UCW’s President Interviews Euan Blair, Founder and CEO of WhiteHat
UCW News Team | January 04, 2017
As part a new series of video interviews promoted by University Canada West, Euan Blair, entrepreneur and founder of apprenticeships business WhiteHat, met with UCW Vice-Chancellor, Dr Arthur Coren. They discussed the changing landscape of education in the UK, how apprenticeship opportunities are helping young people, and Euan’s own experiences of starting a new business.
After graduating from Yale University first working as an investment banker and then as UK CEO of employment and training provider, The Sarina Russo Group, Mr Blair decided to launch his own business. He said: “It’s very difficult to galvanize an existing business and transform it in the way that you want. It’s much easier to set up something new and fix it very clearly with one aim.”
“The aim for us is quite simple:, it is to ensure that we have a properly viable alternative to university, that it’s high quality, and that it can enhance social mobility in the UK.”
Around 18 months ago, new legislation was introduced by the UK government called “The Apprenticeship Levy” under which large companies have to dedicate at least 0.5% of their yearly payroll towards training apprentices.;If they fail to do so, they forfeit that amount to the government. Commenting on this, Mr Blair said: “It has created this incredible dynamic, where suddenly employers need to engage very seriously with this program.”
“You’ve got the likes of Goldman Sachs, or a large football club, having to take on apprentices or give the money up in a tax. So you’ve got high quality opportunities being created all over the place.”
Discussing the benefits companies can gain by taking on apprentices, Mr Blair said: “There’s a lot of data out there on this, and everything suggests that a young apprentice is more likely to stay with your business, and is more likely to adapt to the way you want to work.”
Whilst apprenticeships have traditionally focused on vocational professions like plumbing, mechanics, and carpentry, the new legislation has opened up opportunities for young people in a much wider variety of careers. Using a company like WhiteHat, young people “could go and become an accounting apprentice, an IT apprentice, or an apprentice in finance and HR.”
Talking about his own experience in business, Mr Blair said: “The best advice I got was quite basic, it was to make sure you’re working harder than everyone else.”
“It doesn’t matter what part of the business you're in; if you're running the business or if you've just started on an apprenticeship scheme, you have got to be working harder than everyone else because that’s how you distinguish yourself.” He added.
Mr Blair gave his own advice to young people undecided about what they want to do in the future, saying: “Don’t be daunted that you don’t know exactly what it is you want to do:- that’s incredibly normal! Make sure you keep your options fairly wide open.”