"Why would I choose WhiteHat over another apprenticeship provider? Quality of candidates, but also, the quality of support and the community they're building."
Leah Ellis, Head of People and Talent, Goodlord
Giving apprenticeships a second chance
HR is changing. Once regarded as a red-tape function, the world of talent is finally becoming as people-centric a role as its title implies—covering everything from recruitment to employee satisfaction.
“It's about encouraging people, motivating people and giving them support if they're having difficulties. It’s the people team's responsibility to match what do to the business needs. But also, they need to be involved in the strategy, in those high-level conversations, so that they can do that.”
And when it comes to apprenticeship programmes, there’s nothing Leah Ellis, Head of People and Talent at the lettings platform Goodlord, is more passionate about. She even wrote her MA dissertation on the subject. So it's safe to say, Leah knows a thing or two about setting up an awesome apprenticeship scheme.As luck would have it, she’d barely been in the job a few weeks when an apprentice opportunity popped right up in front of her.
“I’d been here for about a month and the finance team needed to find a payments person. I said to the Head of Finance ‘Why don't we get an apprentice? It's the perfect role for one. They can come in, learn and develop.’ And he was all for it.”
But just as quickly as the opportunity had arisen, Leah quickly hit a stumbling block. The founder was reluctant.
“We went to our founder and said ‘We're going to get an apprentice’ and he said ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea. I've hired one before and they were terrible’.”
But Leah wasn't deterred. In her previous role working in travel and events for Capita, she oversaw the recruitment of seven young people in partnership with Derby College.
Two years later, six of them are still working for Capita and four have been promoted into management positions. That’s a success.Could she repeat it at Goodlord?
Find a provider that shares your values, vision and ethos.
Opting to politely park her boss’s concern about apprentices, Leah decided to recruit one for the finance position. It was a risk, for sure, but having been previously introduced to WhiteHat by a mutual friend, she knew exactly who to call on to help her find her game-changing apprentice.
“A friend introduced us and I just loved the WhiteHat story and their journey. Everything they were doing was positive. WhiteHat brings so much to the community and the network. They're modernizing apprenticeships by doing things like making digital videos for people applying, events, workshops for new apprentices—just their whole approach and ethos. Everything rang true with me.
“Sadly, when it comes to apprenticeship schemes, people can too easily have a bad experience. This can be due to any number of reasons from hiring the wrong apprentice, choosing to work with a provider that doesn’t understand your business needs or just plain old bad practice. Then, of course, there's the whole perception shift of what apprentices really are.
“When I was at school if someone said ‘apprenticeship’ the immediate thing that would spring to mind is a trainee like a plumber or an electrician—those kinds of jobs that people didn't necessarily go to university to do.
But that’s changed."But Goodlord is a business that helps other companies shake off their traditionalist shackles to start operating in new and modern ways. So, it was vital they worked with someone as forward-thinking as themselves.
“WhiteHat and Goodlord are similar in terms of they're both going into industries which are a bit maybe slow to modernize and digitalized and catch up to the 21st century and we are trying to transform them. And I like that kind of parallel between the two.”
1 - awesome apprentice
5 hours - saved per day
1 - very happy founder
“The apprentice from WhiteHat, Billi, joined us in February. She's working as the payments processor. Every day, we process over a million pounds worth of payments in and out of our bank account."
In a short time, Billi was able to improve the efficiency of the process—what normally would have taken a whole day, she managed to do in just three hours. At the staff huddle, she even got a personal shoutout for her good work from none other than the CEO himself.
"Billi went away for two weeks so our Head of Finance was doing all the payments in her absence. It took him three times longer to finish the job than Billi.”
The right apprentice can definitely bring efficiency to the business. Not only that, they can also have a positive impact on staff retention. Unlike a graduate, or someone who's been working for a couple of years and instantly wants to be the next CEO, apprentices tend to play the long game.“
I have no doubt Billi will become a Head of Finance. She'll be fantastic. But it's a learning curve and the role she does for us is a great way to learn and to master her skills. And she's already said to me ''Look Leah, as soon as I finish my year, can I go to the next level of apprenticeship? I want to be here for all of my studies.'”
For Leah, that's important. More than just saving time, when you take on an apprentice, you’re also investing in the workforce of the future and opening the business to new, profit-driving perspectives.
“When you have a team of people who have been working somewhere for a long time, they might be a bit stuck in their ways... But, by bringing in fresh blood in and making them go, 'Oh, why is this 18-year-old suddenly doing double what I am today?' It shakes things up and it really does drive performance. I think from a business perspective it helps you to attract and increase loyalty within your business, it actually makes other people feel good and provides mentoring opportunities for them.”
And having successfully shown the value that apprentices can bring, Leah has opened up the doors for others. Goodlord now have 2 apprentices in the business, with plans to hire more in 2020.