Axis has had Apprenticeships in place for around 8 years. When we first started with them, we had an ageing workforce. We were conscious that young people weren’t necessarily interested in working in electronics manufacturing, we wanted to inspire them to work their way up through the company and become our managers of the future.
Over the past 8 years we have employed around 20 apprentices. We currently have 4 apprentices on programme, all in production roles. In order to give them an idea of the range of career opportunities at Axis and a thorough understanding of how the business works, they will spend 6 month periods working in different departments.
Our Apprenticeship programme lasts for 3 years. By the end of this period we will know which departments and positions the apprentices have been most successful in and which they have enjoyed the most. All of our apprentices are offered a permanent job role on completing their Apprenticeships. We work closely with Bedford College as our training provider and the support we receive from them is excellent. They advertise the roles for us through
Apprenticeship vacancies and on their website. Bedford College also carry out the first sift of the applicant applications. We then review these, compile a shortlist, invite them in for an interview, and carry out a dexterity test with them to see how well they follow instructions.
Although the nature of our work limits the number of applicants we generally receive, we have always been pleased with the quality of the applications to our programme.
For us, the most important thing is the apprentice’s attitude. We are looking for someone who shows an interest in the business, makes the effort and is going to be committed to working for us.
We build a range of different products, supplying Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) for high-end and high- reliability products - anything from Formula 1 cars to military vehicles and commercial airlines. Because of making life-critical products, reliability is key. For example, failure is simply not an option for the ejector seat in a fighter jet. To get a better idea of the products that we create, you can visit our website: www.axis-electronics.com
2 of our apprentices are now in team leader positions. It is part of our ongoing plan to continue to take on 2 new apprentices per year. We are also looking at the possibility of introducing a Purchasing Apprenticeship, dependant on finding the right Apprenticeship framework and provider.
The main business benefits for us of employing apprentices are:
- Filling the gaps within our workforce
- Boosting morale within the company
- Developing leadership skills in our up and coming team leaders or managers
- Enabling our more established staff to share their knowledge and expertise
In the first year, the apprentices are at College for 2 days per week, so there is a cost to the business. However, we do find that within about 6 weeks they will be working on real jobs and bringing some real value to the company.
We take on apprentices at 18 years of age after they have completed their A Levels. Our day starts at 7:30am, so we need mature individuals who are going be reliable and can demonstrate a level of commitment. In return, we create a mutually supportive environment, and will help to fund the training of an HNC and HND for our staff if they want to study and want to invest in their future.
New apprentices are buddied up with someone who has been through the Apprenticeship. They will have a line manager who will be their day to day contact, a Training Specialist who oversees their on-the-job training and also HR support for other needs such as travel.
My advice to other businesses in Bedford would be that Apprenticeships are a great way to get local young people interested and engaged in your business from a very early stage. With a proper support network in place, we have found that the more you invest in your apprentices, the more they invest in you – they will want to stay and work hard for your company.
The best thing about taking on an apprentice is the shared sense of achievement. As apprentices achieve their qualifications and learn new skills, it gives the workforce a real boost to share in their success. It makes us feel good about our business - we don’t take apprentices because we have to, we take apprentices because we want to. apprentices are not cheap labour; they are an investment that you make for the future.
Sarah Clough, HR Director