Close Brothers Group is a leading merchant banking group and one of the largest 250 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The company’s innovative apprenticeship scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had its first intake in September 2015, and aims to help businesses in the South Yorkshire region secure the skills they need for future growth. Since then, the partnership with the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre has seen Close Brothers sponsor 55 apprentices.
Adrian Sainsbury, chief executive, Close Brothers Group, commented: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way for UK SMEs to fill skills gaps, develop their future workforce and improve long-term growth prospects.
“We know from experience that SMEs often need assistance to take on apprentices, so over the past eight years we have established a programme that aims to help SMEs with the specific issues they are facing including the cost of investing in an apprentice. We also want to help businesses establish a diverse and dynamic workforce of young fresh talent with new ideas and an eagerness to learn the new skills and knowledge required to build a rewarding long-term career.
“We are proud to be playing our part to help small businesses invest in their future and pass important skills onto the next generation.”
Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, is extremely proud of their partnership. She said: “Close Brothers are a treasured partner of the training centre and have supported many apprentices and their companies over several years.
“The salary support given over the life of the apprenticeship programme has transformed many lives and businesses, helping those who would not have otherwise been able to undertake an apprenticeship, or take on an apprentice, the opportunity to do so. Those supported are flourishing and are professionally and personally successful.”
Apprenticeships enable manufacturing and engineering companies to ‘mould their own’, impart their knowledge and strengthen the longevity of a business. Just as importantly, apprentices bring new mindsets and skills into the company, providing the bridge that connects the past and the present, to the future.
Two Close Brothers apprentices from the 2018 intake did their training with Penny Hydraulics. And, with apprenticeships currently making up 13 per cent of Penny Hydraulics’ workforce, the company is a testament to the success of the route. The company believes that, in addition to training and practice, knowledge is also gained from the expertise and the experience of the people working with an apprentice, many of whom were once apprentices, or in similar learning schemes themselves.
Close Brothers apprentices Rosie Davies and Jakub Kuchta started with Penny Hydraulics two-and-a-half-years ago, and have been offered permanent roles in the business. Both machinists, Rosie and Jakub work in a robust team along with their supervisor and are currently training one of the company’s latest apprenticeship recruits.
Rosie is thrilled to be helping new apprentices because they’re also going through the AMRC Training Centre. She added: “I’ve been there, so I can help. Now I’m starting to pass on what I know to another apprentice; it’s like a chain reaction.”
As someone who learns by doing, an apprenticeship appealed to Rosie because ‘you’re surrounded by people with experience to pass on’. She found that the whole experience was about facing your fears.
“Instead of being afraid of new things, you can work with them,” she said. “Now I know the machines aren't something to be feared; they’re tools, not hurdles to jump over. I thought okay, I can do it - what else can I do?”
Jakub also found that the traditional college route wasn’t the right choice for him.
“I studied for A-levels, but it wasn’t for me,” said Jakub. “I wanted something hands-on and apprenticeship was the right choice. Going for an apprenticeship is the best thing I have done so far.”
Managing director Robin Penny is a champion for apprenticeships. He said: “There is much complaining among many sectors of industry about the lack of labour and particularly the lack of skilled labour. Training your own future workforce via apprenticeships is one of the best tools that we have in combating this problem.” The company believes committing to a regular intake of apprentices means that there is a constant flow of skilled labour. Robin adds: “We also treat the apprenticeship as an extended interview so that further training can be tailored to each new graduate’s strengths and some have continued to become future leaders.
Penny Hydraulics would not have been able to expand and develop new manufacturing techniques without the help of apprentices. They are now an essential part of the company.”
Human resources manager Martha Penny says the industry has worked closely with apprenticeship providers to set the standards. Whilst she believes apprenticeships may look different in the future, she doesn’t see them ending any time soon.
She said: “Apprenticeships continue to offer a credible and tangible route to learning and developing while working and earning; an opportunity for business too, they exist in all industry sectors and are crucial to continuity and growth.
“Whilst their administration and structure may adapt, the demand for apprentices will certainly remain.”