Apprentices have been a key component of Forrit’s success thus far and moving forward they will shape the future of the company, according to CEO Peter Proud.
“It’s brought youth and enthusiasm to the company,” Proud insists. “We’ve also been able to help mould and shape the students to become exactly the kind of people we need.”
“Undoubtedly, it’s been the second-best thing I’ve done in business, other than starting the company,” Proud adds.
This week marks a significant moment for the team at Forrit; the company has rebranded from its previous name, Cortex Worldwide, and welcomed three new additions to its board, including Microsoft executive Steven Guggenheimer.
These announcements herald a new era in the company’s journey, and Proud told DIGIT that one of his first decisions as chief exec of the newly-named company was to hire five more apprentices; Thomas McGill, Sam Wilson, Domenico Sergio and Fiona Inglis.
The fifth graduate, Sacha Miller-Salzman, is joining the company straight out of high school. Proud insisted that this latest flurry of new hires at Forrit marks one of his proudest moments in business and underlines the company’s aspirations moving forward.
“It’s a really exciting time and I’m personally excited at the fact that my first action as CEO in this period is to announce apprentices,” he says.
“I think it shows we are investing in our future and speaks volumes about our company culture. We’re not afraid to try new things, we’re inclusive and forward-thinking,” Proud adds.
Proud has been a vocal proponent of graduate apprenticeships for quite some time now. Around 20% of the company’s workforce is already comprised of apprentices, and it’s a stat he takes pride in.
For him, investing in and nurturing talent is key to ensuring long-term success at Forrit as well as Scotland’s tech sector as a whole.
“I think any technical degree should be a graduate apprenticeship because you get hands-on experience working with the latest technology and encounter the latest practical methodologies,” he says.
“There should be a greater focus on this, and they shouldn’t be viewed as a secondary option for someone who couldn’t get to university,” Proud adds.
Access to talent has been a recurring topic in the Scottish tech sector, and on a national scale, digital skills development from primary school upward is an area which the Scottish Government has placed a great focus on.
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Through apprenticeships, Proud believes individual companies have a prime opportunity to shape their future workforce and pro-actively solve the lingering issue of talent – which he claims many spend too much time talking about, and not enough time tackling.
“I think a lot of people like to sit and complain about a ‘lack of skills’, but don’t do anything or contribute to fixing it,” he asserts.
“There’s a lot of things in place for companies to actually do something about this, so sitting on the fence moaning is pointless. All you’ve got to do is provide a salary,” he says.
On a company-to-company basis, graduate apprentices will have a varying impact. At Forrit, Proud says that very quickly their students are returning the initial investment. Straight away they are becoming a revenue source for the company and, crucially, an integral facet of how the company operates and innovates.
The bottom line for Proud is that any company neglecting graduate apprenticeships is neglecting its own future.
“Any software or tech business that doesn’t have graduate apprentices is letting itself down and should be ashamed of themselves, because irrespective of your size, you have to be investing in your future and in talent,” he says.