How to take on an apprentice and what you need to consider
Interested in taking on an apprentice but don't know where to start? Check out our guide to taking on a trade apprentice.
Taking on an apprentice sounds like a big commitment, but it's one that few tradespeople ever regret.
By taking on an apprentice, you're giving someone who is interested in trade careers, such as plumbing or building, a great opportunity to develop and make the most of their skills.
Here's how an apprenticeship works and the things you need to know about apprenticeship programmes:
- What are apprentices?
- Why do I need an apprentice?
- Can I employ an apprentice?
- Apprentice or trainee?
- Apprenticeships are on the up
- How to find an apprentice
- Costs and grants for apprentices
- Employing and taking on an apprentice
- Being a responsible employer
- Support and training for apprentices
What are apprentices?
An apprenticeship allows young people and adult learners to gain a qualification while developing practical, on-the-job skills they'll need in their future career. They're most common in trade jobs like plumbing, electrician work, carpentry and building, which can be more hands-on than many other professions.
Generally, an apprenticeship follows a framework, which is developed by businesses in conjunction with organisations such as the Sector Skills Council. This framework will usually include a vocational qualification and a technical certificate, as well as offering the apprentice the opportunity to learn lots of functional, trade-related skills.
Why do I need an apprentice?
Taking on an apprentice can benefit your company in several ways.
First and foremost, by taking on an apprentice you're giving your company an extra pair of hands on the job. This could be the difference between completing a job on time or ahead of schedule (which will reflect on your business positively) and having to explain to your customers why the project won't be ready for the date you originally said it would be.
With skills shortages across the UK, taking on an apprentice can also be a very cost effective way of bringing in new skills to your company. They could even help you fill a skills gap that might be present in your workforce, provided arrangements are made for relevant training. For example, if you're receiving a lot of enquiries for landscaping work, but don't have the technical know-how in your company to be able to accept the jobs that are offered, you could take on an apprentice specifically for this role.
On top of this, having an apprentice can give an employer more control over the way that the job is carried out. Generally, it's easier to train an apprentice than someone with experience and bad habits from previous jobs.
Finally, taking on an apprentice is a great way to build a business for the future. They will often provide fresh new talent and a new take on the way a company works. Both of which are essential to any business that wants to grow and progress.
Can I employ an apprentice?
Absolutely, although there are a number of requirements that an employer must meet before they can take an apprentice on.
There are some slight differences in apprenticeship programme requirements between organisations, but in most cases an employer offering an apprenticeship will need to:
- employ the apprentice for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
- pay at least the national minimum wage for apprentices, which is currently £3.90 per hour. This applies both to normal working hours as well as any training that is part of the apprenticeship.
- ensure the apprentice is properly inducted to the business and support their on-the-job learning using skills and knowledge in the workforce.
- regularly review the progress of the apprentice.
If the apprentice is older than 18, the apprenticeship will usually last longer than a year, but in certain cases it can be six months.
In high-level fields such as engineering, many apprenticeships are required to last several years.
Also, apprentices over the age of 24 will only have a proportion of their training paid for depending on the trade they're learning.
For more information on how to build an apprenticeship programme, check out the Government's apprentice guide.
Apprentice or trainee?
The one key difference between apprentices and trainees is the level of commitment that both the apprentice or trainee and the employer make.
Under an apprenticeship:
- The employer agrees to employ someone for the term of the apprenticeship and to support them in their training for that period of time.
- The apprentice agrees to follow instruction and attend off-the-job and/or workplace-based training.
- Should the employer sell the business during an apprenticeship, the new employer must honour the original training contract.
- Once the probationary period of the training contract has passed, all parties must agree in order for the contract to be cancelled.
- It's important to remember that an apprentice must be issued an employment contract, which offers them all the rights of a regular employee.
- As such, it's crucial that an employer has employers' liability insurance before they recruit an apprentice. This will mean they're covered against claims made by any apprentice or employee who's been injured during their employment.
However, under a traineeship:
- The employer agrees to employ someone for the term of the traineeship and to support that person's training for that period of time, attending structured training.
- If the business is sold, the new employer doesn't have to keep the trainee.
- Both employer and trainee may also cancel the contract by signing a cancellation form or letter stating the date of cancellation. No mutual agreement is required.
There are benefits to both apprenticeships and traineeships, so it's worth considering which would be the best fit for your company before opening a programme.
Apprenticeships are on the up
A 2019 government report shows a 10% year-on-year increase in the number of apprenticeships. It's good news for business and great news for this generation of workers. The retention of apprentices is very high and they often outperform graduates, they can go on to benefit the business in the long term.
How to find an apprentice?
There are several ways in which you can recruit an apprentice.
If, for example, you already have an employee who you think would be interested or suitable, you could approach them to see if they'd be willing to consider an apprenticeship.
You could also advertise for an apprentice. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Working in partnership with training providers to deliver their apprenticeship programme. The advertising, interview and selection processes are completely discretionary and will largely depend on the type of apprentice you want. Some general pointers can be found on the Education and Skills Funding Agency website.
- You could also use Jobcentre Plus and other job agencies, as well as making use of specialist apprenticeship websites, and local newspapers.
- It may also be worth contacting schools, colleges and universities to see if they know of any students looking for an apprenticeship.
Costs and grants for apprentices
While taking on an apprentice can be a very good business move, the cost can be a little off-putting. This can be especially true for newer businesses and smaller enterprises that may have tighter budgets.
For employers wondering whether they can afford an apprentice, it's worth noting that a large majority of schemes offer a range of financial incentives.
Companies with less than 50 employees can expect to have all their training and assessment costs paid for. With bigger companies being required to pay just 5% towards the costs. As an employer you're responsible for paying the wages, but you can look forward to a £1000 boost at the start of the contract if:
- you employ an apprentice between the age of 16-18.
- or between the age of 19-24 if they've been in care or have a local authority Educational Health and Care plan.
You can find out more information about apprenticeship costs and grants here.
Employing and taking on an apprentice
Employing an apprentice is very much like employing any other member of staff. The key difference is that they only become an apprentice once they've signed up onto an apprenticeship programme.
However, there are a few areas that all employers must guarantee when employing an apprentice. These include:
- Providing the apprentice with an induction into their role.
- Appointing a mentor for the apprentice.
- Providing ongoing support throughout the apprentice's training and employment.
- Permitting the apprentice to take time out of work to attend the learning provider.
- Permitting the apprentice time out of work for study leave when appropriate.
- Reimbursing the wages and national insurance contributions of the apprentice.
- Providing the apprentice with all the usual benefits that all other employees receive (e.g. maternity leave, holiday pay and company benefits).
- The employer must also ensure that each apprentice has a contract of employment.
Being a responsible employer
As an employer it's your legal responsibility to make sure that all your employees have a safe environment to work in.
As such, you must have health and safety guidelines in place and provide your staff with training so every precaution has been taken to ensure the safety of your workforce.
An apprentice could be under 18 years of age. So if you take them on you need to be aware of the Health & Safety rules regarding minors.
An example of a consideration that an employer will have to take into account, is making sure that young people employed are not exposed to risk due to:
- lack of experience
- being unaware of any existing or potential risks and/or
- lack of maturity
This means that before taking on an apprentice who is under 18 years of age, an employer must ensure that due consideration is given to the risks that may arise as a result of these factors. As such, an employer should take the time to review the layout of their workplace, and the organisation of their work and processes, before they look to establish any apprenticeship program.
Click here to find out more about the health and safety regulations for young people at work.
Support and training for apprentices
As an employer, you're not only responsible for your apprentices' career progression but also their well-being. It's important to work with education programmes to arrange comprehensive training for your apprentices, including tests and qualifications.
It's also the employer's responsibility to provide on-the-job training, such as demonstrating how to properly use work equipment, as part of the apprenticeship.
However, apprenticeships can also include off-the-job training and examinations too. This training is usually undertaken in the form of a day release, which could allow for the employee to go to college for at least a day each week, helping them to further their technical learning. You're required to release the apprentice for their training (as required by their training plan) so factor this in when assigning apprentices work.
It's really important for apprentices to feel included and a useful member of the team, so an employer should always be available to provide advice and support.
Apprenticeships can be a great - and cost-effective - way of growing your business, so why not look into the possibility of opening up a scheme? Not only will you get an extra pair of hands to help out your business, but you'll also be helping to give a young worker their start on the career ladder.
If you employ staff, even apprentices, you are legally required to take out employers' liability insurance. Find out what this covers you for here.