Norfolk apprentices provide some give and take for business

Hiring apprentices helps put something back into the community and can be a vital tool to business expansion.

That was the verdict of one of the UK's largest independently-owned regional media businesses as it backed a campaign to encourage firms to hire apprentices.

Archant's newspapers division, Archant Regional, currently employs 10 apprentices based at Prospect House, on Rouen Road in Norwich, where the EDP is produced.

It is backing the 'Challenge Norfolk 100 in 100' campaign launched during National Apprenticeship Week, which aims to encourage businesses to recruit 100 apprentices in 100 days.

Andrew Denny, classified sales and digital directories manager, said: 'There were two main reasons why we chose to hire apprentices. Firstly we felt it was important that Archant should put something back into the communities where we operate.

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'Secondly, we wanted to expand our business directory operation but we needed more resource in order to meet customer expectations and we felt this could provide a great opportunity to bring in apprentices.'

Managing director Stephan Phillips approached City College Norwich's principal to put the process into action and 10 vacancies were advertised on Apprenticeship Vacancies, the online system which matches employers with potential apprentices. The college reviewed 175 applications and passed the best applicants on to be interviewed.

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Mr Denny said: 'Overall, the recruitment process was spot on. We had the right people from the first batch of applicants and the whole process was very easy.'

Archant's turnaround time to convert an initial telesales call into an online listing has decreased significantly. It used to take two to three weeks, but now it takes 24 hours.

The apprentices have also helped to increase sales conversion rates for outbound calls, from 5.6pc to 15.4pc.

Archant has also developed a fully structured in-house induction and training programme for their apprentices.

Mr Denny said: 'We really try to make them feel special here. It's quite rare to get this level of support within what is essentially a sales environment. We feel it's important that our apprentices feel valued and that they know they're important to us.'

Apprentice Suzanne Chamberlain joined Archant after completing her A levels and said: 'It's been fantastic here. I've been given a great opportunity to express myself and it's broadened my views on life. Here we really feel part of the team – we're made to feel that we're really making a difference.'

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