In 2019, apprentices come in all shapes and sizes. At RSK, we are proud to have 23 employees undertaking apprenticeships. They range from associate directors with 30 years’ experience in industry to graduates in their first professional job who have recently joined the company. So, maybe fewer fresh faces, but hopefully still plenty of keen minds!
Training and continuing professional development, including apprenticeships, are vital parts of the RSK culture. As a company, we have always been people-oriented, and this includes investing in our staff, existing and new. The first of our nine guiding principles is ‘hiring, retaining and rewarding talented and dedicated people’, which shows that people come first at RSK.
For an employee, an apprenticeship can be an excellent way to develop their skill set in the way that they want. RSK encourages its staff to consider what training they would like to do and to discuss how to make this happen with their line manager. So, it is very much employee led.
Tom Stock, an RSK infrastructure engineer, explains how his degree-level apprenticeship will culminate in a professional review, a career milestone for him. “The biggest draw of the apprenticeship for me was the end-point assessment, a professional review with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) for Incorporated Engineer (IEng) status. It would be easy to keep putting off the time-consuming preparation work for sitting this, but I already have this as my target with the apprenticeship. The course has a strong emphasis on continually linking my work-based experience to ICE IEng attributes and the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to complete the apprenticeship. This will make the eventual professional submission to the ICE considerably easier.”
Furthermore, Tom, like all our apprentices, gets dedicated work time to study towards his qualification. For apprenticeships undertaken through the national apprenticeship levy fund scheme, into which RSK pays, this is a minimum of 20% of their working week. So, for someone struggling to find the time to do the qualification they have always dreamed of, this could be a great option. Of course, the employee also benefits from not having to pay a penny towards their training: 100% of the fees is covered by the levy fund.
Apprenticeships also foster core business skills that are easily transferrable to an employee’s career. For example, the time management skills learned while balancing an apprenticeship and a daily workload can also be applied further along in an individual’s career. For their end-point assessment, a part of every apprenticeship, an apprentice learns communication and presentation skills, which are particularly useful if they are looking at becoming chartered.
Apprenticeships are not, of course, beneficial only for individuals; there are also many advantages for employers and industry and the economy as a whole.
For RSK, apprenticeships provide a great route for employees to acquire qualifications that help to advance their professional development. Doing this adds new skills to our business, thereby helping us to innovate and streamline what we do. The new apprenticeship standards are designed by employers for employers, so they provide information that is directly applicable to our field. This means we can access the most up-to-date and relevant teaching in specific areas of our business. Furthermore, each apprentice has a workplace mentor who passes on their knowledge and shares the culture of RSK, so it is a great way to create continuity within the business. The RSK ethos of which we are so proud is being instilled in future generations; we hope that this will still be apparent in the years to come.
Of course, other industries can also benefit from these acquired skills and this shared knowledge. Moreover, with the skills shortage in the environmental industry, it is increasingly important to encourage people to stay in the industry. Apprenticeships can help to reduce staff turnover, as more individuals choose to stay in a job because of the investment in them. This is also important for RSK as a business, so these benefits are again mutual.
Another advantage for businesses and industry is that apprenticeships open up a wider pool of talent. Having a wider pool means that businesses have better access to different ways of thinking. RSK organic extraction laboratory supervisor Gemma Lancashire is undertaking a team leader apprenticeship. She comments, “The course has helped me to consider different approaches to situations that I might not have recognised in the past.” Different approaches can be particularly useful in considering how to manage a project and may result in greater innovation.
“The qualification is enlightening,” adds associate director William Bailey, also enrolled on a team leader apprenticeship. “It demonstrates how a person can change and improve, not just for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of others. I have certainly learned many ways in which I can improve. Topics include leadership and learning styles and team roles, all of which I find very interesting. Understanding how people ‘tick’, how they fit into teams and how they learn, is fascinating. I believe many businesses could benefit if all their staff truly understood these factors.”
RSK’s current apprenticeships cover a multitude of topics, from civil engineering to accountancy, and business administration to team leadership. Hopefully, with increased interaction between training providers and employers building bespoke programmes and an injection of cash from the national apprenticeship levy fund, apprenticeships will become an increasingly popular way for businesses to develop the skills of their employees. RSK believes that apprenticeships are of great importance to its business. We look forward to more of our colleagues getting involved.
RSK is currently advertising three level 3 apprentice positions:
Apprentice laboratory technician (Tonbridge, UK)
Apprentice laboratory technician (Hemel Hempstead, UK)
Business administrator apprenticeship (Hemel Hempstead, UK)
If you are interested in any of these roles, please apply online.