Employing an Apprentice

10th August 2017

SMALL BUSINESS

These days, many more young people are looking into apprenticeships rather than further or higher education. The chance to start work sooner, begin taking a regular salary and not rack up thousands of pounds of student debt is quite appealing.

It should be appealing to an employer too, for a number of reasons, but it’s not as simple as sticking an advert up and hiring someone young. Read on to see why you should consider employing an apprentice and how to go about it.

Benefits of hiring an apprentice

One of the most appealing reasons to bring in an apprentice as an employer is that they’re relatively cheap. Not only in terms of salary but also when you consider recruitment costs too. If financial concerns are at the forefront of your thinking, an apprentice could be a cost-effective option.

But that shouldn’t be your only reason. If you recruit well, you’ll find that good candidates for apprenticeships tend to be full of energy and are highly motivated. They want to do well, as for many it’s their first proper job, and coming straight out of education they may bring fresh ideas. Even if you hire an older apprentice, the fact they want to learn new skills shows they’ve got a desire to do well. They also tend to be loyal, so investing in their training can reap rewards in the long term.

Plus, being quite new to your line of work, they haven’t developed some of the bad habits and complacency that more senior employees may have picked up. You can mould the apprentice into your ideal employee to help set examples to the rest of your workforce.

Disadvantages of hiring an apprentice

There are some disadvantages to consider when employing an apprentice. As they’re often younger, you may be more likely to encounter disciplinary problems due to a lack of maturity. You’ll also need to dedicate more time to them as well – not only to teach them a job role which will likely be new to them, but also to educate them in the etiquette of the workplace. Qualities like punctuality, professional dress code and even simple internal email protocol may not come naturally.

The process of hiring an apprentice

You can’t hire an apprentice to do anything you want. They need to be working towards a defined qualification. So the first step is finding an apprenticeship framework or standard that’s relevant to the kind of job role you’re looking to cover.

Once that’s done, you need to find a training organisation who can offer support. They’ll be responsible for delivering the necessary training for your apprentices to pass their assessments. They’ll also help you hire your apprentice by advertising for the role, although usually you’ll be responsible for the actual recruitment through your own normal interview procedures.

Once you’ve got your training organisation in place and hired your apprentice, there are a few legal documents that need to be signed, which are covered in more detail below.

Getting funding to help cover training costs

There is an extra cost to consider when you hire an apprentice. You need to pay for their training, as well as their salary. You pay this to the training organisation direct. However you can get funding to help with this. How much funding you receive depends on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy.

Any business with a pay bill that exceeds £3 million every year needs to pay the apprenticeship levy. This works out at 0.5% of your total pay bill. But by paying this, the government will give you funds towards paying for apprenticeship training.

If you don’t need to pay the apprenticeship levy, you can still get help for 90% of the cost of training your apprentices. You’ll need to arrange a payment schedule for the remaining 10% directly with the training provider. It’s possible that you may even be eligible for further funding support depending on your circumstances.

Pay and conditions

Don’t be fooled into thinking that an apprenticeship is a license to take on staff at an obscenely cheap rate, and get work done for a pittance. You still need to pay an apprentice at least the minimum wage, and they must be given a proper employment contract. You’ll also need to support them in giving them time to study towards their qualifications, and pay them for this study time.

Not only that, they’re entitled to all the same benefits as any other employee in a similar role or at a similar grade, including sick pay, holidays and any extra benefits you offer including childcare vouchers or mentoring schemes. They should be treated as you would any other employee, only with dispensation to take time towards their studying.

Signing agreements

There are two official documents that need to be signed to make your apprenticeship official. The first of these is an apprenticeship agreement. This is between you, as the employer, and the apprentice, and must detail what you agree to do for them. It should include the length of their contract, the terms of their employment, the qualification they’re working towards and any training you will give them. You can write your own apprenticeship agreement, or you can download a template version from the government’s website.

The second document is a commitment statement. This is signed by you, the apprentice, and the training organisation. There are three areas this should cover – what the training schedule will involve, what each party will offer and be expected to do, and processes should there be any complaints that need to be dealt with. Once these are signed, the apprenticeship is legal.

Is an apprentice right for your business?

It can be extremely worthwhile employing an apprentice, if you manage it the right way. If you’re looking purely for financial benefit in the short term, or someone to just do the menial jobs like making brews for the team, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. But take the recruitment process seriously and you can unearth some real talent, who’ll grow with your business and remain loyal in the long term.

Written by Sherree Tibbs

Customer Care Team Manager - Staff Squared

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