“Having everything in one digital platform makes it so much easier for us and reduces our workload. Plus the constant contact between apprentices, line managers and the WhiteHat coaches is really great… Whenever you need to reach out to WhiteHat, they’re always available and you get a quick response.” — Jan Jonas, Consultant, Arcadis
Challenge: understanding what modern apprentices have to offer, and the value they bring
As a leading design and engineering consultancy, innovation isn’t just a buzzword for Arcadis—it’s a way of life. That’s why Jan Jonas knew this was the company for him when he moved from student intern to Business Transformation Consultant.
“What Arcadis and our business transformation team are very good at is allowing you to grow and develop your own idea. If you have a good idea they'll let you run with it and they'll give you the support to do so.”
It was because of that support, and the experience Jan had as an intern himself, that he came up with the awesome idea to diversify their recruitment routes —and grow their offer from established graduate and intern programmes to include an apprenticeship scheme.
“My own experience at Arcadis [as a student intern] was probably the most useful part of my degree. The stuff I was learning on a daily basis about how an organisation runs and the core skills you need in the working world was vital. So, I really wanted to get involved with that [at Arcadis].”
Plus the apprenticeship scheme would help him recruit from a diverse and, to that point untapped, talent pool.
“For me, winning is making sure we're recruiting from a diverse pool of talent. The idea is we can start taking a much wider look at what talent’s out there.”
But Jan’s first challenge was to understand what modern digitally focused apprentices bring to the workplace and see how they could fit into a management consulting business.
“We felt from the start that bringing in apprentices would work but had to understand and design what an apprenticeship program would look like. I think there was a perception of what an apprentice is: a 16-year-old who hasn't gone into A levels. But we knew modern apprentices would be so much more than that.”
To make sure his scheme got the go ahead, Jan focused on two main areas: research and finding an A-player apprenticeship management provider.
Solution: Get the right apprenticeship management provider on side
After conducting some initial research, Jan came across the WhiteHat team.
“Luckily enough our idea had support and sponsorship from our leadership team—and one of our colleagues knew someone at WhiteHat and set up an initial meeting,” explains Jan. “Once we got Sophie in from WhiteHat, she made it all clear and laid out what apprenticeships are and what you could expect – she highlighted the benefits of apprenticeships—not just for us as a business and the diversity in our talent pool, but also for the apprentices themselves—and highlighting the fact that it was very high reward for very little risk.”
With such a fool proof plan laid out, it was a thumbs up from everyone at Arcadis. 👍
“[We started with] an initial pilot. We took two apprentices on initially, so it was lower risk for us but also easier to work on integrating them into the team and providing the support that they needed. The two apprentices we have in the team are stars and on top of doing their roles delivering client-facing projects, they are helping us evolve and build out our offering for the next wave of apprentices. Following this success, we are now planning to get more in and we have the full support of our leadership team."
Result: With the pilot project a success, Arcadis is now reaping the rewards
“We originally expected the apprentices to support internal functions for the first six months—learn about the organisation, core things, learn their way around the office and adjust to the environment. But they took to that really quickly and within a month they were on a project helping to deliver on client work.”
Not only have they picked things up quicker than expected, Jan and the team have also found new holes the apprentices can fill.
“Our data fellowship apprentice is starting to learn new skills like Python. We only have a few people in our team who have those skills already, so she's able to take the skills she's learning and start to apply that to project work—which will then open up new avenues with us and our clients as well.”
But it’s not all been plain sailing.
“I think they’re taking the challenge head on. Because this is the first time we've done it we are learning together as we go. They're not your standard graduates where you can utilize them 100%, five days a week. They actually work four days a week and have the 5th day for their 20% off the job training — and it’s for us to balance it. But they're definitely a success story.”
Because for Jan, apprentices are the key to success:
“Success for us is to keep getting as many diverse students and apprentices into the business as we can to impact our performance and team culture.”
But it’s not just about great benefits for Arcadis and clients —it’s about great benefits for the apprentices too.
“They’ve not gone to university, they have chosen another route and they are demonstrating their capability by delivering some great work. We understand they’re only just starting their career and are conscious to give space to grow—this is the time to try out new things and if they don't work, you've learned it for the next time.”
Hiring apprentices has given Jan the opportunity to give others the same foot-up that he was given at the beginning of his career—and with WhiteHat on side, he’ll continue to widen that untapped talent pool and boost workplace diversity for good.
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