Case Studies

House of Commons: A Coffee with the Clerk

September 11, 2016 9:47 pm

The London Apprenticeship Company went to meet David Natzler the Clerk of the House of Commons to talk about their Apprenticeship scheme.

What is the House Service?

“There are about 2000 people who work for the House of Commons Service some of them also work for the House of Lords, in other words they are providing services to both house some of them are just providing services to the House of Commons and it’s a huge range of jobs from office jobs, catering jobs with a large catering department; providing a lot of restaurants, banqueting facilities and so on, we have a Works Department so we have a lot of craft employees, doing various things in maintenance, building project management and so on. We have hundreds of researchers people doing analysis of politics and policies for Members and we have all the people who man all the Select Committees, so they’re doing again policy analysis, they’re a sort of secretariat and so we have a Human Resources Department without which nothing will happen or lots of things might happen which shouldn’t and a Finance Department and so what is unusual about it is that it’s a fairly small organisation in some ways but it does have an unusual spread of skills.”

Why Set Up an Apprenticeship Scheme?

“It was my predecessor Robert Rogers who set this up who was very keen on it as I am as well in 2011 when he took over it was one of the things that he desperately wanted to do and it was for two purposes, one was to give an opportunity to exclusively young people many young people who would never have thought of coming to work for us in the House of Commons but who could offer something and for various reasons maybe needed some help to find a job and to get a qualification. So that was an outreach, if you like, to help them but it was also to help the House of Commons Service draw on the widest possible pool of talent because if we’re not recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent we’re not the best service we can possibly be. That’s obviously not a unique perception form here every employer has that feeling that they want a diverse workforce because they want to get the best staff. So we are not doing it as a charity or for fun and we found from it, I think a third unexpected benefit that it has benefited the staff who already work here. Those who manage the Apprentices have gained from it personally and professionally a great deal some of them have never managed another member of staff before because of their grade and the nature of their job and they’ve found it intensely rewarding, both professionally and of course personally to have someone to help, to transmit their skills, their experience to and to see them grow and then often get a job here. That has been really satisfying for them, it has had a ripple effect of saying ‘we are a good place to work for, we are proud to work for the House of Commons Service and this is one of the things we do.”

The Benefits of Apprenticeships?

“Well Apprenticeships offer that mixture of people being on the job and doing something, these are not made up jobs, the Apprentices are doing, Apprenticeships are obviously real jobs at the same time they are getting visibly better because they are going off for training every week on Fridays and at the end of it they get an award, they get a vocational qualification which prove that their Apprenticeship has lead on to a defined level of skill. So if we just advertised the jobs I suspect other peop0le might have got them, let’s be honest about that, this is in that sense potentially a displacement taking an Apprenticeship but these are people that might not have had the demonstrable experience or skill to get the job but experience has shown by working as an Apprentice getting the additional training and especially the on-the-job confidence and learning that it gives them then at the end of it, they are skilled people and that’s then end of an Apprenticeship is an achievement of a certifiable skill level and then many of the Apprentices have stayed on here and have actually got proper full time jobs here, some of them turn limited some have gone elsewhere which is just great.”

Ambitions for the Future

“Ultimately my ambition is for someone who started as an Apprentice will wear this badge in 30 years time there is absolutely no reason why the Clerk of the House shouldn’t have started as an Apprentice. A lot of our FTSE 100 companies now have Chief Executives who started as an Apprentice somewhere not necessarily the same company. So especially as we roll out the idea of Apprenticeship to things other than the conventional areas you might expect to find an Apprenticeship it becomes more and more like that this is the way in which the career progression goes rather than assuming that the graduate fast track entry, as it currently is, is the only way to get on in the Service.”

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