You can’t win anything with kids

As a lifelong Liverpool fan (I’m not a Scouser and it’s a very long story) Alan Hanson is pretty much a god to me.  However, the comment by the Anfield legend and professionally dour faced Scottish TV pundit’s famous comment over 20 years ago is something that I couldn’t disagree with more if I tried. For me, in business, it has been my experience that betting on youth (apprentices) really can pay off especially within the SME space where recruitment and retention of talent is probably one of the key challenges facing businesses.

One of the key reasons that I invested in Systemagic last year was the focus on youth and team development building on the Systemagic methodology and approach to making IT work for our clients through apprentices.

Central to that youth team has been James’ commitment to the apprentice programme for which we won an award in 2014 and for which we are nominated again this year (fingers crossed).  Indeed within the team now are 4 former apprentices of which 2 are fully qualified, 1 is about to qualify and Rhys has been our latest recruit, albeit we are on the look out for one more in 2016 so if you know anyone please pass them our way.

Interestingly during National Apprenticeship Week I was asked at a dinner recently why I was so passionate about developing youth having spoken about it several times at events such as Prelude Group’s Speaker Boutique series amongst others and for me it boils down to three reasons:

  1. Culture, culture, culture

In my view the key difference that sets entrepreneurial SME’s apart from large corporates is their culture, indeed, often they are formed precisely to do something different to what is out their because of an identified gap in the market.

At Systemagic our focus is on making sure technology works for business and the people in them and not adding technology for the sake of it.  Therefore we find its really refreshing to recruit a young team and train them in the way we do things as they have no preconceptions and really embrace people-centric IT support.

  1. Acquiring fresh skills

The market in general, and technology in particular, is moving so fast these days that in order to keep up we have found that we need a fresh supply of young talent with the cutting edge knowledge and understanding.

Whilst there is always room for experience and grey hair (but I would say that wouldn’t I!) these days sometimes youth is absolutely mission critical and apprentices are a really good way of capturing youthful knowledge and skills and placing them in a business environment in an organised manner.

  1. Building a dynasty

As a Liverpool supporter watching what that other professional misery Sir Alex did was really, really painful.  But one thing is certainly true that team of young talent including Beckham, Giggs, Scholes et al. supplemented by one or two world class players went on to dominate their particular market for over a decade.  In my view as an investor and director of high growth businesses this aspiration is key.  I want my teams to be building for the business we want to be and not the business we are and with the young team at Systemagic I believe we have a pretty good start with our apprentices at the heart.

So I am very sorry Mr Hanson, Sir, but you are wrong.  You can win stuff with kids and we at Systemagic will continue to try to do that by placing our apprentice programme at the very heart of what we do.  And whether we win our award later this week or not….we will still be cheering National Apprenticeship Week next year by which time we hope to have added 2/3 more apprentices to the mix!

My other ramblings can be followed on Twitter if you feel the need via  @MartinRSpiller

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