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Everything you need to know about running an apprenticeship within your business

Employing an apprentice is an amazing way to expand your workforce while providing career opportunities that make genuine differences to people’s lives. Of course, these aren’t the old days, where you could just pick someone at random to be the dogsbody at your firm. From regulations to social expectations, employers who want to offer UK apprenticeships have plenty of hoops to jump through. This guide will help you master these concepts to run apprenticeship programmes that fulfil the requirements and leave both sides feeling satisfied.

UK apprenticeship essentials

As you might have anticipated, modern apprenticeships fall under the purview of UK employment law. For instance, your apprentices must be at least 16 years old, work for a year or more, and receive compensation of no less than the minimum wage. While it’s up to you whether to draw your candidates from complete novices or current staff, you need to ensure that any apprentices you take on work side-by-side with more experienced team members to develop relevant career skills. You’ll also need to reserve at least 20 per cent of their workweek time for study and training.

Being a responsible employer

Apprenticeships aren’t complete play-it-by-ear affairs. Although your selection process can be somewhat informal, you’ll want to do everything else by the book, including advertising the position and formalising the arrangement with an agreement and commitment statement.

If you plan on applying for an incentive payment to hire an individual, you’ll need to do so within the appropriate time window based on your apprenticeship’s commencement date. You’ll also need to pay a special levy at some point during the process.

That said, there are other places to exercise flexibility, notably in how you train. Many companies in the UK outsource their apprenticeship training programmes. This is a clever way to handle things in heavily regulated fields, such as accountancy or work involving occupational hazards, and you can receive different levels of funding to fit the kind of professional mastery your apprentices require. This formalised training may differ from the skills development that takes place on the job, although it may also unfold at the workplace.

How to make the most of an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are rich with potential, both for employers as well as apprentices. The only problem is that it’s easy to waste the opportunity if you’re careless.

For the best possible outcome, be just as diligent about planning your apprenticeship programme as you’d expect your apprentices to be about tackling their assignments. Here are a few pointers:

Take time to plan in-depth how you’ll make the best use of the apprentices.

Consider factors such as which responsibilities you’ll give them and how you’ll integrate their need to build skills into your workplace training regimen i.e. should they expect to learn by doing, or will they need some preparatory study first? Also, think about how you’ll incorporate them into the workforce. Some apprentices might be best served by rotating from one department to another or shadowing specific individuals to train for predetermined roles. Others might learn the most by diving into the work just as any normal hire would do.

Follow the spirit of the rules, not just the letter.

Different apprenticeship programmes have unique requirements governing what workers should learn and what kinds of opportunities employers should afford them. These rules may seem burdensome, but remember that employing an apprentice isn’t just about taking advantage of eager, bright-eyed labour. Ensure that the benefits are mutual by living up to your end of the bargain and helping your apprentices master skills they can use elsewhere. Failing to live up to this standard might lead to a PR nightmare where the public comes to view you as an exploitative employer.

Don’t choose candidates based solely on what you stand to gain.

Finding an apprentice who already seems to tick most of the boxes might not be the best strategy when the goal is to help them develop into a stellar worker. Get your brain out of normal hiring mode and make a genuine effort to look deeper. Apprentices who possess the creativity to think laterally and the flexibility to apply newly learned skills could offer far more than you expect.

Devote special attention to apprentice onboarding.

You need to walk a fine line between getting apprentices up to speed as quickly as you can and ensuring your training leaves them properly equipped to apply the lessons they learn. Mind the fact that even seemingly simple undertakings, such as learning to navigate a business training system or sitting for professional accreditation exams, may prove daunting and stressful for complete novices. It’s up to you to decide whether your onboarding practices will grease the cogs or pose a hindrance. Give trainees sufficient time for self-improvement, and be certain you provide the vital support that lifts them over the bigger hurdles.

Eliminate the IT burdens beforehand.

Ensure your IT department gives apprentices the tools they need to thrive. By having everything, including accounts, credentials, and equipment, prepped and ready on the first day, you can help your programme remain as productive as it is enjoyable.

Don’t overestimate how attractive your company might look to potential apprentices.

Even if you’re in a hot industry, you’re still competing with other programmes and opportunities. Never take it for granted that an apprenticeship candidate needs work or presume that they’ll automatically continue with you after the programme ends. Striving to make the opportunities you offer exciting and rewarding demonstrates that you’re a worthy employer who cares about their staff’s morale.

Are you prepared to employ an apprentice?

UK apprenticeships do more than just make your company look good during National Apprentice Week. When managed correctly, these programmes can blossom into highly lucrative working relationships and keep your community engaged.

Cultivating an understanding of how your company looks from the outside is a great way to make your apprenticeship programme successful, not to mention enhance your general people management skills. Determine whether you’re truly ready to take on apprentices – and how to make your work offerings genuinely appealing – by expert chatting to a Lodge Court HR expert.