Best Apprenticeship Award 2019

Back in 2016 My Mustard comprised a small but perfectly formed team of three middle aged (oy! Speak for yourself!) women, we’d be running for nine years, had a lovely bunch of customers and things were ticking over nicely.

Happy team, happy clients, happy bank manager.

But as we networked weekly and sponsored annually and exhibited quarterly and posted daily the phone started to ring a little too much and we needed some help. Enter stage left some invaluable paper pushing and bean counting support but still we needed more.

We needed new. We needed different. We needed young.

Who was going to take My Mustard to the level? And how could we fund it without jeopardising the oh so crucial, hard won SME bottom line.

We scoured LinkedIn, wrote/rewrote endless job descriptions, talked to colleagues, looked at other agency set ups, and nothing felt right. We needed to Grow Our Own and with the support of Oaklands College and Hertfordshire Growth Hub we found the solution – apprenticeships.

apprentice /əˈprɛntɪs/
a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.

Apprenticeships started back in the Middle Ages as part of master crafts guilds where a young man would be paid by the day for his work, submit a piece of his best work for assessment and approval and over time become a Master Craftsman. The following four centuries saw growth in numbers of apprenticeships as they became popular with a number of occupations that involved practical skills, particularly building, shipbuilding and woodworking. Still no women at this stage….

In 1802 the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act laid down conditions including a maximum 12- hour working day and a requirement that an apprentice should be taught arithmetic, reading and writing. (How times have changed, my guys think they are hard done by when we run out of biscuits.)

UK apprenticeship numbers reached their peak in the years following the second world war but went into decline soon afterwards and despite of success in some areas – catering, construction, engineering – were dwindling until in the early Noughties when successive governments dusted them down, built them from the ground up on a strong and fair working relationship between the employer, the training provider and the apprentice, ensuring that the theoretical and practical learning was authentic. This three-way partnership seemed like the perfect solution to our dilemma.

So, working with Becky at Oaklands College we drafted a job description for a brand-new role, advertised on the National Apprenticeship Scheme and started meeting the business people of the future. They all had different stories, different backgrounds and different reasons for wanting to do an apprenticeship – I was a little humbled at the energy, tenacity and work ethic of some of them, the employment landscape looked tough for someone with a handful of qualifications and no experience.

And then we found Chloe, a super smart young woman of eighteen from Tring, bright enough to go to University but with a desire to continue her learning whilst earning. We worked closely creating a step by step guide to the business world, how My Mustard fit in commercially, what our vision was and how she would play a key role. We did it together. At the end of her 18-month Level 3 Business Admin apprenticeship Chloe joined us as a permanent member of staff and now onboards all new clients as well as dealing with key accounts and our Google Grant portfolio. She spoke at Oaklands College employers breakfast during Apprenticeship week about her experience and we are incredibly proud of her achievements.

Hugh  came next in September 2017 as well as reducing the average age considerably he totally threw out the gender split. A man at My Mustard, who knew? He made an instant impact in the marketing department whilst studying for his Level 4 qualification. He helped write and deliver the social strategy that is integral to the My Mustard brand as well as co-hosting A Little Bit Of Networking and representing us at exhibitions. He hopes to finish in March this year when he will join us permanently supporting key marketing accounts, hosting/attending regional networking events.

More recently (May and July 2018 respectively) the simple yet fruitful apprenticeship machine delivered Beth (20) and Max (18) to MM Towers; Beth is perfectly suited to account management with a strong background in retail and enviable customer service skills and Max is super smart with Photoshop and video and has brought next generation creativity to the MM marketing team. Unless they do something awful – like forget to make June a cuppa – they will also join Team Mustard permanently when they complete the studies.

They are all Business Admin apprentices rather than Digital Marketing apprentices as I want the next wave of Mustardeers to get a thoroughly broad understanding of the business world –networking, time management, discipline, client liaison, finance, product development, meetings, sales, cashflow, events marketing, account management. You get the picture, and Number 5 will be joining us in the Spring.

We are proud members of the 5% Club, a dynamic movement of employer-members working to create a shared prosperity across the UK by driving ‘earn and learn’ skills training opportunities. 2019 is looking super exciting as we have been nominated in the Best Apprenticeship category at the biz4Biz Awards 2019 by a colleague at Hertfordshire Growth Hub but we need your help to get shortlisted. If you have had the pleasure of meeting any one of our cracking apprentices Chloe, Hugh, Beth, Max then you will know a) how fabulous they are and b) what a key role they play in Team Mustard and c) how seriously we take our apprenticeship programme run in association with training partner Oaklands College. If you can help us move on in the competition by voting for us, I’d be forever grateful.

My Mustard, a little bit goes a long way. Your support will help us go a bit further.