Jeff Bentham and Dave Macmillan
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Behind the Business with JB Skills Training Ltd

Bdaily goes behind the business with Dave Macmillan, Managing Director at JB Skills Training Ltd who are a Sunderland-based training programme provider operating across the UK and in Europe.

Can you provide a brief synopsis about what your business does?

JB Skills Training Ltd opens doors to a better future for people of all ages, particularly apt this week (14th-18th March) as it is National Apprenticeship Week 2016.

Through functional skills courses, study programmes, apprenticeships schemes, up-skilling your workforce and bespoke training packages, we ensure investment in existing and potential employees is maximised.

What key challenges has your company recently faced?

JB Skills Training has grown incredibly quickly. Set up in April 2014, with just chairman Jeff Bentham and Dave Macmillan the company now employs over 30 full time talented people in the HQ and around 30 consultants. The biggest challenge has been to find the right people at the right time to join our team, who share our ethos of quality, deliver personal and professional service and get results.

We have of course used our experience in the field of recruitment to do this and as word of mouth has spread about or success and the culture we have for our team, this challenge gets easier every time there is a need to grow again.

What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?

Over the last 12 months our greatest achievement has been hitting over £1.25 million turnover in just our second year of trading. Much of this is to do with the growth of the apprenticeship route into learning. Apprenticeships now are open to anyone aged 16-65 and work particularly well for those already employed where the employer invests in a learning package for them to upskill whilst performing their current job on their current wage.

We won a have a number of large contracts recently to deliver a whole range of study programmes and apprenticeship schemes, including a £300k apprenticeship contract with local company Learning Curve that will see over 220 new apprenticeships delivered.

We have also won a £898k contract with national provider HIT training. This contract will support a large number of people with low levels of literacy and numeracy both in the local area and wider afield nationally.

We have also broken into a new geographical area having entered a long term partnership with New College Swindon. In particular the joint endeavor will provide study programmes that focus on progression to the next level of education and prepare students for apprenticeship opportunities.

The arrangement will also see at least 40 jobs created for 16 to 18 year olds across an array of industries through the study program, as each candidate will go on to gain guaranteed full time employment on completion of the course with the college with the employer they do their work based study with.

What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?

Our focus is to keep our eye on the ball and make sure we stay synonymous with quality.

Many companies when they grow quickly forget what made them successful in the first place. We are an organisation about people and we must focus on remaining that. Friendly, professional, quality service driven by results. We are looking for long-term partnerships rather than one off contracts.

We also want to grow our services. We have branched out into Europe this year, so will be focusing on the potential of that, as well as securing more UK based contracts where we can bring the opportunity for companies to upskill their existing workforce, whilst individuals improve themselves.

What excites you most about your industry and business?

The current debate on the Government’s rather blasé announcement that they intend to create 3 million apprenticeship opportunities in the UK is very exciting. Our industry and the future of apprenticeships is set to boom, but in the meantime it is becoming a bit of a hot potato in the media with many announcements and demands for answers.

So much so an inquiry has been launched into the Government’s claims and by the end of this of this week on the 18th March they will have had to answer how they intend the apprenticeships growth to 3million to work. Educators fear that the quality of apprentices will suffer if the focus is just on creating so many numbers. Employers worry that they will pay more, and the Government will create ways of apprenticeships not being costs effective anymore.

The debate will go for some time I suspect, and there are more of my thoughts on my blog at http://www.jb-skillstraining.co.uk/apprenticeships-update-feb-2016.html

What do you wish you’d known when starting out?

Jeff and I wish we had know how successful we were going to be from the outset – it would have saved us a move of premises, expansion into another floor of our building and the ongoing cost of future and equipment! It would have made much more sense at the start to find a furnished location large enough for 30 people!

We also wish we had known the power of social media and PR – we have just launched a campaign at the start of this year and are feeling the rewards already. You can find us @jbskilltraining and www.facebook.com/Jbskillstraining

What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?

Honestly, that depends a lot on the follow up to the Government inquiry into the 3 million apprenticeships announcement.

As said before, most of the apprenticeships we enrol at the moment are through employers wanting to upskill their current workforce. We also place new employees in companies, putting them through the apprenticeship route too though.

If there is a massive growth on companies creating new apprenticeship positions, the stage before is really going to be important to ensure those candidates are of quality.

With that in mind we have started with a number of colleges on study programmes that focus on progression to the next level of education and prepare students for apprenticeship opportunities. We hope in the future that the pre-apprenticeship training needs will be a part of National Apprenticeship Week, to educate people about their choices and routes to career.

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