Unlocking value through business support apprenticeships

Business support apprenticeships

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your business today?

Whether it’s trying to keep up to date with legislative changes and new policy requirements, untangling logistical issues, managing the flow of finances, providing administrative support or delivering great customer service, apprentices can help.

In this blog, we’re putting the spotlight firmly on the value of business support functions – teams that can sometimes be taken for granted – and how apprentices in these areas can have a positive impact across the wider organisation.

Now is a good time to be thinking about apprenticeships. Thousands of ambitious young people will soon be leaving college and university and, for many, their next step will be an apprenticeship.

Many organisations’ starting point when considering apprenticeships and training is their core product or service area – after all, that’s what sits at the heart of their business. But think for a moment about the impact of colleagues in roles that support those core functions – what proportion of your team do they represent? Often, it can be over half. And think about the difference those colleagues make. Data from the Institute of Customer Service is striking: over 30% of people would pay more for a product or service if they received exceptional customer care.

It’s facts like this that underline why apprenticeships should not just be considered for ‘hands on’ or delivery roles, but as a way to power up often overlooked business support teams too.

Re-focusing on business support functions

We spoke to Damar Training Managing Director, Jonathan Bourne, about the ways to realise value through this approach to apprenticeships.

“Think about the business support functions that sit around the edges of every organisation but which are vital to success. Look at the impact they have on your business finances, management processes and forward planning. We often see businesses where senior operating or fee-earning colleagues are doing administrative tasks that, frankly, are a waste of their valuable time. Apprentices are a fantastic way to free up more senior resource that can then focus on the ‘doing’.

“More widely, how effective would your business be and how well would it look after your customers without the right people, with the right skills and values, working in customer service, accounts, administration or human resources? In bigger organisations, add legal and compliance and don’t forget your managers too.

“These functions are key to business success. Apprentices bring new ideas and energy, as well as additional resource to these often-stretched teams. Through the business-related projects that form part of nearly all the apprenticeships that we provide, they deliver visible and measurable performance improvements.

“For example, a business administrator apprentice within an NHS Trust identified that additional transportation charges were being incurred because many patients were not being discharged until after the cut-off time for pre-booked ambulance transport.

“By the apprentice agreeing an extended cut-off time for online ambulance bookings and ensuring all staff had access to the online booking system, the Trust was able to significantly increase the percentage of pre-booked transportation services. This process improvement provided a better patient experience, created a smoother and more efficient patient flow, and reduced waiting times.

“Another example is Damar business administration apprentice, Laura Kenny, who has added huge value in her role at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. She identified that there were some inefficiencies in the utilisation of clinical rooms within her department and that with improvements to the room booking system, this could lead to increased room occupancy and, in turn, improve service delivery.

“Other benefits of apprenticeships include better staff retention and productivity, succession planning, greater diversity and strong social value impact. Customers like and want to do business with organisations that invest in their local community and their people.”

“For years we’ve been running apprenticeship programmes in accounting, business administration, customer service, data protection, management and law. The impact is significant for our partners, like Stauff UK, which manufactures, sells, and distributes service machinery for the UK’s fluid power industries.

Sarah Mitchell, HR Director at Stauff UK said, “Although we are not a professional services company, we recognised that business and professional apprenticeships could still be used effectively to grow and upskill our teams.

“We have recruited three new business administration apprentices who are supporting our back-office functions of sales, procurement and accounts. We also have a number of team leader and management apprentices across the business who work within support departments like marketing, as well as within core business areas, such as manufacturing and warehousing.

“We have seen the confidence and skills of our managers and team leaders grow enormously through the apprenticeship, particularly in the way that they manage and encourage their teams to provide the best service possible.”

Jonathan continued, “We pride ourselves on taking a strategic and collaborative approach. Apprenticeships are definitely not ‘one size fits all’. It usually starts with a conversation about your organisation’s challenges and opportunities and where apprenticeships for existing and new staff may help.

“This helps us understand the bigger picture and where apprenticeship programmes can add the most value. Often, the greatest impact is within business support functions.”

How Damar can help

Damar is a specialist provider of apprenticeship training, supporting individuals and organisations to achieve their potential since 1980.

We work with organisations of all sizes, from government departments and large companies, to small and medium sized enterprises.

We know how to add long term value: understanding your business goals, providing quality programmes and delivering information and guidance.

We also know that the day-to-day running of a business can sometimes get in the way of your ambitions, which is why we deliver a clear process and structure to our apprenticeship training, so you can get on with making it happen.

Our team of experts gets to know your business and what you need – working to a common purpose of delivering greater impact for your business.

If you’re interested in finding out more, get in touch.