It was the summer of 2011 and London-based brokerage Coreco was looking to add a new member to its team.
Having become weary of seeing the same old jaded CVs arriving on his desk, Roy Hardy, the firm’s director of operations, decided to take a chance on an apprentice.
“I was just fed up with taking people out of the same pond,” he says. “There has been this big push towards university but it’s not the be all and end all. Being a mortgage broker isn’t rocket science, you need to be numerate, literate, intelligent and presentable. You don’t need a degree for that.
“I’ve always thought you should give everybody a chance and it’s easier to train people the way you want things done, with a clean slate, than take someone who has been around a bit and picked up bad habits.”
Hardy, who was given his own break in the industry through a youth recruitment scheme at John Charcol, contacted the National Apprenticeship Service and said that getting involved with the scheme ‘couldn’t be easier’.
However, he was eager to make sure young people were being properly rewarded for joining the scheme, calling the minimum wage levels for apprenticeships ‘ridiculous’.
“You hear stories where companies are taking on people to do these administration apprenticeships on £90 a week, and at the end of their time they give them a certificate and bring in someone else.
“For us, reputationally, we didn’t want to be viewed as taking people on as slave labour, so we decided to pay more than the minimum. Here they get £150 for a 30 hour week, they get college support along the way and proper jobs at the end of it.
“We invest time and effort and want these people to be with us for 5, 10 or 15 years.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson is a vocal supporter of apprenticeships and praised Coreco’s involvement when he visited its offices earlier this year.
Communications director Andrew Montlake says that Johnson’s involvement is just one way his firm has reaped the rewards of taking on apprentices, adding that industry needs to up its game and start taking more chances.
“Although the broking industry has adapted to change in some ways, in terms of technology and things like this I think people don’t want to take risks on anything.
“I don’t understand why everyone isn’t doing apprenticeship schemes. I speak to a lot of brokers telling them they should be doing this, but I hear a lot of excuses back.
“We had the Mayor come into our office and that was purely because of this scheme, now our MD is being invited to events at City Hall. It’s opened a lot of doors for our whole business.”
Despite the lack of enthusiasm across the financial services sector, Hardy says Coreco hasn’t looked back since it hired its first broker apprentices.
“We started with brokers and we’ve recently ventured out and recruited someone for our marketing team. Our plan is to take on another apprentice every six months.”
Asad Khan was about to begin training as a plumber when someone suggested that an apprenticeship scheme might offer him a route into the financial services industry, but he found that his tutors at college were unaware of the apprenticeship schemes on offer to young people.
“The teachers at college didn’t know anything about these kinds of placements, they just expected it to be the usual builders and plumbing apprenticeships, but I went online and had a look, and it all went from there.”
Hardy agrees that the lack of awareness is something that poses problems for potential employers, but adds that any business looking to fill a vacancy should consider bringing in an apprentice.
“I think they need to come up with a better term to describe an apprenticeship,” he adds. “At the minute you picture someone working as a chippy or sweeping hair in a hairdressers and we’re nothing like that.
“We try not to use the term apprentice, it isn’t in their job title and we treat them like any other member of staff.”
“I would just encourage business owners to embrace this, if they have one vacancy, take on one kid on an apprenticeship, give it a go and give people a chance.”