Eight Things SMEs Need to Know About Hiring Apprentices

Anna Roberts

Mar 2017 ⋅ 3 min read

It's National Apprenticeship Week in the UK! In 2015/16, there were more than half a million new apprentices in the UK - but a quarter of small businesses say they don't know enough about apprentices to consider hiring one.

If you'd like to learn more about apprentices and how to hire them at your small business, you've come to the right place.

1. What is an Apprenticeship?

Simply put, an apprenticeship combines work with training for a work-based qualification. Apprentices benefit by learning practical skills while also earning a wage.

In the UK, apprentices are paid the minimum wage (currently £3.40 for apprentices under 19 or apprentices aged 19+ in their first year of an apprenticeship) and should be working at least 30 hours a week.

2. The Hiring Process

Hiring apprentices is a little different to the usual hiring process. Here's how it works:

  1. Choose a framework. Search through the list on Gov.uk. Use a search term that's relevant to your industry, and look for options of a suitable length and level.
  2. Find a training organisation. This will be a college or other training provider. They'll handle the 'off-the-job' aspects of the apprenticeship, including assessments.
  3. Find out if you're eligible for a grant. If you have fewer than 50 employees and your apprentice is between 16 and 24, you should be eligible.
  4. Advertise the vacancy. Training providers should do this through the government's online service.
  5. Choose your apprentice.
  6. Make an apprenticeship agreement. Here's more info on what you'll need to include, plus a template.

3. There's Probably an Apprenticeship Framework That Works For You

Apprenticeships are available in hundreds of industries and at three different levels - intermediate, advanced, and higher. There are short apprenticeships (12 months), as well as apprenticeships lasting 30 months or more.

They aren't just for trades, either - there are apprenticeships available in marketing, sales, IT, and management too, to name a few.

There's almost certainly an apprenticeship that works for your company.

4. Training Providers

If you're concerned that your small business doesn't have the time and resources to offer an apprenticeship, partnering with a training organisation eases the burden.

Training providers handle many aspects of the apprenticeship for you, and can also offer advice and guidance on the work-based aspects of the apprenticeship.

5. Ease Skills Shortages

Apprentices help fill skills gaps at your business at a relatively low cost. Of course, an apprentice is free to ply their trade elsewhere once their training is complete, but if they enjoy working at your company, they're likely to stick around.

6. How to be an Effective Apprentice Employer

There are no shortcuts - you need to put effort into training your apprentice if you want them to excel at your business. You'll need to be prepared to spend plenty of time supervising them, particularly to begin with, but you must also challenge them.

Apprentices want to learn new skills. You need to provide them with the opportunities to do so.

7. Know Your Costs

As with any employee, hiring an apprentice carries costs. Aside from their wage, you'll also need to consider training costs. There's plenty of funding available for this, but be sure to explore your options with the National Apprenticeship Service before you get started.

You should take into account the cost of the extra time you'll need to spend supervising the apprentice. The more time you commit to supporting the apprentice, the more successful they will be.

8. Find Out More

As the government continues to promote the benefits of apprenticeships to young people and businesses alike, the information available online continues to improve. You can search for frameworks, training providers and grant information online. Start at Gov.uk's page on Employing An Apprentice.

Do you have an apprentice at your workplace? What advice would you give other SMEs when hiring their first apprentice?