“I love the excitement of offering opportunities to people, and I’m a great believer that you never stop learning,” says Rebecca (Beki) Reynolds, apprenticeship advisor with Vets4Pets.
Beki, who worked in education for nearly 30 years, joined Vets4Pets in July 2017 into a newly created role developed in response to UK government reform of apprenticeship training. UK businesses with more than three million pounds in payroll now pay 0.5% of their monthly payroll into a “levy pot” ring fenced to invest in apprenticeship programmes to attract new talent and/or to invest in the professional development of existing colleagues. After two years, any money remaining in the pot can be redistributed, by the government, to support smaller businesses investing in apprenticeship programmes.
In her role, Beki looks after the Pets at Home Vet Group’s levy pot, identifying apprenticeship opportunities throughout the business and bringing apprenticeship programmes to life. The Group has created a number of successful partnerships with reputable providers, such as Arch Apprenticeships, Fareport and First Intuition, to develop bespoke apprenticeship programmes in a number of business areas, including finance, marketing, infrastructure engineering, recruitment and customer service.
“We also have a new colleague who just started a six-year solicitor apprenticeship, which is an amazing opportunity for her to learn whilst she gains invaluable work experience,” says Beki.
All Group apprentices are paid colleagues, and 20 percent of their working week is protected for off-the-job-training, which could be anything related to their role and apprenticeship as long as it’s new learning for the apprentice. Depending on the role, there is a combination of office-based and home-based tasks, online and face-to-face teaching, 24/7 one-to-one tutor support, and access to online and offline resources. Each apprentice has regular reviews with his or her manager and is assigned a mentor who offers additional support and throughout the programme, will focus on the apprentice’s wellbeing.
Creating a more diverse talent pool and providing 16-to-18-year-olds with the opportunity to start a rewarding career are just some of the reasons the Pets at Home Vet Group invests in and embraces apprenticeships. Vets4Pets is a proud member – and is the only vet group member – of the Apprenticeship Diversity Network, which champions apprenticeships and diversity amongst employers and encourages more people from underrepresented groups to consider apprenticeships. As a relatively new member of the Network (joining in January 2018), Vets4Pets is excited to learn from longer standing group members and to leverage their expertise to widen and champion diversity within its own apprenticeship programme.
“As a business, we’re looking to welcome new colleagues that have potential, not just those who have experience and qualifications,” says Beki. “We’re looking at the bigger picture; the long term benefits and the value that apprentices bring to our business.”
But at Vets4Pets, apprenticeships aren’t just for new colleagues. The company also offers apprenticeship opportunities to existing colleagues, providing them with a chance to progress, move upwards, move sideways, or simply try something new whilst adding value to the business.
At Vets4Pets, there’s been a lot of excitement about the apprenticeship programme; however, one thing stood out from the start in regards to making each apprenticeship a success.
“When we first set up our programme, we did a lot of research and quickly understood that managers needed training to understand their obligations and the workload of the apprentice,” says Beki. “Manager training is crucial as there can be a big learning curve so all line managers with an apprentice in their team now complete an induction programme.”
According to Laura Moseley, who is completing a CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Level 5 HR Consultant/Partner apprenticeship, the support she receives from her manager is really good. This is echoed by Sheri Harvey who recently started a BIoR (Business Institute of Recruiters) Recruitment Resourcer Level 2 Standard apprenticeship. “My manager is very supportive and is always there to help me learn particular aspects of my role,” says Sheri.
Laura started her Vets4Pets apprenticeship after being with the company for 18 months. She had previously completed a Level 3 apprenticeship through evening classes at a local college but found the classroom atmosphere difficult. “My training is now mostly online so it’s more flexible, which works better for me than doing it face-to-face in a classroom on a particular night of the week,” says Laura.
This sentiment is shared by Sheri who says she can’t sit in a classroom because that style of learning doesn’t work best for her. Sheri says, “Rather than going to college and sitting down and having someone talk to me, my apprenticeship is now online and flexible and ties in great with my job so it’s a perfect learning option for me.”
When asked what they would tell others considering an apprenticeship, Laura and Sheri both replied, “Go for it!”; however, they both stress that an apprenticeship should not be taken lightly and that it requires commitment as you still have a full time job with responsibilities.
Sheri added, “I think apprenticeships are the way forward. I would highly recommend it.”
This is music to Beki’s ears. “We are a business that offers apprenticeships that lead to good career progression. People are at the heart of our business, and we’re passionate about learning and growing together. Apprenticeships are a natural fit.”
To find out about available apprenticeship training with Vets4Pets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.