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Employing Apprentices For Over 100 Years

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week Family Business United spoke to a number of family firms that employ apprentices to get their insights. Here, we find out from Ellie Jobes, Group HR Director at Bagnalls how important apprentices are to their business.

Established in 1875, Bagnalls continues to be one of the country’s leading painting, decorating and specialist industrial coatings contractors.

The company was formed over 145 years ago in Shipley, West Yorkshire, where the Head Office still resides. Since then, the Bagnall Group of Companies has become renowned in the UK for its ability to undertake contracts successfully in any location, of any size, nature or duration with the personal service that one expects from a firm now in its fifth generation.

Bagnalls’ outstanding reputation has been achieved and maintained through a succession of experienced managers and staff, working together with a well-trained team of directly employed operatives and apprentices.

As Ellie explains, “Here at Bagnalls we have been employing apprentices for over 100 years and we currently employ 57 apprentices, most of whom are studying painting and decorating. This training provides us with a skilled workforce for the future and over the years we have found that many of those starting out on an apprenticeship with us go on to have a long career with the firm. Some of our apprentices go on to become supervisors and contracts managers. Half of our current branch managers are former apprentices and two of our main board directors did their painting and decorating apprenticeships with Bagnalls.”

Bagnalls have been recognised for their work with apprentices and acclaimed as a Top 100 Apprenticeship employer which shows the impact that they are making nationally too. With a long history as a family firm, currently working towards celebrating their 150th anniversary, Bagnalls have an integrated approach to the introduction of apprentices to ensure that core family values and the history and heritage that comes with a multi-generational family business is also understood by all those joining the firm.

As Ellie continues, “All of our employees, including all of our apprentices, go through a full induction. This includes getting an introduction to the history of Bagnalls and our 10 core company values. Each apprentice works for a particular Bagnalls branch and attends a local college for much of their training. They also attend our Painting Academy in Doncaster where they receive training from our in-house tutor, Joel Mortlock, himself a former Bagnalls apprentice. This allows them to meet apprentices from other branches around the UK as well as developing their skills,” continues Ellie.

When it comes to the bigger picture, apprentices can be a real asset to family firms and as Ellie confirms, “Apprenticeships fit well with the values of many family businesses by providing opportunities to grow skilled talent for the future.”

Like all programmes, the proof of their success is how the apprentices themselves view the programme and the opportunity, as well as in the numbers that remain with the business well after their apprenticeship has concluded to further their careers.

Luke is a Level 2 Painting and Decorating apprentice and believes his apprenticeship “gives me the opportunity to work independently. As an apprentice we get shown a lot which in turn gives us the ability to organise a job from start to finish. This apprenticeship gives me the opportunity to see what standard I am and to gain the confidence to progress.”

Jacob is also a Level 2 Painting and Decorating apprentice and agrees. “What I like about the Bagnalls apprenticeship programme is how everyone supports your progression. It gives you the opportunity for a long-lasting career.”

Cassie, another Level 2 Painting and Decorating apprentice is another example of someone that is embracing the opportunity that comes with the apprenticeship adding that “I like how we get to practice and learn about different aspects of painting and decorating. It gives you the chance to work by yourself and as part of a team and there is scope to develop a career with Bagnalls too.”

Lewis is a Level 5 HR Consultant Partner apprentice and recognises the way he gets to learn new skills whilst working at the same time. “The fact that I can put into practice what I learn on my course into real life situations in my role here at Bagnalls is helping me improve daily. I am well supported by both colleagues and tutors and feel that this way of on-the-job learning is providing me with the skills I need to succeed and offers the perfect balance between education and my career.”

Clearly, since they employed their first apprentice a century ago the world has changed. However the apprenticeships on offer are clearly offering a great career path to the next generation of employees and it is great to see the programme demonstrating results.

Bagnalls invest in their staff and the creation of their own Painting Academy is testament to their belief in the programme and the value that are derived from their apprentices too. The fact that many remain with the business for years to develop their career is also a great metric, clearly demonstrating that there are benefits from their endeavours to provide apprentices with the opportunity to flourish within the organisation too.


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