At Beaufort Financial we offer business planning and financial advice. A year ago, we had a staff of five and wanted to grow the business and invest in training the current staff but were unsure of the way forward. The prospect of taking on an apprenticeship seemed too much of a commitment and firmly aimed at school leavers with few formal qualifications. We were wrong! Apprenticeships can be offered to all age groups; job seekers who are new to employment, including graduates; as well as existing employees. From my involvement in the Professional and Business Services Board at the LEP and also through my membership of the St Helens Chamber of Commerce I have had my eyes opened to the flexibility and range of apprenticeships; plus the support, through the Apprenticeship Hub, to source fantastic talent into our organisation. We now have a staff of seven, of which two – nearly 33%, are apprentices. This has transformed the business, bringing new ideas and invigorating how we operate. Our business is about managing money for our clients through our hugely successful risk rated portfolios, which are run in conjunction with Beaufort Investment Management. Our particular specialist area is the “at, or approaching retirement market”, and developing exit strategies for business owners. I have recently recruited two trainee advisers who are a few months into their 18-month apprenticeship programme – at the end of which they will have taken the six exams required to reach diploma level in Regulated Financial Planning. This enables them to give authorised financial advice to clients. The course is a combination of in-house work, personal study and one day per month residential training. The apprentices were recruited from Liverpool John Moores University and Edge Hill University and have degrees in Accountancy & Finance and Business & Economics. Ninety percent of the course costs are provided by the Government Apprenticeship Scheme with a ten percent contribution from ourselves, and we pay the graduates salaries. Their combination of youth and exuberance, as well as their strong IT skills has helped galvanise our business and encouraged me to also approach Hope University and the Management School at the University of Liverpool to enquire about further candidates. We have also put through two of our existing administration team on to another apprenticeship scheme through St Helens Chamber of Commerce. This is a lighter touch programme, over 18 months, and they will have nationally recognised certificates in financial administration at the end of the programme. All this shows how smaller firms can still implement upskilling and use apprenticeships as part of their business growth strategy and succession planning. This not only benefits us and the apprentices but is also positive for the wider economy. The information and support I received from the Apprenticeship Hub, Chambers of Commerce and universities is accessible and open to everyone. I would urge all businesses, whatever size, to look into apprenticeships with an open mind and consider all the different options available. Leigh Tarleton, Managing Director, Beaufort Financial Pictured: Liam Tomlinson of Beaufort Financial (end right) at the launch of the Professional & Business Services Skills for Growth Action Plan in January 2019 with fellow apprentices from other firms.