From Apprentice to Managing Director: Justin Hevness

Posted by: Tom Post Date: 9th March 2016

Justin Hevness is the Managing Director of Firth & Scott Insurance Brokers, and has been with the company ever since he started on an apprenticeship in October 1986. With thirty years of service, his rise from an apprenticeship is proof that stepping into a junior position and showing the determination to succeed can pay off massively.

After finishing Sixth Form College, Justin enrolled on a Government run Youth Training Scheme, which involved day release to attend Babington Group for business and insurance classes. With a passion to learn and develop, he progressed through various roles at Firth & Scott, admiring the work of his Managing Director. His desire was to one day step into that position and run the company.

After years of commitment and hard work, he was promoted from supervisor, to a manager of two offices with a company car, to a director with shareholding. With the previous Managing Director stepping down, Justin proudly took the responsibility of running Firth & Scott.

We caught up with him to ask about his own experience, and how apprenticeships can benefit other businesses.

Thanks for speaking to us Justin. First off, how did your apprenticeship prepare you for working life?

Looking back, I think my apprenticeship prepared me very well for all the challenges in the business world, and gave me a really good grounding. I think a lot has changed in since then, but I still remember the groups we worked in during our business calculations and workplace etiquette classes. Of course, the apprenticeship also helped me settle into my first role at Firth & Scott, and set me on my path for the future.

Obviously from finishing an apprenticeship at Babington, I know the company well. We’ve used them previously to bring in apprentices, and will continue to refer to Babington in the future.

Justin in the early days of Firth & Scott.

What advice would you give to young people looking to make the next step?

I feel that a lot of potential apprentices are worried about low wages, but at Firth & Scott we start our apprentices at the adult minimum wage rather than the apprenticeship wage. And if you keep your eye out for opportunities at other businesses, you realise that ‘low apprenticeship wages’ is a bit of a myth. Also, if an apprentice proves their worth, they won’t be on a minimum wage for long at all.

But my main advice would be to push yourself. There was not one job in our business that I didn’t do. The people that have stuck with us at Firth & Scott have had the same enthusiasm as me, and have thrived under the challenges of working from the bottom to the top. Like I said, persistence is key – and that’s a value we hold dearly at Firth & Scott.

What advice has stayed with you ever since your apprenticeship?

I think the main thing I learnt is always to keep at it. Persistence is key. I saw my manager and thought to myself ‘I want to do what he’s doing,’ but of course I didn’t right away. You might start out doing jobs you don’t like or you find boring, like filing and photocopying. But if you work hard enough and show a willingness to learn you will quickly start to work your way up the ladder.

I’ve realised that sometimes, young people can step into an apprenticeship or their first job and expect everything straight away. What’s important is being patient and learning about the business, biting your tongue, and showing your worth to your employer.

What do you feel apprenticeships have offered your business, and how can other businesses benefit?

Over the years we have appointed apprentices in our business, mainly with great success. Currently we have Samantha Scothern who has been with us for 13 years, and was with Babington for 4 years as she went for the advanced courses. She has progressed through our company and is a key employee in our commercial department as a Commercial Account Handler.

We also have another success in Stevie Ridgley who joined us in May 2011 at the age of 23 as an apprentice and completed a year with Babington. She has worked her way through the ranks and passed various exams, and has very recently also been made a director of the company.

We have found apprentices give us the chance to mould a new employee from scratch, and instil them with good habits. Sometimes, more experienced candidates can pick up bad habits from other businesses or roles. With an apprentice, you also get someone hungry for the experience with the motivation to prove themselves. Our business and many other businesses have thrived from ‘new blood’ developed from the apprenticeship scheme.

Justin working his way through the ranks.

What advice would you give to young people looking to make the next step?

I feel that a lot of potential apprentices are worried about low wages, but at Firth & Scott we start our apprentices at the adult minimum wage rather than the apprenticeship wage. And if you keep your eye out for opportunities at other businesses, you realise that ‘low apprenticeship wages’ is a bit of a myth. Also, if an apprentice proves their worth, they won’t be on a minimum wage for long at all.

But my main advice would be to push yourself. There was not one job in our business that I didn’t do. The people that have stuck with us at Firth & Scott have had the same enthusiasm as me, and have thrived under the challenges of working from the bottom to the top. Like I said, persistence is key – and that’s a value we hold dearly at Firth & Scott.

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