Apprenticeships: Are they suited for your business?

As many businesses grow their client base, their turnover and their services, they will need to grow their workforce. This could be a whole new ball game for some including setting up a pension scheme and contracts, amongst other things.

One key area that can be a great door opener for a small business looking to expand their workforce, is apprenticeships. They can prove to be a valuable resource to a business for several reasons:

  • They are usually keen to learn and want to prove themselves to you, as you're investing in them as a person,
  • They can often bring fresh ideas to the business and keep the business up-to-date with things such as technology,
  • They are often loyal and enthusiastic,
  • You can often shape them to your business and methods, and teach them your business' way of working,
  • The apprentice will often be working towards a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) at the same time, so they will also benefit from new skills and knowledge,
  • It may be a better move financially for the business, and grants or part funding are often available too

Where do I start?

If you think apprenticeships are the right route for you and your business, you can quite easily get the ball rolling by contacting the relevant agency.

England

In England, this is the Skills Agency. You can fill in an enquiry form online here.

Scotland

Scotland's apprenticeships are managed by Skills Development Scotland. You can register your interest in the scheme (for new and existing employees) on their website here.

Wales

Apprenticeships in Wales are managed by the Welsh Government.

Northern Ireland

Invest Northern Ireland has a good information page on apprenticeships for both those looking to employ one, and those looking to take part in one. You can find it here.

How much are apprentices paid?

An apprentice rate is currently £3.30 per hour (correct as of June 2016) providing they are under 19 years of age. This also only applies for the first year of their apprenticeship. Those doing an apprenticeship age 19 or over, or those who have completed their first year, are entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW), as outlined on the Gov UK website.

How can I make the most out of an apprentice?

If an apprenticeship is done through a training agency, they're often appointed a mentor or an assessor (the relevant organisation for your area should be able to advise you on this). They are there for both you and the apprentice and should be able to help with any queries you have, or put you in contact with someone who can help.

You should also try and establish goals and performance indications with the apprentice to ensure they are meeting the criteria of the apprenticeship itself. You will also need to ensure there's a term in your contract so that you can dismiss an apprentice for poor performance. Hopefully you'll never require this, but it's worth having just in case. It's worth remembering however, that in most situations you can't make an apprentice redundant.

Is it worth it?

Between the knowledge, the enthusiasm, the ideas and energy from an apprentice, more and more businesses find them useful. The Government are pushing the idea of apprenticeships and even introducing an apprenticeship levy for large employers to help fund the scheme from 2017.

If you would like more information, check out the Get In, Go Far web site, or speak to your local apprenticeship provider (details above).

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