Q&A: South West Apprenticeship Company (SWAC)

Fay Daniels
Marketing Executive - Enterprise | Business West
19th September 2018

The South West Apprenticeship Company help businesses to expand their talent pool and grow their business by providing unique apprentice employment solutions. We caught up with Director Claire Vertigen to find out more about what they do.

Tell us a bit about yourself; your job role and your career background?

I have been the Operational Director of the South West Apprenticeship Company (SWAC) since 2011. However, I am also an experienced business and operations manager at director level with over 20 years experience within the education and skills market place, having supported or directly managed over £12 million of skills and apprenticeship programmes.

As a business/operations director I have a track record of achievement; delivering and supporting a wide range of skills and apprenticeship programmes, to target, within budgets and in line with contractual requirements.  I have also recruited, managed and supported a great many employees to develop and to achieve their career goals.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

No two days are the same!  I could be with the SWAC team answering calls, interviewing applicants or having team meetings or I could be anywhere across the South West meeting employers who are interested in taking on an apprentice or I could be visiting a training provider to talk about partnerships work!  

This week I have been to the amazing new Forest of Dean College campus, today I met the apprenticeship team at Gloucestershire College and plan to see the Apprenticeship Team at City of Bristol College tomorrow, with a meeting at UWE afterwards, on Thursday I have a meeting Wye Dean Tourism Strategic Board to discuss our shared apprenticeship scheme and Friday I hope to catch-up on my admin!

Can you tell us a bit more about SWAC and your vision as a company?

We are a small employer and an Apprenticeship Training Agency or sometimes referred to as an Apprenticeship employment or recruitment agency.  We don’t deliver the apprenticeship training - we support companies (of all sizes and sectors) to review their skills gaps, identify apprenticeship solutions, training providers, full recruitment and then we employ and mentor those apprentices for the lifetime of their Apprenticeship training.  

Though we are a small employer, we have actually employed over 650 apprentices across the South West and in the last 3 years 99% of our apprentices have completed their training and 98% have either progressed onto higher training or are employed within our host employer on completion.

All of SWAC’s staff are Apprenticeship Ambassadors and actively promote Apprenticeships every day to local businesses, schools, parents and apprentice applicants. We are regularly invited to share our knowledge at employer focussed events and within schools across the region.  We love our job and just want to do more!

Our 2017 Business Skills and Training Survey showed that 64.9% of businesses had not used apprenticeships in their business and ‘lack of time’ was cited as the main reason. Do you believe any business can benefit from taking on an apprentices?

Yes! All businesses can benefit as long as they know what they want to achieve from the apprenticeship training – whether that is introducing new skills to support business growth or supporting your existing staff to develop those skills.  Apprenticeships are an excellent way to invest in that growth and to get a high return on your investment.

Another statistic that came out of our survey was that 52% of businesses found vacancies hard to fill. Do you think apprenticeships can help to fill skills gaps within a business?

Again yes! The job role is linked to an industry recognized qualification meaning the apprentice will learn new skills and then be able to confidently perform these in the workplace.  Upskilling existing staff with apprenticeship training can help to boost morale and motivation – they are not just for new staff employees you can use them to talent manage existing staff and promote them to a more skilled position.

What would be your top tip to a business looking to take on an apprentice?

Plan! Think about what you want to achieve from the training, what your budget is and where you want to the apprentice to be on completion.  Talk to other apprentice employers and consider your responsibilities and plan the recruitment process – remember if you are looking for a new apprentice employee this may be their first job – think back to when you were 16 or 18 and just left school, how would you like your son or daughter to be treated?  


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