These days, many more young people are looking into apprenticeships rather than further or higher education. The chance to start work sooner, begin taking a regular salary and not rack up thousands of pounds of student debt is quite appealing.

It should be appealing to an employer too, for a number of reasons, but it’s not as simple as sticking an advert up and hiring someone young.

Benefits of hiring an apprentice 

Mechanic apprenticeOne of the most appealing reasons to bring in an apprentice as an employer is that they’re relatively cheap. Not only in terms of salary but also when you consider recruitment costs too. If financial concerns are at the forefront of your thinking, an apprentice could be a cost-effective option. However, that shouldn’t be your only reason.

If you recruit well, you’ll find that good candidates for apprenticeships tend to be full of energy and are highly motivated. They want to do well, as for many it’s their first proper job, and coming straight out of education they may bring fresh ideas. Even if you hire an older apprentice, the fact they want to learn new skills shows they’ve got a desire to do well. They also tend to be loyal, so investing in their training can reap rewards in the long term.

Plus, being quite new to your line of work, they haven’t developed some of the bad habits and complacency that more senior employees may have picked up. You can mould the apprentice into your ideal employee to help set examples to the rest of your workforce.

Disadvantages of hiring an apprentice 

There are some disadvantages to consider when employing an apprentice. As they’re often younger, you may be more likely to encounter disciplinary problems due to a lack of maturity. You’ll also need to dedicate more time to them as well – not only to teach them a job role which will likely be new to them, but also to educate them in the etiquette of the workplace. Qualities like punctuality, professional dress code and even simple internal email protocol may not come naturally.

Is an apprentice right for your business? 

It can be extremely worthwhile employing an apprentice, if you manage it the right way. If you’re looking purely for financial benefit in the short term, or someone to just do the menial jobs like making brews for the team, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. But take the recruitment process seriously and you can unearth some real talent, who’ll grow with your business and remain loyal in the long term.

The process of hiring an apprentice 

Fashion apprenticeYou can’t hire an apprentice to do anything you want. They need to be working towards a defined qualification. So the first step is finding an apprenticeship framework or standard that’s relevant to the kind of job role you’re looking to cover.

Once that’s done, you need to find a training organisation who can offer support. They’ll be responsible for delivering the necessary training for your apprentices to pass their assessments. They’ll also help you hire your apprentice by advertising for the role, although usually you’ll be responsible for the actual recruitment through your own normal interview procedures.

Getting funding to help cover training costs 

There is an extra cost to consider when you hire an apprentice. You need to pay for their training, as well as their salary. You pay this to the training organisation direct. However you can get funding to help with this. How much funding you receive depends on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy.

Any business with a pay bill that exceeds £3 million every year needs to pay the apprenticeship levy. This works out at 0.5% of your total pay bill. But by paying this, the government will give you funds towards paying for apprenticeship training.

If you don’t need to pay the apprenticeship levy, you can still get help for 90% of the cost of training your apprentices. You’ll need to arrange a payment schedule for the remaining 10% directly with the training provider. It’s possible that you may even be eligible for further funding support depending on your circumstances.

Pay and conditions 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that an apprenticeship is a license to take on staff at an obscenely cheap rate, and get work done for a pittance. You still need to pay an apprentice at least the minimum wage, and they must be given a proper employment contract. You’ll also need to support them in giving them time to study towards their qualifications, and pay them for this study time.

Not only that, they’re entitled to all the same benefits as any other employee in a similar role or at a similar grade, including sick pay, holidays and any extra benefits you offer including childcare vouchers or mentoring schemes. They should be treated as you would any other employee, only with dispensation to take time towards their studying.

Apprenticeships can be an effective way to grow at the pace you want to grow and succession plan in your workforce. It’s worth finding out!

The Skills Hub can help you decide if an apprenticeship is right for your business and support you in finding funding and the right training provider.

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Written by: Mel Colton-Dyer
Mel is Chief Operating Officer of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, delivery partner of the Skills Hub.