News: Paid-work-trials - Interview with Chris Anderson, Francis Construction

06 March 2019

Francis Construction uses ‘paid-work-trials’. We talked to Chris about how using paid-work-trials has helped his business.

Since 2015, Chris Anderson, Operations Director at Francis Construction, has been working with CoTrain (co-funded by CITB) to recruit and manage his carpentry and joinery apprentices, and more recently expanding the partnership with two Technical apprentices – one with Estimating and the other with the onsite management team.

Francis Construction uses ‘paid-work-trials’ as a way of identifying a future workforce and these can serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

We talked to Chris about how using paid-work-trials has helped his business to assess suitability, in advance of making a longer-term commitment to an apprenticeship. 

Chris, what are the benefits in taking your apprentices on a paid-work-trial in the first instance?

Attitude in the workplace is different compared to an interview situation. Work trials are useful in assessing reliability, willingness to learn, and to see how they fit in with the team.

The trial period enables us to get a flavour for their commitment to work, ahead of making a longer-term commitment of taking them on as an apprentice.

What value do you a think a young person places on the offer of a ‘paid’ work trial compared to unpaid work experience which is often the ‘norm’? 

I think they see that as a commitment made by the employer. If we’re paying them, we want to see the best of them. If they’re unpaid, then the potential is there to be less engaged.

An unpaid work experience may not give it their ‘all’ compared to someone who is paid – who will be more productive? Their time is valued by us and we are demonstrating an early commitment to their development. The rest is up to them!

Just like many other contractors working with CoTrain, Francis Construction found trainee recruitment time consuming and labour intensive – citing finding the most motivated young people as the biggest challenge.

Using CoTrain has made a real difference. They provide a joined-up approach to making sure candidates are the right ‘fit’ for our business, beginning with a work-trial.

My workload was reduced, as CoTrain manages the advertising and filtering, providing CVs based on our requirements, sets up interviews, and supports us with the interviews on the day. Candidates are coached by CoTrain in advance of interview, ensuring they arrive informed and prepared.

How useful is it to have CoTrain manage the early employment of your apprentices?

Aside from managing the apprentices’ PAYE payroll and college admin, CoTrain help us to manage HR aspects if things don’t ‘work out’. And if work ‘drops off’ for whatever reason, using CoTrain gives us the flexibility and assurance that the apprentice will be found a new placement that will allow them to continue their training; although this has never happened thankfully.  

Some smaller businesses cannot see the future in the same way that Francis does. We are really very fortunate to have visibility of a pipeline that keeps everybody in work, direct labour and our supply chain.

How useful is it to have CoTrain help to support you and your apprentices throughout the placement?

It has been really good to be honest. CoTrain will take care of the relationship with colleges, tracking the progress of our apprentices and feeds this back to us, so we know that we’re giving them the right training to support their studies.

We only need to pick up the phone if we do have questions or concerns and know that we will get a timely response.

Passionate about bringing new people into the industry, Chris recognises that the training and qualifications available through the modern apprenticeship are invaluable.

I personally have endorsed and promoted apprenticeship training as being valuable in continuing to grow our business. CoTrain is local to us and we are committed to improving the life chances of young people within our own demographic.

Academic study is important of course but should not detract from good old-fashioned experience – and an apprenticeship offers both.

What happens to your apprentices at the end of their training?

We have retained our CoTrain apprentices as direct employees at the end of the initial apprenticeship and progressed them to a higher-level apprenticeship qualification. It makes sense to keep them as we have invested in their training and they know the ‘Francis way’ of doing things.

If you would like more information about how paid-work-trials can work for your business contact: 

Samantha Page, Business Development and Partnership Manager

T:01189 207209 E:

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