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How EMR Uses Apprenticeships To Improve Employees’ Skills And Develop Their Careers

Olivia Healey

Tom Russell
Tom Russell — EMR’s Learning and Development Manager

Global leader in sustainable materials, EMR is a family business, rooted in the more than 60 UK communities where its sites are located. It is also operating in a fast-moving industry, defined by innovative technology, changing customer needs and ever-higher safety and environmental protection regulations.

So, how can EMR ensure it has teams with the right skills and experience to meet these challenges? For Tom Russell, EMR’s Learning and Development Manager, one answer is to offer high-quality apprenticeships to both existing employees and new starters:

“Apprenticeships can mean a range of different things but each one represents an opportunity for an individual to advance their career.

“We offer Level 3 apprenticeships which provide a deeper level of technical skills and are the equivalent of an A Level. Level 3 is the national standard that enables our team members to develop a more specialised skill sets.

“We also offer Level 4 apprenticeships, which give apprentices a very specialist set of skills and knowledge. This opens a lot of doors to people in terms of developing their careers and takes two to four years to complete,”

he adds.

In addition, EMR offers a range of degree and masters-level courses, and Tom himself is currently working towards an MBA-equivalent apprenticeship in Senior Leadership.

“Undertaking this course is about developing my career but it is also giving me a really good understanding of the experience that EMR’s other apprentices are having. Although we are working at different levels, when an 18-year-old school leaver says they are working hard on the written component of their course, I can say ‘I know how that feels’,”

he says.

The traditional idea of an apprenticeship is that it is focused solely on manual or vocational careers, but Tom’s example highlights the breadth of opportunities for learning and development that exist. EMR has apprentices working in its Learning and Development, Digital, HR, and Transport departments, gaining the skills to work in a wide range of roles.

And EMR is currently looking to increase its investment in apprenticeships with its first cohort of digital apprentices.

“We’re looking for software developers, data analysts, cyber security and site security teams,”

says Tom.

It is yet another example both of how broad the learning and development opportunities are at EMR and also how the apprenticeship framework can be adapted to the emerging requirements of a modern business.

“EMR has about 30 apprenticeships being completed by employees at the moment and that’s really good for a business of this size,” says Tom. “For those who have a college or academic element included in their course it not only gives them the opportunity to learn and develop through the apprenticeship but also to meet and learn from apprentices from other businesses.”

While apprenticeships provide employees with valuable skills and experiences they can carry with them throughout their careers, EMR is also committed to paying its apprentices a fair wage for their work.

“One of the biggest misconceptions that still exists is that people think apprenticeships aren’t paid or low paid – but every apprenticeship EMR offers is a fully paid role,”

says Tom.

And while the national minimum wage for apprentices is £4.81, EMR pay significantly more than this.

“It is particularly important to us that our apprentices can live independently and afford to travel to work. We are also able to pay well above the minimum wage because we get value from our apprentices very quickly.”

So, whether you are a professional looking for a career change, coming back to the workplace after raising children or just starting out in your working life, an apprenticeship with EMR could help you build the knowledge and skills you need to get to the next level.