UK National Apprentice Week - Smart Home Apprentices

James Bliss, EMEA Brand and Communication Manager | Feb 12, 2021

As the UK’s National Apprentice Week comes to a close, we caught up with the two CEDIA peeps that have been entrenched in Apprenticeship development for some years now: CEDIA Board Member and Director of Bespoke Home Cinemas, Melanie Malcolm; and CEDIA’s EMEA Education Manager, Aneta Armova-Levin.

How important is it that we get new blood into the integration industry?

AAL: VERY! The idea of “new blood” goes beyond an extra pair of hands within a company or larger pool of qualified individuals to recruit from. Bringing younger people in the industry also translates into diversity, new energy and enthusiasm, new ideas, and new questions to be answered. These are all fundamental for the longevity of not only an organisation, but the industry as a whole. In the latest apprenticeship survey, carried out by the Open University, 89% of companies who employ an apprentice in England have stated that apprenticeships enable their organisation to proactively build its future. Further, 70% of these employers believe that apprenticeships and work-based learning will be vital to their organisation’s recovery from the pandemic.

MM: It’s important the residential AV industry embrace the opportunities of hiring an apprentice, not only are we helping grow the workforce while gaining support for our business, we are also offering young people opportunities in a developing market. Previously young integrators have been hard to come by as there wasn’t a clear gateway to enter the industry as a school leaver, meaning companies never gave opportunities to the younger generation when recruiting. Now this can change with the Smart Home Technician Apprenticeship.

What’s in it for the integration business in contracting a Smart Home Technician Apprentice?

AAL: Quite a lot. Apart from the long-term benefits for your business - like building a young, skilled, motivated team - there are financial benefits for the employers. Today, employers can receive a £2,000 government incentive for each 16 to 18-year-old apprentice employed. In addition, the Government has introduced the Kickstart scheme, which not only offers additional funding for hiring young people but is also the ideal way to find the best person for your business and segue them into an apprenticeship.

MM: There are many advantages to hiring an apprentice. It’s rewarding for both employer and employee: you are offering a young person an exciting opportunity to work in a fast-paced industry whilst also investing for the future of your business and that individual. Your apprentice could become your star install engineer in the future, and your investment in them is a great reason to stay and grow with you. You can also benefit by building your team and increasing productivity. Finally, the recruitment costs are lower thanks to government funding and incentives that support apprenticeships.

What does CEDIA do to support training providers?

AAL: We are committed to work with training providers to ensure that they not only fully understand the needs of our industry, but also offer high quality content which our global education team works hard to create. Such close collaborations are beneficial for everyone – it speeds up the adoption of the apprenticeship by training providers resulting in broader accessibility; it also gives employers peace of mind that their apprentices will receive training based on industry standards and best practices. We’ve just completed the first of such partnerships.

How excited are you that the first cohort is about to begin?

AAL: I am beyond excited! I have been part of the apprenticeship initiative from its conception, and the process was not always smooth. In the years leading to the approved standard, we saw quite a lot of changes in requirements, presenting several challenges. It took persistence and agility to get to this point; seeing the first cohort of students starting their journey is a proud and emotional moment for me.

MM: It’s early stages as we've just launched but I’m extremely excited! This has been a long time coming: The CEDIA led trailblazer group has been developing this standard for the last 5 years! It's extremely rewarding to know we are making a difference to young people's lives, especially at challenging times like these with young people struggling to find employment.

How can integrators get involved? What are their next steps?

AAL: The first step largely depends on the needs of the company, so get in touch with us and we will be happy to help. Currently, I would recommend that employers consider taking part in the Kickstart scheme, which can help them find a suitable candidate for an apprenticeship. But for those who already have experience with hiring an apprentice, or have already identified a suitable candidate, then I would recommend getting in touch directly with the training provider.