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Jordan Richards, Founder and CEO of RCCO.

Jordan was one of the youngest Google apprentices, starting at just 18 and stayed on for three years to become a creative lead. He has since become founder of digital design agency RCCO, a 20-person team working with tech giants like Google globally, and exciting start-ups with investment. He is also co-founder of WILD, a video production studio working with PureGym and Revolut, and owner of FounderSphere, a community for young entrepreneurs. 

There’s no denying that there’s a skills gap right now. It’s being experienced in a whole range of sectors and professions. And yet, there is no shortage of creative young people looking to find their niche. They’re just not all going to university. They’re the ones who may not like the idea of getting into debt. The ones who prefer a more hands-on approach. And the ones who think that may be, university simply isn’t for them. It doesn’t make them any less potentially valuable to the UK’s employers. In fact, with the right training, they have the power to become future business leaders. But that’s where the problem lies. The right training. And that’s why I think that the best way to close the skills gap is for companies to explore alternative educational pathways, such as apprenticeships.

I started my career as an apprentice at Google. It’s an experience that kick started my journey, and coloured my approach to business. And it’s the reason why I now offer apprenticeships to other young creatives.

Are companies missing the mark on the hiring process?

One of the main reasons why companies don’t always find what they’re looking for in employees is a degree of tunnel vision.

While most employers want to hire people who have all the technical knowledge, there’s an argument to be made for a shift in focus to include interpersonal aspects and the ability to learn. Because while technical abilities are often more easily taught, work ethic, communication skills, group work, and many other necessary features of today’s working environments, can be much harder to learn. So, finding the right person is often more important than finding a person with the right qualifications. I personally don’t ask for or look at CVs when hiring, I look at their portfolio and the 1-minute video we ask them to record. This is a method that allows me to cut through to those who really have passion and are excited to get started in the industry.

Why apprenticeships are a great solution for companies

When companies hire apprentices, they are not only opening the door to a career for the individual, but potentially helping to shape the talent their business will come to rely on in the future. It’s an opportunity for businesses to ingrain the culture and education they value, while benefiting from the fresh perspectives these young people will bring. These perspectives are fundamental in a digital world with such fast trends and culture shifts.

For me, as an apprentice, that meant not only learning on the job, but seeing my efforts being appreciated. Within a month of starting my apprenticeship at Google, I was presenting a project in front of Google’s senior sales team – and having my ideas adopted by the company. This not only truly boosted my confidence and helped me gain momentum in my career, but helped me to create very important professional and personal connections. I also became part of a network that valued me and my input.

And as a business owner now, that experience showed me that taking in younger talent who are not necessarily following a traditional career pathway can be a very rewarding experience for companies. These people will not only provide a new outlook on the job, but they will also provide the perspective of young clients.

The benefits of alternative job pathways for the apprentices

I got so much out of my apprenticeship, including the formation of an incredible network of people, who have supported me – in various ways – throughout my career. But there’s more to it than that.

  • I had the space to learn, to make mistakes, and to learn from them, too.
  • I didn’t just learn from on-the-job training and technical guidance; I gained real, practical experience.
  • I was surrounded by knowledgeable people, who were generous with their time and their experience, helping me to grow through their guidance.
  • And I learnt soft skills from observing others, as well as my own social interaction, helping to enhance my ability to communicate, analyse business situations, make decisions, and most importantly manage time, work, and life.

Overall, it was a period of immense personal growth. And that’s really what I seek to provide for all of the apprentices who have – or will – join my team. 

What should companies offer to make the most of apprenticeships

Companies should be aware that apprentices are just like other employees who will put in real effort and work full-time jobs – even if they are still training. So, it’s integral to take on the people you believe will gain the most from the experience. And then provide them with all the necessary help and guidance they need to succeed. Because a major factor that influences the success of the apprenticeship is company culture and how appreciative they are of people’s talent and effort. That’s why any company offering apprenticeships should provide real projects and responsibility, as well as access to professionals who are available to answer questions and help them throughout their work experience, using that sense of trust to motivate independent learning.

Similarly, businesses must offer all apprentices a decent wage. An apprentice should never be seen as cheap labour. They have the potential to become a valuable member of your team. If you want to help them to be their best, pay them as you would any other junior employee. And promote them once they have concluded their set goals and expectations.

We decided to offer apprenticeships at RCCO, because that’s how I started on my own path. So, I understand the true value of the system. But I also understand the appeal of working with graduates. The ease, the box-ready simplicity. And there’s value in both approaches. But if you’re struggling to find the skills your company needs to grow and thrive, taking on apprentices allows you to become part of the solution. While providing the next generation of business leaders with the space and resources they need to reach their full potential. 

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