For National Apprenticeship Week, Clare Martin, Group HR Director, talks about why apprenticeships are brilliant for levelling the playing field and creating opportunities for all.

Developing internal talent is really important to us. As a responsible employer, we believe we need to offer opportunities for all and one of the great things about the automotive industry, is that a fulfilling career is something that can and should be accessible to anyone who is passionate about wanting to progress and get on; you don’t need to have a degree level qualification to join our business and succeed.

We’ve got many brilliant examples in our business of where we’ve ‘grown our own’. My career started as an apprentice (for those old enough to remember it was called YTS back then!)

At the end of 2018, we embarked on a new government initiative called T level apprentices. This slightly different approach enables students to learn theory and some practical skills in college, which they get to put into practice in the workplace two days a week.

We are currently piloting this programme within our Milton Keynes and North-West businesses, and it’s working really well for both the students and our managers, who tell us they relish the chance to give young people the opportunities to learn knowing that they also have the college to support them. We have recently been told that the initiative will be rolled out further, which is great, because we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bring in new talent to our business for the future.

Whilst the T level apprentice pilot currently is only within our technician teams, we see a great opportunity to expand this across all functions. There still seems to be some misperceptions that apprenticeships are just for mechanical and engineering type roles, but that is far from true and we have some great young people coming into our business on a diverse range of apprenticeship programmes. Just take a look at our social media pages this week to see more.

As we all know investing in the future is so important and we will continue to do much more around generating our talent pipeline through apprenticeship programmes such as this and actively promoting opportunities outside of technician roles.

This is why we do so much more than just offer apprenticeship roles, but also look further down the talent pipeline at grassroots level through our work with Speakers4Schools, where we regularly go out and speak to hundreds of school children at a time about what it’s like to have a career in our industry as well as talk a bit about employability skills. We then back this up with offering work placements to both able-bodied and disabled young people via this partnership and our charity partners, Whizz-Kidz.

We also do a lot of work generally around our employer branding, so that we continue to be an employer of choice. This includes attending events such as the National Apprenticeship Show on 12th and 13th March, which is a great way for us to showcase all the opportunities and range of careers that are available within motor retail and specifically within JMG.

I believe we can’t expect young people to come out of the education system and be work-ready without giving them the chance to be in a professional environment. I was really lucky to spend some time with three T Level technician apprentices, who gave feedback on their experiences in our business. It really reinforced the importance of students getting practical hands-on experience not just from how to do the job, but how they can develop their interpersonal and team working skills.

I look forward to reflecting further on this after the National Apprenticeship Show.

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