Why you should care about apprenticeships

Dentsu Aegis' Scott Sallée looks at why apprenticeships should matter to everyone in adland.

Scott Sallée is Social Impact Manager at Dentsu Aegis and one of the key figures behind The CODE – Dentsu’s flagship schools programme. Here he looks at why apprenticeships should matter to everyone in adland.

I was encouraged to attend University – neither of my parents had graduated from University and they always felt it held them back. They encouraged me to go as believed a degree was what I needed to succeed. I flunked out of my first year because I wasn’t focused and didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards as a career. I returned home feeling shame and regret for having wasted both money and time – until I found a way to work my way back and learn along the way, just like an Apprenticeship. When I returned to higher education, I knew myself and my values much better. I had the opportunity to be in the Honour Society, Year Representative, and was awarded Most Outstanding Graduate of my class. I’m committed to paying it forward: to help others understand their options, to feel they can bring their full selves to work, and to thrive.

What have I learned about apprenticeships?

If you treat your Apprentices as ‘just’ an Apprentice, that is the role they will grow to fill.

If you treat them like future leaders: empowering them, giving them visibility, and access to resources, there are no limits to what they can achieve.

Get onboarding right! Our onboarding was spaced out over a week, and was as much focused on preparing line leaders as it was Apprentices. Our teambuilding and training content was pulled from the sessions we developed for our Leadership – and with their open-mindedness and natural approach to collaboration, our Apprentices outperformed in every task. With line leaders, our work was in helping them recall the beginning of their own careers, to ensure they could see things from the perspectives of those that would be joining their team and look after their wellbeing.

We held ‘Friday Sessions’, a time to collaborate and contemplate mutual challenges and projects, as well as a communal space for socializing and networking. Initially we handled the organisation, and then handed it over to the cohort for them to take ownership and for their development.

During special sessions, a senior leader would join for an hour to share their expertise and importantly, making the cohort visible to our Leadership team and enabling conversations that might not otherwise occur. Leaders will benefit by making time to listen to their Apprentices.

External exposure was also a key aspect of our strategy, such as collaborating on a Design Thinking workshop with IBM around how to improve collaboration in large organisations. Insights were shared back with our Leadership team, who appreciated that our Apprentices were working on large strategic thinking projects.

We sure had a few mistakes along the way – we initially hired Apprentices on a fixed-term contract for the duration of their Apprenticeship. The risk was that towards the end of their Apprenticeship, we lost some very valuable talent that we had invested in and developed as they left for permanent contracts. Now, all of our Apprentices start on full-term contracts. Our recruitment process is thorough – we will be able to know by the time their probation ends if we want to continue.  

Speaking of Recruitment, we knew that to attract the best talent, we needed to stand out, and show our values and culture as part of the journey. We also had to ensure the process was inclusive and would enable neurodiverse candidates to show their superpowers. We used gamified aptitude tests and gamification in psychometrics; shortlisted candidates were invited to an escape room where they solved challenges in real time as a team. Show us, don’t tell us!

One of the most rewarding stories I recall was the line manager of an Apprentice sharing that a client had re-signed based on work that their Apprentice had completed. It completely shifted their perspective on the value that Apprentices can bring to the team.

A quality base of training

The Creative Pioneers Advertising and Media Standard provides a quality base of training regardless of which agency or area of the business the person joins. It establishes a healthy foundation for their career. Consistency is very important to us as a business, especially with the valuable backing of the IPA Foundation Certificate, providing structure and credibility. It’s a real springboard to launch their careers. We now offer this standard to all talent coming through our Early Careers programme.

The CODE (Creativity, Opportunity, Diversity, Empowerment) is our most tangible commitment to diversity and inclusion, and Apprenticeships are a key strand and one of our core KPIs. We work with partner schools in areas of low social mobility; these schools have higher than average BAME population and higher than average % of students on free school meals. There are touchpoints each year from year nine through the end of sixth form: Workshops, Assemblies, Work Experience, and Insight Days such as Advertising Unlocked are all key to improving students’ digital skills and showcasing the range of work opportunities that are available in our industry.

Thanks to proactively engaging with this talent through The CODE, we are achieving the IPA’s targets of having 25% of Early Careers hires from a BAME background.

We know that diversity is a commercial differentiator. Karen Blackett reminds us that diversity in our businesses is not a ‘problem’ to be solved – it’s the solution to the problem.

"The Apprenticeship programme is an integral part of our organisation, not just because it’s a tangible commitment to our Diversity and Inclusion goals, but because it’s essential we have a platform to identify emerging talent, and help these individuals develop and flourish."

Euan Jarvie, CEO UK&I, DAN

What’s next?

Design Thinking methodology is valuable as it considers the end user’s needs in the design process.

I’d like to go further and involve the end user – the next generation of digital leaders – in designing and managing our programme. I’d like to hire an Apprentice into my team who can be the voice and lead how we can engage with and connect with their peers.

How better to fully understand and deliver on their needs and expectations?

What a brilliant developmental experience and a real opportunity for them to participate in co-creating solutions with powerful social impact.

Let’s make it real.

Find out how your agency can get involved in apprenticeships at creativepioneers.co.uk
Last updated 01 May 2024