Training and Apprenticeships

Yee Group Limited

The issue of training is a wide-ranging one. It’s certainly something that is of paramount importance to any business, pointed out Yee Group MD, Simon Chapman.

For every business, every SME, it is all about ensuring the continuity of adequate skills within that particular business. I believe that because it is ‘close and personal’ to a business, it tends not be shared and discussed as frequently as I think it should be.

According to data presented in the House of Commons Briefing Paper, ‘Apprenticeships’, published in November last year, people aged 25 and over accounted for 44% (224,100) of apprenticeship starts in 2015/16; with people aged 19-24 accounted for 30% (153,860); and under 19s 26% (131,420).

In terms of gender, 53% of apprenticeships starts were by women (268,730); and 47% by men (240,630). The number of women starting apprenticeship in England has been higher than men for every year since 2010/11.

Amongst many Chamber members, and as the MD of the Yee Group, I have taken this issue particularly seriously within the last three years. My company has joined many businesses in adopting a more flexible ‘learning on the job’ approach.

There is some agreement that this route provides advantages for younger staff. They gain a significantly higher understanding and appreciation of ‘how things are done round here’. This can then be effectively supplemented with formal training at college.

These young employees gain practical experience in working with their supervisors and colleagues; and, learn from their first-hand exposure to the particular project and set of circumstances. By linking formal apprenticeships to practical experience, we have been building a strong cohort of young specialist technicians. They are able to work effectively across all of our five business streams; and contribute to the success of the Group.

According to Skills Training UK, over 130,000 businesses across the UK offer Apprenticeship places because ‘they recognise their effectiveness at increasing productivity, improving business performance, and ensuring a committed and competent workforce’.

Data collected in their surveys show that 80% of companies who invest in apprentices have reported a significant increase in employee retention. Importantly, 77% of employers believe Apprenticeships make them more competitive. Whilst, 76% of those employers who employ apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.

At Yee Group, Adam Richards and James Tunnicliffe, who live in in Midway, Swadlincote and Horninglow, Burton, respectively, are currently in Year 3 of their EAL L3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment at Loughborough College.

Their courses follow a series of block releases, each of three to four weeks in a programme of learning continuing over the first two years. The pair will then be spending their 3rd and 4th years compiling a portfolio of work, followed by an examination at the end of their final year.

Their curriculum and this programme of learning are a perfect fit with the continuing development of their levels of expertise; and their growing familiarity with their new trade. We are in the strong position of being able to supplement their formal training with expert advice and opportunities to gain experience.

This is a critical component. It has the significant advantage of completing the wide-ranging tuition that these young apprentices are receiving. Whilst, enabling us to introduce education and instruction in the finer points of new technologically advanced systems and products, like energy-efficient LED lighting that we install in high-bay warehouses.

Our detailed approach is effectively correcting what some are seeing as potentially a ‘dumbing down’ in training. Our experience is in completely the opposite direction.

By combining formal college learning with in-company ‘tuition’, we are preparing and educating our employees to enhanced levels. We are effectively equipping our employees with all the appropriate skills and expertise to undertake their work to the highest professional levels.  

Our training approach has been acting as a magnet for potential apprentices with its offers of skilled training and as a career proposition.

In parallel with our apprenticeship programme, we have been promoting the virtues of electrical, air-conditioning, and security contracting as a career to schools and colleges. Our sponsorship of local Young Enterprises teams has also enabled us to share and promote careers to these young business students.

This activity is part of our wider involvement, via the Chamber of Commerce, to promote careers in industry that serve as a platform to building lasting and highly valuable occupations. Overall our approach is aimed at building a stronger collective workforce and more robust industries in this country.

It has been an effective route for these students to learn more about ‘what working in business is really all about’; and, how they can forge a successful and rewarding career.

At Yee Group, we believe that businesses should be talking to students well before they reach Years 12 and 13. Leaving the first approach until students are in their late teens is, I believe, really a bit too late. Through our mentoring and advice, we can help to inform their decisions, give and share advice, and provide excellent case studies.

It would be easy to overlook that besides specific training in a trade or occupation, every business needs to function effectively though its administration and business support teams.

No matter what size of business you are talking about, these roles remain equally crucial and fundamental to your ongoing business success. The latest technologies continue to percolate into these functions providing new opportunities that can be exploited to commercial advantage.

We believe that continuing investment in the training of younger staff, and through apprenticeships, provides significant commercial and the operational benefits to any business. The simultaneous development of valuable new careers and the upskilling of these young people are significant outcomes that should not be overlooked.

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Simon Chapman is President of the Burton and District Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director of Yee Group Ltd a leading multi-discipline contractor serving the whole of the Midlands region.

Yee Group Ltd celebrated 30 years of engineering excellence in 2015 - a significant milestone for this award winning contractor headquartered in Burton upon Trent. 

The company is a multi-discipline contractor offering the services required by the managers of industrial, commercial educational and public premises.  Yee Group Ltd offers a range of specialised services in three broad business streams: SAFETY, SPACE & TAILORED SOLUTIONS.