Top tips for hiring an apprentice…

I have had the pleasure, no actually the delight, of starting the recruitment processes for an apprentice for a couple of clients. A shiny new employee all eager to please, excited about the opportunity and a breath of much needed fresh air in the department they will be joining. In recent years with the recession employers switched off to this risk. It was a headcount that they could not afford, or they saw it as taking a ‘permanent’ employee’s place and did not want to, or could not see the bigger picture of the benefits.

Things have changed in the intervening years, especially with the introduction of the Government’s apprentice levy.

So here is my update of what an apprentice could actually bring to your business and things to consider when making the decision to employee one.

So what can an apprentice bring? The apprenticeships’ website states apprenticeships are a productive and effective way for any organisation to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.  That 86% of employers said apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation and 78% reported improved productivity.
Other benefits that apprenticeships contribute to your organisation include:

  • there’s a wide selection of apprenticeships available, covering lots of different job roles
  • you can adapt the training your apprentice receives according to the needs of your organisation
  • an apprenticeship allows you to diversify and freshen up your workforce
  • you can employ an apprentice who’s aged 16 up to any age and from any background

It goes on to say that employers currently use apprenticeships to attract new talent, re-skill existing staff and tackle skill shortages.

How to pay for the Apprenticeship
You can get help from the government to pay for apprenticeships; for their training and assessment. The amount an employer can get get depends on whether they pay the apprenticeship levy or not. That means being an employer with a pay bill more than £3 million each year.  Apprenticeship funding is a devolved matter and so how an employer gets funds and pays for training depends on whether they pay the levy and which country they are in.  In England details can be found from the Apprentice Service here.

If the employer doesn’t pay the apprenticeship levy they need to pay the training provider directly for training their apprentices.  They pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing of the apprentice. The governments pays the rest (95%) up to the funding band maximum directly to the training provider.

There are other additional payments from the Government that are detailed on the website above.

Find the right training provider
Contact your local college and see if they have a dedicated team for the recruitment and the support of apprenticeships. The training provider will play a critical role in the success of your apprenticeship. Make sure you interview them too – find out if they understand your requirements, if they care about their apprentices, and gain feedback from other local employers who have used them.  That way you will find out if you can work in a true partnership with them, your new recruitment and your company.
The training provider will help you deal with the necessary paperwork and will work alongside you, and your apprentice to develop the right training plan. You can search your local one here

Find the right apprentice
I have witnessed the candidates in every guise from scruffy, surly, squeaky clean, suited and booted, to jeans and t-shirts with earrings galore in the interviews undertaken. It’s been quite an eye opener in fashion choices of the late teens I can tell you!  It’s also been extraordinarily frustrating as to what schools are doing in terms of preparing their students for the real world, but hey, that’s a whole other article. So, back to choosing the right candidate. It’s tough when they have little ‘life’ or work experience so it’s more about attitude and culture fit. Find out what they have bothered to find out about you and your company. How have they presented themselves and do they actually appear to want this opportunity? If they do then it’s on to …

Set the scene from interview onwards
Make sure you know what they are actually going to be doing and set the scene at interview with them. An apprentice for one of my clients will be working a shift pattern alongside his colleagues. It’s a 6am start. It’s a bit of a shock to a young person who probably sees that coming home rather than on waking but we told the candidates up front and they are prepared for that now. Also the company has clearly laid out what work and tasks they wish the apprentice to help with.
Also ensure you gave a formal induction, a proper introduction to the company, their colleagues and to the training scheme and training required. It’s all about setting expectations.

Finally remember they are actually an employee, albeit a fixed term one
Employment is a fundamental part of an apprenticeship. An apprentice must be employed in a job role with a productive purpose.  They are afforded all the employment rights of a permanent employee, with the exception of a permanent job – it is a training role, with no guarantee of employment at the end, although latest figures suggest that as much as 90% of apprentices are retained by their employer upon completion.

So, I’m all for them – a great opportunity to deliver real returns to your bottom line, by helping to improve productivity and competitiveness. It’s a cost effective way to hire staff to fill any skills gaps with the latest technology and working practices behind them. The hidden benefit is actually the message it sends to your current staff, here you are bringing in an eager and flexible individual to the team; it demonstrates future proofing, and positive intent in a way nothing else can.

So, can you really afford not to consider recruiting an apprentice? For more help and advice about recruiting apprentices just ask us…