Building a pathway for early talent and apprenticeships

Building a pathway for early talent and apprenticeships

From the pillars of career development to the best approach for apprentices and graduates acquiring diverse experiences, Mark Yeeles, Vice President, Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric, UK and Ireland, outlines how Schneider Electric is empowering people to have greater opportunities and gain invaluable on-the-job experience across a number of different sectors.

Mark Yeeles, Vice President, Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric, UK and Ireland

Can you explain how Schneider Electric’s apprenticeship programme helps people’s careers compared to going to university?

Through my own experience as an apprentice-trained engineer in the industrial sector, I know first-hand the incredible value and fresh ideas that apprentices can bring to an organisation, and at Schneider Electric, we offer apprenticeships, internships and graduate programmes to help us innovate and build a greener, more sustainable future.

We have a fantastic apprenticeship programme that offers invaluable on-the-job experience and training whilst you earn. It provides opportunities for continuous learning and development and encourages individuals to step outside of their comfort zone whilst shaping their future career.

All the different routes and types of apprenticeships we have, give people a springboard experience which perhaps those going to university may not get in the early part of their career; I think this is the biggest benefit of all to both them and us.

The Schneider Electric Early Years Scheme appears to place significant emphasis on both apprentices and graduates acquiring diverse experiences. How do these experiences contribute to career development, particularly within an industry as swiftly evolving as yours?

When I think about Schneider Electric, I think about the technologies being launched into the market, the market itself and the pace in which it grows, and we are often at the forefront of all of those aspects of the ecosystem.

Due to the pace of the industry, I believe it is right to place equal importance on both as by placing emphasis on the apprenticeship and graduate programmes allows us to embrace varied perspectives and expertise in our early career positions.

Whichever pathway people are on, the experiences you gain in the early part of your career will help shape and influence individuals’ views. For us it is about teaching and educating the candidates and listening to their different views. By doing this it means we can holistically address bigger issues because we have diversity in our innovations.

The pathways are important and offer young people the chance to work across a multitude of areas – renewables, infrastructure, construction, engineering, sales and marketing, among others – and to proactively help us build a greener and more digital future.

Reflecting on your personal journey at Perkins Engines Company Limited, which specific aspects of apprenticeships do you believe contribute most significantly to career advancement and how does this align with Schneider Electric’s approach?

I’ve always had a desire to learn, try new things and challenge myself. This has been integral to every role I’ve accepted starting where my journey began as a 16-year-old apprentice at Perkins Engines. For me the greatest opportunity I received when I was at Perkins was the opportunity to ‘grow up fast’ – the whole experience helped shape me as a person and individual in my career. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing tutors who inspired me with their passion and curiosity for knowledge and thinking differently. Importantly, my apprenticeship taught me what I do want and what I don’t, which I have taken through my career.

I think this desire to do things differently aligns with Schneider’s vision to make impactful changes to move the dial to ensure we continue to create opportunity for our customers, our colleagues and the wider ecosystem.

Could you expand upon how Schneider Electric’s apprenticeship programme facilitates career exploration and skill development beyond the initial disciplines chosen by apprentices, ultimately leading to greater innovation and organisational impact?

The success and facilitation in the growth of a career at Schneider Electric and that skill development is up to the individual and their will and want to learn and succeed.

We want to be the most diverse, inclusive and equitable company not just here in the UK and Ireland but globally. We want to empower our apprentices and have a large number of opportunities for people to gain experience across a number of different sectors – if you have a passion for sustainability, or if you are interested in marketing and sales or operations or strategy, the list is endless. You will have the opportunity to see the pace of innovation whether it be in R&D for new products and solutions for our customers or what impact AI can have as the new technology evolves and begins to impact on us as human beings.

Can you tell us more about the journey of Nathan Ghundoo, Digital Services Business Director at Schneider Electric, from apprentice to his current role? How does your organisation help people such as Nathan to progress in their careers?

Nathan came from our graduate pathway but started in an apprenticeship programme outside of Schneider Electric. The great thing about Nathan is his curiosity to learn and glean information from those willing to help and support him is second to none.

I think of Nathan through different lenses of both coaching and mentoring; he has been a fantastic mentor and a good mentee, his appetite to learn about how to better himself is exceptional and will only become stronger and stronger as he goes through his career.

When I think more broadly about Nathan and others who have had a strong opportunity to forge a pathway into their career, they do it through several different means. Nathan has done it through both his performance and the way he has presented himself, and he has also now taken a qualification in coaching which I am particularly proud that he has done. What we now hope is Nathan will be able to carry that baton and pass his knowledge and wisdom on to the next wave of talent coming through our organisation.

As Schneider Electric doubles its apprenticeship opportunities this year, what strategic objectives does the company aim to achieve through this expansion, particularly in terms of talent development and organisational growth?

The strategic aim we hope to achieve with this expansion comes in a multitude of different objectives. The immediate issue is we need more people to enter the industry. Data published in 2021 by the Uptime Institute estimated that staffing requirements would grow from around 2 million full-time equivalents in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025 – we are now less than a year away from this. We think apprenticeships are key to continue to grow and share the positive, long-term, fulfilling career opportunities offered by the sector as well as attracting a diverse and wide-ranging workforce.

Other strategic objectives are they allow us to really get to know the candidate as they are like a four-to-five-year job interview for both parties. It allows them to find what they are passionate about and us to really find their strengths and where we can help them. This investment from both sides hopefully creates a symbiotic relationship which means we can benefit each other to be the best we can be, enabling them to have a successful career and us to retain the workforce.

What do you think the future holds for apprenticeships and how will Schneider Electric continue to support early talent development?

I like to think that the future of apprenticeships will start to grow at a rapid pace. I think the apprenticeship programme has moved on a couple of ticks from when I took my apprenticeship in the early 90’s and it is really fascinating to see the opportunities and diversity of learning which is open to apprentices across a multi-faceted and multi-function role.

Schneider Electric is very committed to supporting early talent the development thereof but also keeping one eye on making sure those individuals have the right level of support and guidance on their career.

We need to build and grow on the success of apprenticeships, but we also need to think about how we do things differently as an industry. Together, we have an opportunity to ensure the future of apprenticeships is bright and to deliver a clear, concise, and collective message to attract a new and diverse generation of skilled workers.

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