Trade Apprenticeships – what you need to know
Want to learn more about trade apprenticeships and how they work? Check out our guide on how to do it right.
- What are apprenticeships?
- How long do apprenticeships last?
- Who pays for apprenticeships?
- What is the minimum wage for an apprentice and what are the minimum hours?
- How is an apprenticeship structured?
- Is an apprentice an employee?
Taking on an apprentice is a big commitment, but one that can be very rewarding for both parties. It’s a great opportunity for people interested in trade careers to develop their skills. It also offers employers the chance to add another team member to their workforce.
So if you’re thinking of taking on an apprentice, here are the basics of what you need to know and how it works.
What are apprenticeships?
An apprenticeship is an opportunity for young people and adult learners to gain a qualification while they learn the practical, on-the-job skills. Apprenticeships are most common in hands-on trade jobs such as plumbing, electrician work, carpentry and building. But you can do an apprenticeship in a variety of different fields, from marketing and accounting to the arts.
Apprentices will expect to work alongside experienced professionals in order to learn from their skills. Generally trade apprenticeships follow a framework which is developed by businesses together with organisations such as the Sector Skills Council. The framework usually includes a vocational qualification and a technical certificate as well as the opportunity to learn practical, trade-related skills.
How long do apprenticeships last?
There are government guidelines that determine how long apprenticeships last. Apprenticeships for young people between the ages of 16 and 18 should last for at least 12 months. If the apprentice is older than 18, the apprenticeship is usually longer than a year, but in certain cases it can be six months.
In high-level fields such as engineering, many apprenticeships last several years. As this is a long-term commitment, it’s necessary to plan for the future. An employer must have a clear idea of where the apprentice will fit into the future business objectives before starting the hiring process.
Who pays for apprenticeships?
The National Apprenticeship Service will pay:
- 100% of the training costs for an apprentice between 16 and 18 years old
- Up to 50% for an apprentice who is between 18 and 24 years old
- As much as 40% if the apprentice is over 24 years old
Apprentice wages are paid by the employer. The National Apprenticeship Service also offers a grant of £1,500 per apprentice between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. The employer must have no more than 1000 employees and must not have employed an apprentice in the last 12 months. Apprentices are also entitled to holiday pay.
What is the minimum wage for an apprentice and what are the minimum hours?
All trade apprenticeships should include more than 30 hours per week of work. In exceptional circumstances where the nature of the job makes this impossible, this can be reduced to 16 hours per week.
The current minimum apprentice wage for anyone irrespective of their age in the first year of their apprenticeship is £2.65 per hour. Even though this is the legal minimum, many employers choose to offer more. As an employer it’s your duty to set a suitable minimum apprentice wage and be clear about the pay to your apprentices.
How is an apprenticeship structured?
Most employers will work with an external education body to provide comprehensive training for their apprentices, including tests and qualifications. The employer is responsible for the on-the-job training, but apprenticeships include off-the-job training and examinations too.
There are a number of educational bodies in the UK which provide apprenticeship training, such as the National Apprenticeship Service. Apprentices normally work towards qualifications over a specified period of time.
Not every apprenticeship is the same, but it’s important that they’re structured in a way which the apprentice can learn a broad range of skills. The employer should have this in mind when taking on an apprentice. It’s not an opportunity to get someone to do the jobs that no one else feels like doing.
Is an apprentice an employee?
Yes, by law an apprentice is classed as an employee. Any apprentice must be issued an employment contract, which offers them all the rights of an employee. Therefore as an apprentice, or the employer of an apprentice, it’s vital to learn what those rights are and act accordingly.
One of the many responsibilities as an employer is the duty to maintain the health and safety of the employees. If an employee brings a claim against an employer because they do not believe that this has been done correctly, the employer can be held liable.
Employers’ liability insurance provides cover against claims made by employees. By the Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance Act (ELCA) of 1969, employers must have employers' liability insurance by law.
To find out how trade apprenticeships differ across the UK, click here.