A uniform approach to apprenticeships

Posted on 14/01/2015

A trio of dedicated apprentices are helping a Sheffield-based clothing manufacturer to burst at the seams with new orders after benefiting from a unique Sheffield City Region wide initiative to help the company grow.

Kurtis Front Hayden Horsfield br Mark Swift Bl

Holbrook-based Shield Quality at Work produces bespoke embroidered uniforms and personal protective equipment for a wide range of businesses including painters, builders and decorators, as well as manufacturing specialist uniforms which are used by paramedics and community first response teams. Faced with an ageing workforce, the company decided to establish a new apprentice training programme allowing the company to replace the skills of long standing employees – many of whom had been with the business since its formation in 1977.

Skills Made Easy is a unique programme run by the Local Enterprise Partnership which provides impartial support to help businesses upskill their workforces as well as helping Shield to create a new apprentice training programme.

The challenges facing Shield were not straightforward. The company recognised the importance of recruiting additional members of staff to meet demand, but had never previously considered apprenticeships. After discussing with Skills Made Easy the recruitment problems the business was facing, a bespoke training programme was created, ensuring that the company’s new recruits could excel in their newly created roles.

Skills Made Easy liaised with a number of training providers, helping to develop a bespoke training programme and also spent time helping the company to select suitable candidates. The company’s first apprentice, Mark Swift joined the business in 2013 and after successfully completing a level two qualification in business administration, he has continued his studies and is now working towards a level three qualification – the equivalent of attaining two A Level qualifications.

The positive experiences of Shield’s first apprentice gave the company the confidence to recruit further apprentices to its workforce and over the past twelve months, two additional apprentices have joined Shield’s workforce and the company is actively recruiting a fourth.

Graham Critten, Company Director, Shield Quality at Work said:

“There can be a stigma attached to young adults who are entering into the workplace for the first time but our experiences of apprenticeships have been very positive and I have been genuinely surprised at the positive impact they have made on the business.

“Our apprentices have all shown a great deal of willing and determination to succeed and all three are progressing well in their new roles.

“Having never recruited an apprentice beforehand I was very apprehensive about the process, but largely thanks to the help and support we’ve received from Skills Made Easy, it’s proved to be a very straightforward process.

“From the outset, Skills Made Easy helped us to understand the process, identify the right training which has allowed each apprentice to excel in their new role, but perhaps most importantly of all, they have helped us to find some very talented candidates who are keen and eager to learn. It’s important to remember that apprentices are still learning about the world of work, but that also comes with lots of energy and enthusiasm and I think it’s fair to say that we’d certainly be lost without them!”

Laura Hayfield, Programme Manager, Skills Made Easy said:

“A government survey last year suggested that 72% of employers who recruited an apprentice said they had improved the quality of their business. The success of Shield Quality at Work’s apprenticeship training programme goes some way towards illustrating the significant contribution that apprentices can make in the workplace.

“Our work with Shield has helped the company to benefit from a tailored training programme which has helped to create an environment within which the apprentices have been able to thrive. The net result has been an increase in sales, apprentices who are making a valuable contribution to their business.

“The unique way in which Skills Made Easy works means that all apprentices benefit from a tailored training programme, helping employers to overcome skills shortages, while helping young people to take the first steps on their career ladder.”

Businesses in the Sheffield City Region could be eligible to receive a grant worth £1500 when they recruit an apprentice into their workforce. The unique way in which Skills Made Easy works, ensures that all training delivered is designed to help each apprentice make a positive contribution to the workplace.

To find out more about how apprenticeships could help your business to succeed, contact Skills Made Easy on 0114 229 6183 or email: skillsmadeeasy@sheffield.gov.uk