Company owner Paul Millard talks about how Alchemy have embraced the Apprenticeship scheme to grow and develop the company…
What encouraged Alchemy to consider the Apprenticeships scheme?
Both myself and my business partner Scott became Graphic Designers by chance when we were given an opportunity at the start of our careers to work for a small publishing company.
Learning in a school or college was never for me, I wanted to learn on the job, so I clearly understand why the apprenticeship route appeals to some. With this background we always knew this was how we wanted to approach employing young people. We always took on work experience youngsters from local colleges and the apprenticeship scheme was a natural progression when we found the need for a more full-time role. It took a while to make the decision but it’s a decision that we haven’t looked back on.
Did you know anything about Apprenticeships beforehand?
We didn’t know a lot about apprenticeships to start, we went into the process a little blind. We approached our local college and asked them for help. The government at the time were also pushing apprenticeships in a big way, they offered grants to help pay for equipment and wages and this helped hugely at the time. We have learnt a lot since our first apprentice, we now know the process and have learnt to take our time to find the right candidates for the roles that we offer.
What do you think are the benefits to having Apprentices in the team?
We really enjoy the enthusiasm of an apprentice, most come into the role without prior work experience, so we’re helping to shape their understanding of the work place. We like to keep things relaxed in the office and whilst we understand that this approach to work life isn’t suited to everyone (some need more structure) we like to trust our apprentices, and hope that this leads to a great work ethic. We never look for previous experience in any of the roles that we offer, and feel this brings a fresh look at the work that we ask our apprentices to take on.
How have Apprentices impacted your business?
Over six years we have employed seven apprentices, one went on to a further apprenticeship in a specialist area of design that we didn’t offer and is doing great things, another has been with us for five years since his apprenticeship finished and is now part of the furniture. As are our two Digital Marketing Managers (who again qualified last year). We currently have two apprentices working with us on Graphic and Web Design.
The whole scheme has allowed us as a small company to grow whilst employing young, hard working and reliable staff. It’s allowed the company to branch out and look at new avenues of business and approach new industries with a fresh outlook.
What is the benefit for Apprentices, working with Alchemy?
We go into any apprenticeship with the belief that a full-time job would be waiting at the completion of their course. We want to use our apprentices to grow, we want them to gain knowledge and ideas that we don’t have, and we want to learn from them. We are relaxed in our approach to office life, we offer a friendly, collaborative place to work and understand the need to be flexible, but at the same time we are clear that work has to be produced to a high standard and meet any deadlines that are set.
Importantly, we want our apprentices to enjoy their work life. So many times I hear people say they have the ‘Sunday blues’, in a sense that they aren’t looking forward to work on Monday, I have to say that I’ve never experienced this and I really hope that my enjoyment of work is passed on to anyone that works with us.
What is the future of Apprenticeships for Alchemy?
We’ll continue to employ apprentices and I firmly believe this will help us grow. We rate everything about the scheme (even the long appraisal forms we have to fill out at the end of each apprenticeship!) and we’re always looking at the new courses that are available. We were one of the first companies to use the Digital Marketing apprenticeship course and it has proved to be an excellent route into the industry for both us and our ex-apprentices.
Why would you recommend Apprenticeships to other small businesses?
Absolutely. Led in the right way the apprenticeship scheme helps to create loyalty and trust, this leads to a great atmosphere for your office and the knowledge that you gain alongside your apprentices can be invaluable.
I’m a massive advocate of the apprenticeship scheme. I wanted to learn on the job when I started out, and so being able to pass on my knowledge whilst working alongside and learning from the people we take on, is one of the reasons I personally enjoy coming into the office each day.