In many ways, Westley Group’s quest for an apprenticeship programme to be proud of has given us a valuable learning experience of our own. Anyone who has led their own apprenticeship programme will be the first to acknowledge that it isn’t easy. We previously ran localised programmes at each of our sites over the past decade, and although difficult, with mixed success, we are proud to have 15 qualified apprentices still working within the business.
To develop our programme, the Finance Director and General Managers of each site were tasked with reviewing the schemes alongside the age profile of the business and our future skill requirements. The principal findings were the need for a more consistent and centralised Group approach, improved internal training and reviews to complement external training, a revised apprentice pay structure for certain roles, and the need for more apprentices in key roles.
This year we are pleased to have 22 apprentices in the Group, which is almost a 50% increase, but still below our target of +25. Having recruited three apprentices on the Foundry Apprenticeship course, our aim is to double the number.
Recruiting the right apprentices has been the most challenging aspect. We have targeted schools with limited response, together with social media, the national apprenticeships website, and existing employees for referrals. We have also partnered with external training providers to reach out to as many people as possible and held our own open days. Success has been very mixed, but we are determined in continuing to recruit keen young talent, especially individuals who can see the long-term rewards that a varied foundry grounding can bring.
The revamp of our Group programme is only the start. We’ll aim to generate interest for future recruitment alongside making our intake more flexible from a timing perspective. Our strategy is to have more than 30 apprentices at various stages of their training journeys within the Group at any one time. We’re also examining how best to retain talent within Westley Group following qualification, by ensuring the right career paths exist.
We believe that this new joined-up Group programme will help to further improve our employer evolution. Finding out how to run a successful apprenticeship programme has been a real education, and just like our trainees, we never stop learning!