Are you a big or small business owner who thinks that apprentices aren't worth the investment in training, time and money? Then think again says Dominique Unsworth. An apprentice could be the smartest investment you ever make.

Unsworth is Managing Director of Resource Productions, a Slough-based video and film production company, established in 1999. Every 18 months since 2009, Resource has taken on an apprentice, which is how it has been able to grow from a one-woman band into a team of eight over such a short timeframe.

“There's no doubt that hiring apprentices helps a business build capacity,” says Unsworth. “Yes, there's an initial three-month investment period when an apprentice needs to be supported, like any other new member of staff; but, after that, they begin to take on various basic day-to-day operations, and can help a company expand and increase its revenue.” After six months a business can start to identify an apprentice's individual talents and specialisms, says Unsworth, and so integrate these skills into the company's development and expansion plans.


Cost-effective new talent


Apart from being a great way to source new talent, hiring apprentices can also be cost-effective. “It's very risky in this day and age for a small business to take someone on as a full-time member of staff,” says Unsworth. “Whereas with an apprenticeship — with the support of the Government, a training provider and an accredited and monitored training scheme — it's much less of a financial risk.”

Plus, apprenticeships can help the wider organisation by bringing diversity into the workplace — in terms of age, attitude and cultural background, for example — while providing confidence in an organisation's future prosperity. “There does seem to be a correlation — not scientifically tested, admittedly — between our investment in apprentices and the work we bring in,” says Unsworth. Apprenticeships are not difficult to arrange, either. All you need do is find a training provider that can offer an apprenticeship standard to suit your business.


Opportunity and training


Unsworth believes that apprenticeships are the future, although smaller businesses may still need convincing about the gains they offer.

“I think bigger business have cottoned onto the benefits of apprenticeships,” she says. “But small businesses should realise that they are an amazing opportunity to find new talent, recruit more efficiently and effectively, and retain staff in their workplace for longer. My advice would be that every small business should take on an apprentice — whether they're a freelancer or a company of 20 or 30 people — because it's only going to help their business models. If you recruit the right person and make sure they are given the right training, an apprentice will only be an asset to your organisation.”

So what encouragement would Unsworth give to any employer who still doubts the value of apprenticeships? “I'd say: 'What have you got to lose?' The financial investment in one apprentice is minimal and you're giving someone with passion and enthusiasm essential training. They're getting skills — and you get someone who, for 12-18 months, can help make a really positive impact on your business.”