When you learn on the job, you’re learning the skills as you’re doing them

We spoke with James Brightwell, Senior L&D Business Partner at Pioneer Credit Limited. In this interview he talks about their traineeship program and how they got started. 

Tell us about Pioneer Credit.

Pioneer Credit is an Australian financial services provider with more than 200,000 customers throughout Australia & New Zealand. Simply put, we purchase outstanding accounts from banks, financial institutions and utilities providers, then over time work with our customers to help them repay the debt.  Pioneer’s focus is on providing customers with exceptional levels of service along with a range of solutions to help them achieve their financial goals.

It’s normally a challenging life event that’s led customers into a tricky situation in the first place, like bereavement or divorce. Customers come to us with a range of experiences and emotions, and we need to be sensitive in a way that encourages them to open up and share where they’re at. It’s only by doing this, that we can help.

Why have you started taking on trainees? 

At the end of 2020, we decided to shake up our recruitment and training. We wanted to increase our Account Manager retention through better training and development. We knew that by helping employees build skills, they’d be better at their job and enjoy it more.

We partnered with a registered training organisation (RTO) that was able to customise a traineeship, building in elements of business and customer service. This means we can cover skills like resilience, communication and financial targets. We’ve also made sure the traineeships complement our existing learning and development framework.

We then started looking for a traineeship provider who could help us navigate funding, sign ups and contract management. After meeting with a few, we knew The Apprenticeship Community was the one for us. The team really knew their stuff, guided us through the whole process and told us how we could maximise traineeships in the business.

A not-for-profit, The Apprenticeship Community is well established in the community. They’re experts in applying for funding, recruitment & onboarding, apprentice & trainee mentoring and provide ongoing wraparound support.

We now have over 100 trainees on the program and are expecting to reach over 200 by March next year! 

Tell us more about the role and the initial training.

Our trainee Account Managers spend their typical day locating and contacting customers who have changed contact details since opening their account. Using a range of online systems and tools, our Account Managers reach out to a customer’s network to get back in touch and then assist them in becoming debt-free with a tailored solution for their circumstances.

These new recruits receive immersive training – getting stuck into the systems, and completing practical activities like role-plays, from the very start. They have four days with a trainer in our custom-built classroom before they transition to the Operations floor where the customer service happens. There, the trainees are surrounded by supportive leaders and trainers for six weeks as they observe calls and start on the phones.

They continue with ongoing coaching sessions every month. It’s important that they learn the skills critical to their role such as critical thinking, communication, resilience and financial literacy.

We’re also developing pathways for all interests – those who want to become a leader or specialist in a certain field, or those who simply want to grow as an Account Manager. 

For you, what are the benefits of vocational learning?

When you learn on the job, you’re learning the skills as you’re doing them. It’s not just theory that you apply later on. All the content you’re soaking up is likely to be experienced and implemented that very same day in real situations.

For example, our Account Managers may learn about resilience in their training and then get to practice it straight away when they take a call. Their uptake and absorption of learning is going to be much higher than someone who needs to wait years or months to implement a learned theory.

They’re also surrounded by experienced colleagues and leaders. These are people that will support and teach them organically. If they were studying independently, they wouldn’t be able to learn from peers in the same way.

What would you say to another business considering traineeships?

If you have junior roles that you need to fill, consider a traineeship. The potential you’re bringing in and developing is enormous. Including a formal qualification in the role description will attract a higher quality of candidate too.

Launching traineeships or apprenticeships in your business is a no brainer with all the support that’s out there. Not only is it cost-effective, it’s also good for your business, employees and customers. It’s an easy pitch to senior management!

Make sure you partner with an experienced training provider that can tailor the learning to what you need.

As a business, where do you want to be in six months’ time? 

We want all our team members to enjoy working for us and want to stay with us. We’d like higher performance across the business, more positive feedback and clear development pathways for all trainees.

A few months in, things are looking really positive. Our first sign ups were in April, and we’ll do a comprehensive review after six months. But the feedback so far is good.

We’re looking into developing other traineeships too, for entry level positions across our corporate functions.

What benefits are you seeing as a business?

Aside from increased retention, we’re forecasting material savings on wages from national subsidies and state incentives, as well as increased performance and more loyal employees.

Calculate how much you could save at The Apprentice Community. We can help with apprenticeships and traineeships in Perth and WA.

Find out more about Pioneer Credit.

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