Taking on an apprentice can be a rewarding experience, it allows young people and adult learners to gain a qualification while developing practical, on-the-job skills. But if the process is a little foggy to you as an employer, check out this guide on where to start, how to go about it, and things to consider when taking on a trade apprentice.
Generally, an apprenticeship follows a framework which will usually include a vocational qualification and a technical certificate, as well as offering the apprentice the opportunity to learn lots of functional, trade-related skills.
Why do I need an apprentice?
Taking on an apprentice can benefit your company in several ways. Firstly, because you’re giving your company an extra pair of hands on the job. Which could be the difference between completing a job on time and having to explain to your customers why the project won’t be ready for the date you originally said it would be.
Taking on an apprentice can also be a very cost-effective way of bringing in new skills to your company, and could even fill a skill gap that was previously missing in your workforce. For example, if you’re finding that you are receiving a lot of enquiries for landscaping work, but don’t have the technical know-how in your company, you could take on an apprentice specifically for this role.
Not only that but having an apprentice can give an employer more control over the way that the job is carried out. After all, it’s easier to train an apprentice, than someone with experience and bad habits.
Finally, taking on an apprentice is a great way to build a business for the future. They will often provide fresh new talent and a new take on the way a company works. Both of which are essential to any business that wants to grow, progress and keep up with its competitors.
Can I employ an apprentice?
Yes, you can, but there are a number of requirements that an employer must meet beforehand.
There are some slight differences in apprenticeship programme requirements, but in most cases an employer will need to:
- Employ the apprentice for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
- Pay at least the national minimum wage for apprentices, which is currently £3.30 per hour.
- Make sure that the apprentice is properly inducted to the business.
- Support the apprentice’s on-the-job learning, using skills and knowledge in the workforce.
- Regularly review the progress of the apprentice.
If the apprentice is older than 18, the apprenticeship will usually last longer than a year. For instance, in high-level fields such as engineering, many apprenticeships are required to last several years.
Keep in mind, that if the apprentice is over the age of 24 they will only have a proportion of their training paid for depending on the trade they’re learning.
Apprentice or trainee?
The one key difference between apprentices and trainees is the amount of commitment put in by both the learner and the employer.
Under an apprenticeship:
- The employer agrees to employ someone for the term of the apprenticeship and to support them in their training for that period of time.
- The apprentice agrees to follow instruction and attend off-the-job and/or workplace-based training.
- Should the employer sell the business during an apprenticeship, the new employer must honour the original training contract.
- Once the probationary period of the training contract has passed, all parties must agree in order for the contract to be cancelled.
- An apprentice must be issued with an employment contract, which offers them all the rights of a regular employee.
Under a traineeship:
- The employer agrees to employ someone for the term of the traineeship and to support that person’s training for that period of time.
- If the business is sold, the new employer doesn’t have to keep the trainee.
- Both employer and trainee may also cancel the contract by signing a cancellation form or letter stating the date of cancellation. No mutual agreement is required.
As such, it’s absolutely crucial that an employer has employers’ liability insurance before they recruit. Which means they’re covered against claims made by any apprentice or employee who’s been injured during the course of their employment.
So of course, there are benefits to both apprenticeships and traineeships. It all boils down to what suits you best as the employer, and what is going to benefit your company most of all.
How do I find an apprentice?
There are several ways in which you can recruit an apprentice.
For instance, you may already have someone suitable working for you. If you already have an employee who you think would be interested, you could approach them to see if they’d be willing to consider an apprenticeship.
If not, the more traditional method is advertising. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Working in partnership with training providers to deliver their apprenticeship programme. The process, including the advertising, interview and selection will largely depend on the type of apprentice you want.
- You can use the Job Centre Plus websiteand other job agencies, as well as making use of specialist apprenticeship websites, and local newspapers.
- You can also contact schools, colleges and universities to see if they know of any students looking for an apprenticeship.
Costs and grants for apprentices
While taking on an apprentice has it’s advantages, naturally the cost can be a little off-putting. Especially for those with tighter budgets. For those who fall into this category, it’s worth noting that a large majority of schemes offer a range of financial incentives.
The introduction of a new £3 billion apprenticeship levy in the Government’s Autumn Statement, and the promise of three million new apprenticeships across the UK, should help give SMEs access to young workers.
On top of this, The National Apprenticeship Service will also pay 100% of the training costs for an apprentice between the ages of 16 and 18. It will then pay up to 50% for an apprentice between 18 and 24 years old, and as much as 40% if the apprentice is over 24.
Although an apprentice’s wage must be paid by the employer, a grant of £1,500 per apprentice between 16 and 24 years old is available for any employer who has up to 1,000 employees but hasn’t employed an apprentice in the last 12 months.
Employing and taking on an apprentice
While it is a different system, employing an apprentice is very similar to employing any other member of staff. The key difference is that they only become an apprentice once they’ve signed up onto an apprenticeship programme. Just bear in mind that there are a few areas that all employers must guarantee when employing an apprentice. These include:
- Providing the apprentice with an induction into their role.
- Appointing a mentor for the apprentice.
- Providing ongoing support throughout the apprentice’s training and employment.
- Permitting the apprentice to take time out of work to attend the learning provider.
- Permitting the apprentice time out of work for study leave when appropriate.
- Reimbursing the wages and national insurance contributions of the apprentice.
- Providing the apprentice with all the usual benefits that all other employees receive (e.g. maternity leave, holiday pay and company benefits).
- Ensuring that each apprentice has a contract of employment.
- Providing a safe and healthy working environment.
But of course, as an employer it’s your legal responsibility to make sure that all your employees have a safe environment to work in. Not only that, but an apprentice could be aged under 18 years and so is still classed as a minor. So, if you take them on you need to be aware of the Health & Safety rules regarding minors.
An employer who is thinking of taking on an apprentice who is under 18, should also consider certain things, such as making sure that the young person employed is not exposed to risk due to:
- Lack of experience
- Being unaware of any existing or potential risks
- Lack of maturity
As such, an employer should take the time to review the layout of their workplace and the organisation of their work and processes before establishing any apprenticeship program.
Support and training for apprentices
As an employer, you’re not only responsible for your apprentices’ progression, but also their well-being. It’s important to work with education programmes to arrange comprehensive training for their apprentices, including tests and qualifications.
It’s also the employer’s responsibility to provide on-the-job training, such as demonstrating how to properly use work equipment.
Please note that apprenticeships can also include off-the-job training and examinations too.
This training is usually undertaken in the form of a day release, which could allow for the employee to go to college for at least a day each week, helping them to further their technical learning. You’re required to release the apprentice for their training, so factor this in when assigning apprentices work.
And lastly, it’s important for apprentices to feel included and like a useful member of the team, so an employer should always be available to provide advice and support.
Overall, apprenticeships can be a great – and cost-effective – way of growing your business, so why not look into the possibility of opening up a scheme? Not only will you get an extra pair of hands to help out your business, but you’ll also be helping to give a young worker their start on the career ladder.