How much commitment do I really need to give as a manager?
It’s a question that coaches get asked all the time. How much time and support does my apprentice need? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. At the end of the day, apprentices are human beings and as such have thousands upon thousands of variables to consider. However, don’t worry, in this article, I’ll seek to discuss some of the key elements that you should consider as a line manager of an apprentice. All of my references in this article will be around marketing apprenticeships. However, they can all be applied across the board to apprenticeships in any sector or specialism.
The elephant in the room
Off-the-job training is usually an area of the apprenticeship that stumps line managers. They’re often not sure how much of this time should be led by them, the training provider, or their learner. To keep this simple let’s explain. Off-the-job refers to the time each week that your learner should be working towards learning and development in areas directly related or at least synergistic with their apprenticeship. We’ve written other articles on this so have a look at those if you’re unsure. However, as a line manager, this doesn’t mean you have to sit with them each week to guide them with this. As their guide or line manager, you could give them a set of tasks, and learning resources, or arrange things for your learner to do and let them go off and do them.
New or existing employees
So, if you have existing employees and they’ve been enrolled on an apprenticeship, it’s less likely that you’ll need to invest quite as much time and effort into supporting them. Most of the time this is simply because they already know the business, and will probably just need support learning the ropes in a new discipline or area of the company. Approach this as you would with any other member of the team. Roll out an induction and training plan and support them as per usual. Remember that they’ll still need their designated OTJ time each week though.
However, if you have a new member of the team that has been hired from outside the business, you may want to make additional considerations. The individual my vary in age, background, experience, etc, so be sure to consider these things when planning your induction, training, and support framework throughout the programme. Typically, younger and less experienced individuals, have a monthly catch-up call to discuss progress, etc. Set aside time in the first three months to cover internal training requirements, and so on.
Experienced vs inexperienced
Not all apprentices come straight from school. It’s becoming more common these days for apprentices to come from college, university, and work experience. Sometimes, you may even take on apprentices with a little experience in marketing so they can hit the ground a little faster. Ultimately, someone with a bit of experience or higher education may not need as much hand-holding as someone with no experience straight from school. Carefully consider how much time you will need with either party. But, remember that younger and inexperienced learners can be more intimidated by the working world at times and will likely need more regular check-ins. For example:
16 – 19 years old: Check in with them every couple of weeks for half an hour. You may even want to have a weekly meeting to see how things are going and generally answer questions that they may have.
Graduates: Even though they may have been through higher education, many graduates still don’t really have any experience in marketing per se. Feel out the situation. Catch up with them every two weeks to see how things are going.
Someone with previous experience: These guys may be a little more comfortable with the workplace, but depending on their level of knowledge or experience you may still want to check in with them regularly, especially in their probation to ensure they’re settling in and getting to grips with everything.
Learning or development needs
It will be worth considering any additional learning needs or functional skills requirements that your apprentices have when building their support plan. Your training provider will also work around these factors but you should keep this in mind when reviewing performance. It may be worth setting aside additional time for training activities for example. This could ensure that the apprentice has time to complete any training and has some time set aside with you for additional support if required.
Our advice for a general approach
I’ll split this down into phases but use it as a general rule of thumb.
Onboarding – Approach this as you would normally with any employee. Get all of the training and meet and greets arranged as you normally would and maybe check in with the apprentice at the end or start of each week for 30 minutes.
During probation – Play this by ear. Maybe you would normally check in with an individual at the end of each month. However, consider some of the elements above. Maybe it will be worth having fortnightly 30-minute catch-ups, or an end of week 15-minute chat to review how things have gone.
After probation and during the programme – Once your apprentice has passed probation, resume your regular approach where possible. At this point, your apprentice should be well integrated into the workplace, team, and apprenticeship programme. They may still require support, but again, you can play this by ear. Our recommendation would be to have a monthly catch-up to discuss progress, issues, and requirements.
Some rough rules of thumb
- Before your learner starts their programme, be sure to sit down and plan out an effective induction and training support plan;
- Check in with your learner at the end of each week to briefly discuss how they used their OTJ training time;
- Conduct your regular check-ins whether fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly to ensure that they’re happy, up to speed, and meeting their targets;
- Catch up with your training provider/coach once a month by email to discuss overall progress;
- Ensure you attend your 12 weekly progress reviews with the training provider and your apprentice.