threats to its organic pipeline.

“The more acute the skills gap, the more expensive it will be to get these skills,” says Martyn Price, OHOB’s Workforce Development Director, adding: “We want to say ‘here’s what this great industry can offer in terms of a long-term career and training and here are all the pathways you can choose from.’”

Having put in place the fundamentals of a talent pipeline, employers should seek to further build on their investment in apprenticeships. It isn’t just about recruiting people for the roles they will do today, but also in the future, and to look at how these people can eventually occupy leadership roles in the organisation at all levels. Price says it is important to convey that even if someone goes in at an entry level position, they could one day move on to a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship.

Currently, 80 per cent of individuals on apprenticeship programmes at the high street opticians chain Specsavers go on to further study. Guy Kidd, National Apprenticeships Business Partner, People and Organisation, said 2018 has seen the first apprenticeship cohort of future retail leaders join the businesses. “We are hoping that we will see this activity continue over the coming years and plans are already underway for the 2019 cohort,” he says.

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Such people already have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the company’s culture, ethos and mission. This means they are more likely to naturally exhibit the right behaviours and attitudes that reflect the company values, which is vital when in a leadership position and a role model to others.

Apprenticeships can indeed build a sustainable pipeline of talent that tackles skills shortages and recruitment challenges and employers shouldn’t underestimate how far into the future this positive impact can be felt.