Guest post – Business owner Wendy Pring on why would you want to develop a young person?

Wendy Pring is a Chartered Civil Engineer by trade. Before forming KCP in 2003, which she runs with her husband Karl, Wendy was an engineering manager for FCC Environment with experience in programming and logistics of their waste management activities.

Wendy is heavily involved the promotion of STEM subjects in education, taking an active role in the local schools, college and community to promote this. She is especially passionate about encouraging girls to consider STEM subjects as a career.

KCP is a leading material transfer and waste management solutions company. KCP uses a fleet of specially adapted vehicles and equipment to service clients across the anaerobic digestion, landfill, industrial, farming, food and drink sectors.

In this guest post for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016, Wendy explains why it pays to invest in the young workforce.

  It’s Scottish Modern Apprentice Week, established to raise the profile of a currently underutilised demographic.

What does the phrase apprenticeship mean to us nowadays? To many of us we possibly think of YTS schemes, for others it is a worthwhile route to a trade and a career. These views are generational to some extent and represent the changes in economics, employment and politics.

All current research identifies huge shortfalls in all manner of STEM related careers, as well as a greater want to increase the employment of young people. In Scotland, information about Modern Apprentices (MA) can be accessed via Skills Development Scotland (SDS). Funding for an MA can also be accessed from SDS or via your local authority Economic Development Department.

For us, we identified the need for an MA late last year. I am also a member of the steering group of Developing Young Workforce Ayrshire, and increasing MA starts across the region is a KPI for this group. 

So, what were we as a company looking for? We wanted a young person who would firstly have a can-do, positive attitude and secondly fit in with rest of the team.

For a small or micro business (SME), there is always a worry of how can I manage someone and how can I find the time to train them. This is always an obstacle, regardless of the outcome which everyone hopes is a full-time permanent position in the company. This can be a blocker for an SME as it’s a promise that is harder to fulfil. But this does not need to be the case.

For others it is a logistical issue. This affects us, we are four miles from the nearest town and not on a bus route, so there was another challenge – how would a new apprentice get to us? 

But recent conversations identified that sometimes larger companies have similar problems. The intake of MAs to some larger SMEs and corporates is well established and provides well executed programs. Micro businesses should also be considering this approach and aiming to use these opportunities to contribute to employment. Anyone with children will appreciate the potential abilities in young people, especially in digital applications.

 A lot of SMEs will berate the availability of good skilled labour. This is an opportunity to help and prepare a young person, to train them in the way you like it done, for them to encourage and establish strong relationships with other members of your team, and hopefully create a viable role for themselves in the process.

Modern Apprentices go to college and there is ongoing assistance and support from the relevant government organisations. Speak to local organisations, we dealt with Yipworld in identifying local young people. We knew distance would be an issue and we really did have to concentrate on local knowledge and support networks for our young employees.

Modern Apprentices are not a source of cheap labour, they are an investment in the growth and sustainability of your business. Will it be hard – not necessarily. It won’t be easy but a statistic highlighted at the first Responsible Business Forum last week is that 82% of businesses in Scotland are micro SMEs – that is a lot of extra places!

Will everyone have a successful journey?

Will every MA have a permanent position after they complete their training?

Will all MAs be equipped with the right skills at the beginning?

None of these outcomes are guaranteed. But if we don’t try we won’t know!

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