Opinion: Apprenticeships Can Accelerate Business Growth

By Judith Bennison, Group HR Director at Great Annual Savings Group

Last Friday I received a heart-warming e-mail from a salesman who, believe it or not, wasn’t trying to sell anything to me. He had read about Great Annual Savings Group’s new apprenticeship scheme in one of the morning business bulletins and he simply wanted to congratulate us on going ahead with the initiative.
His daughter had decided against going to university after finishing her A-Levels, instead preferring to embark on an apprenticeship at a local manufacturing firm. The move seems to have paid off. According to her father, the young lady in question has completed her apprenticeship, been taken on by Egger and risen through the ranks to become a much-valued member of staff.

At Great Annual Savings Group, we want to give other young people a chance to forge a successful career in a fast-growing, dynamic company. That’s why we launched our apprenticeship scheme, which is part of a wider plan to hire an extra 100 people within the next couple of years to take our total headcount to around 150.

There are several reasons why we’re backing apprenticeships. Firstly, they make sound business sense. An injection of fresh talent can bring new perspectives and ideas to a company and this is an essential ingredient for business growth. A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed that a typical apprentice delivers productivity gains of more than £10,000 per annum, with that figure rising to almost £20,000 in the construction and planning, engineering and manufacturing sectors. The study also indicates that apprentices have a direct impact on sales performance; five million consumers would be more prepared to make a purchase from an employer that had apprentices on its books.

Hiring an apprentice can also help to tackle the thorny problem of youth unemployment. That’s particularly important in an area such as Seaham, where the number of 18-24 year-olds out of work has remained stubbornly high since the last recession. While we’re in business to make money, it does no harm to create jobs for local people along the way.
We’re also mindful of the need to create high-quality apprenticeships. Just getting people through the door is not enough; we need them to hit the ground running and add value to the business from day one. On a more general level, the Government has pledged to create an extra three million apprenticeships by 2020 and while that’s an admirable quest, the focus across the board should be on quality rather than quantity.

Naturally, talented workers should be well remunerated for their efforts. The hourly rate for apprentices will rise from £2.73 to £3.30 from October but at Great Annual Savings Group we believe that the new rate is still too low. Our apprentices will get a wage that’s significantly higher than that and although it will increase our costs, it will be worth it in the long run. We’ll recoup that cost through productivity gains as we continue on the road to becoming one of the UK’s premier cost management companies.

That journey will be made a lot smoother with several hungry, talented apprentices on our books.

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Paul JohnsonGroup Financial Director

Paul Johnson is very much a home-grown talent.

He joined Great Annual Savings Group in its infancy, fresh from a youth career as a professional footballer with Hartlepool United.  He quickly established a reputation within the business and aced all required accountancy qualifications in the space of four years to become the Group’s Management Accountant.

Several successful projects later, Paul was promoted to Head of Finance.  When the former FD left GAS, he took on the mantle of the business’ most senior finance professional; boasting a string of incredible achievements all under the age of 30.


“I have witnessed phenomenal growth at the Group over the many years I’ve worked here and I’m looking forward to guiding the Group into an exciting new chapter.”

Interesting fact:

Paul made his professional debut for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth in the Football League.  Some say Danny Ings still resides in his pocket to this day.