Apprenticeship schemes are a great way for businesses to ‘grow their own’ talent and workforce. They combine ‘on the job’ training in a business with ‘off the job’ academic learning. Apprenticeship schemes enable people to gain work experience and understanding of life in a workplace while gaining practical and theoretical skills leading to a qualification after completing an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships can be offered to those over the age of 16 who are not in full–time education and have the right to work in England. Anyone at any stage in their career can start one, especially if they are looking to upskill.

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What apprenticeship courses are there?

Apprenticeships traditionally provided a structured route into the skilled labour market, however, changes in government policies have brought about a new focus.

Apprenticeships are now available in a wide variety of occupations and sectors, including Creative and Digital Media, Public Relations, Accounting, Agriculture, Engineering, Human Resources and Cyber Security as well as traditional sectors like Catering and Hospitality, Construction, Hair and Beauty, Plumbing and Electrical.

Businesses are able to find a provider for their apprenticeship scheme and agree the costs for the training. The provider must ensure that the apprentice is eligible to do the course and that they will receive any funding available.

What are the benefits of providing apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships provide an excellent route for young people to enter into the world of work, allowing them to earn while they learn and gain valuable experience while gaining a qualification at the same time.

The CIPD state that hiring an apprentice brings several benefits to businesses:

  • 80% of employers have maintained or improved future skills in the business.
  • 70% of employers have seen improvements in the goods and services they offer.
  • 66% of employers have experienced improved staff morale.

According to the Centre for Economics and Business research on the economic impact of apprenticeships, there is a net gain to the employer while apprentices train, and a higher output once employed. In the long term, it is estimated that each apprenticeship created is worth an estimated £38,000 to the economy!

As a business, it is beneficial for you to be able to support and invest in your local community and Apprentices can often bring with them new ideas and perspectives and give your workplace a new dynamic. It is likely if you support an apprentice in the right way that they will be much more engaged with your business and their future, helping to reduce the need for additional recruitment.

Are there any disadvantages in supporting apprenticeship programmes?

Having an apprentice is an investment in many different ways. You need to ensure you are allocating the time they need for off the job training, currently, this needs to be a minimum of 20% of their working hours, likely to be one day per week. They also need time within the workplace to gain the skills they need to complete their qualification so you will need to be mindful of this when planning work and the impact on those supporting the apprentice, allowing reasonable time and resources for this.  In the short term, this may have an effect on the productivity levels of those supporting apprentices.

As apprentices are often younger, this could be their first experience of life at work so they will need guidance in workplace etiquette. They may not understand certain protocols as they may never have experienced these before.

It can be a lengthy process hiring an apprentice and you will need to find someone who you believe will learn and grow at the pace you want along with being a successful addition to your business.

There are of course costs that you will also need to pay including a salary but there is often funding available to help support with training expenses.

What funding is available and what is the apprenticeship levy?

Since April 2017, businesses with a wage bill of £3 million or more are required to pay an apprenticeship levy. This is regardless of whether they offer an apprenticeship scheme or not. This money can then be used to pay towards the cost of the apprenticeship training and assessments. If a business does not use all the available funding they are able to transfer up to 25% to other employers.

If you do not need to pay the levy then you are eligible to have 95% of the funding through the government, meaning you only need to pay 5% of the training and assessment costs!

What do businesses need to be aware of?

It is important to remember that whilst businesses get funded contributions, you still need to treat an apprentice in the same way you would treat any other employee, and it is advisable to ensure you have an apprenticeship agreement in place to ensure both parties understand what is expected during and after the apprenticeship. You need to ensure you pay your apprentice at least the minimum wage, (details can be found here national minimum wage rates) give them set working hours, holidays and any other benefits they would be entitled to.

Taking on an apprentice should be seen as a great opportunity, allowing someone to learn new skills and providing them with an alternative route to gaining employment into an industry.

If you would like help with taking on your first apprentice, improving the effectiveness of your apprenticeship process or creating an apprenticeship agreement, please contact a member of our MAD-HR team, who will be happy to help.