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18 January 2019
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The apprenticeship approach: City or Arsenal?

24 January 2014

“Should I promote through the ranks or recruit externally?” It’s a question every manager has to ask themselves when they have a new role to fill.

Now I’m no football expert, but I do think the contrasting approaches of some football clubs provide a good example of the impact of promoting young talent versus external recruitment.
There are two ways to build a winning team. The first is to focus on recruiting stars in a bid to form a ‘dream team’, which I’ll call the ‘Manchester City approach’, and the second is to focus on promoting young talent and try to grow them into stars, which I’ll call the ‘Arsenal approach’.
Two teams that can compete with the best but have built their teams in very different ways. Neither approach is wrong, but what impact does each strategy have on long term success and organisational culture? 
The Manchester City approach, where gaps are filled by looking externally, can be an effective way to bring fresh ideas and different ways of operating into an organisation. New faces can be a motivator for everyone around them. It would be interesting to see what this strategy has on the younger players at Manchester City; do they see their future elsewhere if they are to get an opportunity to progress? 
The Arsenal approach, which favours promoting through the ranks, gives opportunities to young emerging talent to prove themselves and encourages loyalty. However, some may argue this is to the detriment of achieving success. The question is whether their focus on promoting youth means they lack the ‘wise heads’ that provide the leadership and guidance every team needs.
I think most companies would like to believe they are largely taking the Arsenal approach. With this, there is no need to use recruitment consultants, which can make the process more cost effective, and it’s less risky as you already know an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Being in a position to do so relies on having structures in place to identify and nurture young talent within the business. Mitie’s apprentice scheme is one example of those important structures.
Apprenticeships are a passion of mine; it’s where I started my career, as did many of my directors. A couple of weeks ago I presented the awards at Mitie’s annual Apprentice of the Year ceremony, and I came away from it knowing that the investment we are making in our young people is paying off. We have now built a strong pipeline of talent, and the scheme will continue to feed this pipeline into the future.
Investing in training young people and the apprentice scheme is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s a business necessity. We need to ensure we have a pipeline of skilled and talented employees to help secure the future of the business, and it’s about more than just picking up a skill set. Through their training and development our apprentices get a more rounded experience, and can absorb the culture and values of the organisation, such as who we are, how we work with our clients, and our unique approach to service delivery.
Our apprentices know that if they work hard then the opportunities will be there to pursue a successful career. It’s essential all employees see that these opportunities exist, because if they don’t then they will rightly look for them elsewhere. I think it’s important to recognise potential, to not be afraid to promote young, and to give people responsibility early on in their careers. It may seem risky to some, but it’s a strategy that can garner great reward.
So which approach is right? Well it isn’t that clear cut and there is a balance to be struck between bringing new people into the business and internal promotion. However, I believe securing the long term success of Mitie will be best achieved by investing in training and retaining the best talent. This will ensure we maintain a diverse workforce that can support the business for years to come.

Pete Mosley is managing director of Mitie Technical Facilities Management.