Writing for Business Advice, the director of Sim Trava – a fast-growing coffee franchise covering the North of England – Tracy Vardy, explains the significant value of apprenticeships for franchise businesses.
Apprenticeships are growing in popularity, with more than 900,000 people participating in a scheme in the past year, up from 871,000 the year before.
This is no small part down to government efforts to encourage more young people to consider this career path, while pledging to create three million apprenticeships by 2020.
Injecting up to £1.5bn of public money a year into the national programme, the government is reforming apprenticeships and introducing a new levy for businesses with an annual wage bill of over £3m, to help cover the costs.
So, with the arrival of National Apprenticeship Week on 6 March 2017, and the introduction of the compulsory Apprenticeship Levy just weeks away, now is the time for franchisors to consider just what value they can derive from these schemes.
The value of apprenticeships for franchisee businesses
If your business resembles Sim Trava – a large and growing franchise business in the retail or hospitality industry – then you’ll know that creating consistency is crucial.
Sim Trava owns and operates 31 stores, manages over 350 members of staff, and serves on average 10,000 customers a day.
It has taught us the importance of delivering a consistently excellent service to our customers – regardless of what store they visit.
And, ensuring your customers have a good experience with your business fundamentally boils down to the actions and behaviours of your staff.
A robust training programme, delivered in an induction period with support from mentors, is pivotal to ensure everyone coming into your business is brought up to standards – this is where apprenticeships come in.
Hiring apprentices gives you the opportunity to welcome fresh, young people into the franchise business right at the start of their careers, moulding their talents in line with your firm’s standards and values.
An apprenticeship is typically a young person’s first experience in the working world and they should, in theory, be without the bad habits that can often be picked up elsewhere. At Sim Trava, apprenticeships have been effective in helping to create a more coherent, consistent and conscientious workforce across all stores.
The wider commercial benefits of apprenticeships
Beyond creating a more consistent workforce for franchisees, apprenticeships create benefits for many companies, regardless of the business model they follow.
Apprenticeships can help bolster productivity. The National Audit Office recently found that 75 per cent of employers who hire apprentices have seen improvements in the outputs of their workforce.
Further to this, some 92 per cent of businesses that offer apprenticeships have enjoyed boosts in both the motivation and satisfaction of their staff since introducing these schemes.
In the retail and hospitality industries, staff turnover can be high, and this can be costly. Apprenticeships are a cost-cutting means to recruit young, fresh talent, with government-made contributions covering the cost of training.
Apprenticeship schemes also boost the retention of existing staff, as many as 80 per cent of employers reporting reduced staff turnover following the recruitment of apprentices.
And, with the compulsory levy coming into action in April 2017, it makes commercial sense to make use of your allowance to recruit and train up talent – rather than lose money altogether.
When it comes to apprenticeships, it’s important to know what exactly you’re wanting to get out of them. Is it a more coherent workforce? A chance to introduce fresh new talent into your business? Grow your various teams to meet higher demand?
All this is what drove Sim Trava to review how training is delivered internally, and is what prompted us to create our own bespoke apprenticeship and training programme. Launched in 2015, the Sim Trava Academy standardised training for all new entrants to the business – regardless if they’re apprentices or not.
With the apprenticeship programme, we ensure that the young people joining the company become instilled with our values – something that is massively important for us as we’re a family-run business.
Offering a more bespoke apprenticeship programme means training is more focused and tailored to a business’ unique needs, and apprentices graduate from the programme job-ready.
For any business considering starting their own programme, the advice should be to go for it. With the Apprenticeship Levy coming in April 2017, now should be the time to use it rather than lose it.
Tracy Vardy is director at Sim Trava, a business which operates 29 Costa Coffee stores and two outlets of Pita Pit.
Three questions to ask yourself when buying a franchise
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.