In this interview, Norse Group HR Director, Tricia Fuller talks about the value Norse Group places on Apprenticeships, how the courses are run to provide more than just job skills and how the company works with partner organisations to find worthy applicants.
In 2011 Norse Commercial Services implemented a policy of turning entry level jobs into Apprenticeships. The criterion was that the job had to actually exist. Why did you adopt this approach?
“Because we knew that if they succeeded, unlike a lot of Apprenticeships, we could ensure they had a job at the end. We pay them £11K in their apprenticeship year, taking them out of the benefits system and giving them a worthwhile salary whilst they were learning.
We also valued all jobs the same for Apprentices so regardless of whether Apprentices were Mechanical Fitters or working in the Finance or HR team there are paid the same.
Since 2011 we have had almost 200 Apprentices Group wide with 80% finishing and securing jobs with Norse. We have set a target 40% to come from NEETS; young people who are ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET), or care leavers or those with learning difficulties. Many of our Project Search students move into Apprenticeships after completing their first year on Project Search.”
Norse takes a more holistic approach to apprenticeships; can you explain your philosophy?
“It is quite clear to me that if you are going to take NEETs and care leavers, you have to cater for their wider needs. By this I mean there are a whole raft of ‘soft issues’ we need to deal with: behaviour at work, dress code, interaction with colleagues and so on.
To address this we run ‘lifestyle workshops’ on such topics as money management, diet, communication skills, building your career etc.
Apprentices are also offered one day a month, which they can take as blocks of days if required, the opportunity to do voluntary work in the community. They choose a project that interests them, and we give them paid time off work and help them become aware of the importance and value of involvement in their environment and their community.
It all adds up to taking the apprenticeship opportunity to a higher level, not only will they get trained and qualified in a line of work, they will learn lifestyle skills and will have the opportunity to contribute to the community. This is one of core corporate social responsibility philosophies that Norse Group is all about.”
How are you making young people aware of the apprenticeship opportunities?
“In addition to advertising the local press and on our website, we are working organisations such as BREAK, the Benjamin Foundation and Children’s Services to get the opportunities known.
We have open days at various Norse premises to give potential applicants an insight to the sort of apprenticeships available.
Our main training partners such as City College Norwich and Lowestoft College will also act as potential sources of people seeking for apprenticeships. We work with their teams who are looking for jobs for their students.
Every year we also have 12 students on Project Search who come via City College Norwich, and through the College’s MINT project that tries to find employment for people with learning disabilities.”