“I joined the company 17 years ago as a modern apprentice and now I work as Company Operations Manager”, says Jim Carter of Rugby-based company, Apex Stainless Fasteners.
Since opening in 1991, the firm has become one of Europe’s leading suppliers of stainless steel fasteners providing everything from bolts for motorway bridges to screws for the automotive industry.
The firm prides itself on a worldwide reputation for its product range, excellent service and specialist support and much of that is down to its staff.
“The business has grown significantly and apprentices have played a key role in our success,” says Jim, who firmly believes employee development results in a motivated workforce and increased productivity.
Having risen through the ranks himself, Jim is committed to Apex’s tradition of growing its own talent. Apex currently has two apprentices in training and a further ten members of staff who have completed apprenticeships and continue to progress within the company.
“Apprenticeships have had a bad rap and for too long they have been seen as cheap labour,” says Jim. “Here at Apex we see apprentices as an investment and we pay ours a fair wage, provide training and instil a work ethic for the future.”
Jim is also keen to point out the equal treatment and value placed on apprentices. “We don’t hang a label around our apprentices’ necks, they are part of the team from the beginning.”
Apex’s apprenticeship success is also owed to a strong working relationship with training provider Heart of England, who help the company to find good candidates for apprenticeship roles as well as co-ordinating NVQ qualifications, assessment and training.
One of Apex’s newest recruits is 17-year-old Michael Westley, who started his sales apprenticeship a few months ago after leaving school last year. As well as receiving on the job training, Michael is working towards an NVQ in Business Administration.
“I wanted to start learning for myself in the workplace rather than being stuck in a classroom and I am really glad I chose an apprenticeship,” says Michael of taking on his role.
“There is a lot to learn and every day is different. The biggest challenge was learning hundreds of codes for products but now I am able to select and check all the items for our orders. One of the things I enjoy the most is speaking to our customers from around the UK, who might be from Cornwall, Scotland or Wales.”
Michael says he would recommend apprenticeships to other young people. “I’d say go for it and get the experience while earning your own money. I’ve been lucky because everyone, in the sales team and the warehouse will always help me.”
One person who helps Michael is Dean Foulds, a Sales Executive, who started as an apprentice eight years ago. Dean says, “I couldn’t fault the help that I received when I started my apprenticeship. In fact, the Managing Director trained me when I started and was always there for support.”
And for any other businesses who are considering an apprenticeship, Operations Manager Jim concludes, “Don’t be frightened of apprentices and make sure you see them as staff members. They may not be 100% work ready to begin with but if you invest in them, communicate with them and train them your way they will be a great asset to the company.”