Simple Examples of Effective Apprenticeships’ Practices in SMEs

This case provides examples of:

  • How apprentices can contribute effectively when given responsibilities with real problems and real tasks.
  • How it pays off to “think out of the box” while exploring possibilities of cooperation. Launching an online apprenticeship scheme is a real possibility for any company nowadays, as even if their office is not as virtualized as KIC’s already was, this can be solved with some investments in software apps to support communication and project management as needed. These investments will be largely compensated by the online nature of the apprenticeship, as many costs related with the physical infrastructures needed for face-to-face apprenticeships are saved, resulting in overall savings for the whole apprenticeship scheme and a much efficient return on investment for the company hosting the online placement.
KIC – Embracing online apprenticeships

The Knowledge Innovation Centre in Malta (KIC) is a dynamic consultancy focusing on knowledge brokerage and innovation of knowledge transfer processes. The Centre brings together a variety of local and European experts from a variety of fields and has worked extensively within Quality Assurance of Higher Education, Technology enhanced Learning, Student Services and the knowledge economy (as it relates to the Lisbon Agenda and Barcelona Process). The Centre has forged close relationships with a number of stakeholders in the regional innovation and Higher Education fields and is active in leveraging such relationships to build multi-disciplinary, multi-country networks for knowledge transfer and capitalization.

Given the nature and geographic scope of its activities, KIC´s work force is spread across several countries and most of it is composed of highly mobile individuals, used to work from wherever they are at any given moment. To enable this, KIC uses a variety of web-based managements tools that assure adequate team communication and effective remote project management and, having this online structure in place, the next natural step was to extend it also to apprentices.

However, creating a placement for an apprentice in these conditions, implies the apprentice to immerse in this digital hyper-mobile culture and get used to perform her/his tasks remotely as well, receiving guidance and seeking support through online means such as email, messenger and web-meeting apps. The first apprentice to embrace an apprenticeship at KIC was a young Slovene designer and on top of the before mentioned challenges she also had a few others related with the technical-scientific side of the placement, as given the nature of KIC’s activity and the number of research projects running simultaneously, she had to understand not only the personality of the company but also of each project to which she had to create corporate images and branded materials to.

In these circumstances, a good briefing was therefore essential, so she could understand the online characteristics of the placement. An adequate induction phase to assure she got acquainted and comfortable working with the many web-based software tools that support and assure communication and project management was also of paramount importance to allow her to start working and adding value in an effective and efficient way.

KIC´s internal digital culture and this apprentice digital literacy and easiness with web-based tools were key to the success of the experience, as it was her fluency in English as a bridge language to assure clear communication between all parties involved. During her time as an apprentice at KIC, this young designer was treated as a professional member of staff and given the opportunity to develop work for many ERASMUS+ applied research projects which was an excellent start for her professional curriculum vitae. Her overall performance and creative work was much appreciated both by KIC and by its European partners so it was already decided that after her graduation KIC intends to make her a full member of their staff and expects she will accept the offer.