Apprentices – a waste of time or a wasted opportunity?

A shiny new employee all eager to please, excited about the opportunity and a breath of much needed fresh air in the department of engineers he will be joining. Now, it’s some years since I’ve been able to do this; 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, 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 (link below) states apprenticeships deliver for businesses and help them grow by:

  • Reducing training and recruitment costs
  • Increasing productivity and your bottom line
  • Developing a skilled, motivated and qualified workforce
  • Improving customer service results
  • Providing financial return on investment.

It goes on to say that more than 100,000 employers, in over 160,000 workplaces, currently use apprenticeships to attract new talent, re-skill existing staff and tackle skill shortages.

Additionally, there are financial incentives such as a one off £1,500 government grant to support their wage cost as a sweetener for a company which employs less than 1,000 members of staff, which has not taken on an apprentice in the last 12 months and is looking for an apprentice who is 16-24 years old. Also, dependent on age, their actual training costs will be part funded too.  Employers can apply for funding to cover these training costs and it is paid directly to the ‘learning provider’ in most cases (the company providing the training).

The amount depends on their sector and the age of the candidate:

  • aged 16 to 18 – 100 per cent of cost paid
  • aged 19 to 24 – 50 per cent of cost paid
  • 25 years and older – employers may only get a contribution

They are very useful contributions to support the time and money that a company will put into this young person.

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. The apprentice this company has just taken on will be working a shift pattern alongside his colleagues. It’s a 6am start. It’s a bit of a shock to a young man who probably sees that coming home rather than on waking but we told him up front and he is 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 84 per cent 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 contact us at   or follow us on twitter @3domSolutions



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