Apprentices – What you need to know

Apprenticeships are changing. There are now 4 levels of apprenticeships from intermediate (level2) through to higher (level 4+) and degree apprenticeships (level 6) and an enormous range of occupation areas. Apprenticeship frameworks are changing to apprenticeship standards which are simpler and easier to understand for employers and have been developed by a consortium of employers. An apprenticeship can last for a minimum of 1 year to 4 or 5 years depending on the level and type. The Government has a push to increase the number of technical and professional apprenticeships on offer in order to achieve the 3 million target.

Recruiting an apprentice can bring a range of benefits to your organisation. These may include boosting productivity, bringing fresh innovative ideas into your business, increasing staff retention and developing your existing staff as mentors. Recruiting apprentices can also enhance your business reputation within your local community and demonstrate your commitment to developing your employees.

So you’ve maybe decided that you want to recruit an apprentice but where do you start? For a small business, untangling the apprentice pathway can be rather daunting. So here is some information you need to know and some easy steps to follow for recruiting and retaining a successful apprentice.

What you need to be aware of

  • An apprentice must be employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week and have an apprentice agreement.
  • An apprenticeship must last for a minimum of 1 year
  • You must pay at least the minimum apprentice rate (currently £3.30- April 16) which then increases after 1 year dependent on their age. I would suggest you pay more than the minimum to attract the best candidates.
  • From April 16, employers do not pay secondary class NI contributions for apprentices under 25
  • You may be eligible for funding of £1,500 if you have not recruited an apprentice in the last year.
  • The way apprenticeships are funded is changing from April 17 (for new apprentices), with the introduction of the Apprentice Levy, so employers will need to contribute to training costs but can claim grants for their apprentices.


Steps to follow for a successful apprenticeship

  • Role Profile & Apprentice Framework Identify what you want the apprentice to do and develop a role profile. From this, you can identify the most appropriate apprenticeship framework or standard and the appropriate level.
  • Training Provider You need to engage with a college or training provider to provide the training and assist with recruitment.
  • Interviewing When thinking of your interview questions, remember that this may be their first interview/job and so they will lack experience. You may need to reword your questions around activities they will have undertaken at school/college or in leisure time.
  • Communicate Prior to your apprentice commencing you need to communicate to your existing workforce that you are recruiting an apprentice, what they will be doing both at work and college and how you need their support. This is an opportunity for them to become a mentor or buddy to the apprentice and impart their knowledge on. Remember, they may need training on the role of a mentor to be successful.
  • Induction A key element to success is how you induct/on-board your apprentice. It can be daunting starting your first job –remember how you felt. So consider what do they need to know about the Company, the workplace, the do’s and don’ts, your expectations of them as well as any social activities you may have. Let them meet their buddy and/or mentor and get to know them. So, plan out their induction whilst taking care not to overload them everything on day 1. Make it interactive and fun. Remember first impressions count and if you get it right on day 1, it will give you a great foundation for success.
  • Regular Reviews It’s important to review your apprentice regularly, probably weekly initially and then moving to monthly/quarterly. We all like to know how we’re doing, so it’s important to tell your apprentice what they’re doing well as well as areas they may need to improve on. The reviews are also an opportunity for them to share any issues or difficulties they may be having. It’s a lot easier to nip things in the bud than allow them to fester and grow. The reviews should incorporate their progress at college in addition to the workplace.

Finally, celebrate successes with your apprentice and employees!