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National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Are you investing in the future?

Hands up if you’d like to be 16 again. When I look back to 1988, life was a whole lot simpler. I had just taken the new GCSE exams. I was pretending not to like George Michael’s ‘Faith’ album. My hair was lush and thick. Evenings and weekends were spent playing rugby, watching Neighbours at the school-friendly new time of 5.35pm and contemplating a future that was full of hope whilst daring to dream of becoming a Royal Marine. Life was easy, Kylie was lovely and the future looked good.

But I wouldn’t want to be a school-leaver now. I don’t know how I’d cope without my friends and extended family around. With no social life and school corridor banter. I think I’d struggle to be positive about the shifting exam landscape. And I have no doubt I would be affected by the constant news cycle that highlights the uncertainty and struggles of the time we’re living through, whilst I know I’d feel pretty rubbish about being packaged as part of a ‘lost generation’.

The Covid pandemic has dramatically affected young people’s hopes and dreams. Twice as many 16–24-year-olds have lost their job during the last 12 months than any other age group. And those in education have had to adapt to a totally new, and very isolated, style of learning.

National Apprenticeship Week 2021 is this week. And I would urge any of you reading this, to stop and think about the opportunities, benefits and life-changing responsibility we in business all have to the future leaders, thinkers and workers of tomorrow’s world. Don’t worry, I’m not about to break into, “I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way” … but you get the gist.

We decided at the start of last year that we wanted to expand the client facing team to ensure we continued to deliver the highest levels of client satisfaction in our support and had contingency to support personal and professional development – and what better way than to try and grow our own brilliant young HARBOURites. Things took a bit of a stall as the first wave of Covid hit, but this week, we’re celebrating the outstanding achievements of our three (soon to be five) HARBOUR Apprentices.

Oran and Elyna both joined in November, between lockdown 1 & 2. We’ve established a rotational programme where they will both spend time in different parts of the business getting to know who we are and how we work. So far they’ve primarily worked alongside the Support Team and assisted with all aspects of client admin – a perfect place to get to know HARBOUR as a system and see how we discharge our ‘Dare to Care’ client first ethos on a day-to-day basis.

Oran is this week starting a period where he will shadow our Chief Client Officer and learn Client Partner best practice. Elyna is continuing her development in the Support Team before they rotate roles to give them both equal opportunities to fully understand the HARBOUR way to get things done.

The one thing that has impressed me most has been their resilience and patience. Going back to 1988, I’m not sure how I would have survived the nerves of starting a brand-new job mostly through a computer screen sat at my own kitchen table. But credit to Oran and Elyna, who aren’t just surviving in this new normal world. They’re thriving!

And then there’s Becky, who joined us as an Apprentice eight years ago. Straight from school. It dawned on me the other day that she has been with us for a third of her entire life! But in those eight years she has changed from a shy and quiet girl into a trusted partner to our biggest clients. She has improved her skills and improved our business. She brings a different perspective to user experience consideration. She brings a different mindset to the way we plan. And she has a future that we at HARBOUR believe is hopeful, positive and exciting.

We’ve just completed a major project for a National retailer. It’s probably just about the most complex and time-pressured project we’ve ever done. It involved stakeholders at the highest level. It needed sign-off from Unions and it needed calm and steady hands and clear heads at every stage. Becky bossed it. Becky, the shy and quiet girl. Becky, the school leaver, has turned into Becky, a mature and highly competent operator, getting her head around a complex algorithm driven solution and helping see it through to delivery.

Our client sent us this:

“I have been working with Becky for the past 3 months on a challenging project, with very tight timescales and a high degree of ambiguity. Becky has really shone in terms of her resilience, attention to detail and willingness to help to get the job done, whatever it takes. She is seen as the ‘go-to’ person within the HARBOUR team, when it comes to testing and problem resolution. She has a good grasp on what is going on, she is quick to react to situations and offer solutions and I was astounded to know that she was only hired as an Apprentice straight from school some 8 years ago!  She is awesome and I only wished there more Becky’s to work with on projects, they would make my life so much easier!”

The good news is, there ARE more Becky’s out there. About 763,000 of them - Oran and Elyna have reminded us of that. All waiting for a chance to shine. A chance to learn. A chance to build confidence, develop new skills and see a better future for themselves and the businesses they work with.

Granted, the two new Apprentices we take on very soon will still leave 762,998 of this ‘lost generation’ still looking to find a future. But if our experience is anything to go by, I would urge you to invest in them. See them as the future. Teach them well. And let them lead the way.


And if you’re reading this and think you have what it takes to be one of our next brilliant HARBOURite Apprentices then you’ve got until 15th Feb. to get your application in : findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeship/-570555


Blog by Alex

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