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Apprenticeships have long been implemented by businesses to help students, graduates and career-switchers gain valuable and hands-on experience as well as an extra pair of hands for the team.
And while apprenticeships are nothing new (the earliest can be tracked back to 1563) the recent financial boost from the government encouraged many business owners to consider creating an apprenticeship program in their own company. Figures from the first quarter of 2021/22 academic year show apprenticeship starts were up by 43%.
If you’re wondering how to get involved, this article runs through the different types of apprenticeships, how to employ apprentices and the support that’s available to you as a business.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a type of employment in which an apprentice works part-time for a business while studying towards a work-based qualification. An apprenticeship can take any time between one and four years to complete and apprentices can start from as young as 16 with no upper age limit. While apprenticeships traditionally focused on more hands-on routes such as carpentry, electricity, building, it’s now for almost everyone.
An apprenticeship can be incredibly rewarding, both for the business and the apprentice, as it’s a chance to learn from each other through supervision, mentorship and career progression.
Used effectively, apprenticeships are also an opportunity to give existing employees the chance to upskill or gain a new qualification. In practical terms that means supercharged business development and boosted employee satisfaction.
Types of apprenticeships
Abandon the idea that an apprenticeship is a substitute for a university degree. In fact, over 25s currently make up the largest proportion of apprentices, which was 38.3% in 2022.
Even better, apprenticeships are open to most industries, from creative to digital, legal, health and business.
That said, the levels of apprenticeship you can undertake are structured in a similar way to the academic system, ranging from Level 2 to Level 7.
A successfully completed Level 2 apprenticeship is recognised as the equivalent of five GCSE passes, going all the way up to Level 7, which is the equivalent of a master’s degree.
Here’s what that looks like broken down:
|4, 5, 6 and 7||Higher||Foundation degree and above|
|7||Degree||Bachelor’s or master’s degree|
Why are apprenticeships important?
Think of an apprenticeship as a two-way street: your apprentice gets hands-on experience, and an invaluable head start on their career, while as a business you invest valuable skillsets back into your sector and support paid pathways into your industry. When it comes to equal access and opportunity, this is where apprenticeships really pay it forward.
Apprentices are also key puzzle-piece to the future of recruitment, workforce and the wider economy – 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity.
Alongside this benefit, apprenticeships are also a chance to expand your business in a cost-effective way, increase loyalty (90% of apprentices stay with the company that they completed their apprenticeship with) and breathe new life into your workforce.
Plus, a wider, trained recruitment pool means a skilled and fully mobilized workforce in the coming years.
How to take on an apprentice
There are a few steps that businesses need to take when hiring an apprentice. Some are requirements, while others aren’t mandatory but will help both you and the apprentice get the most out of the experience. Here’s our 10-step guide to hiring an apprentice:
1. Identify your skills gaps and think about how an apprentice could fill them
Apprenticeships are available in almost all industries, from IT and accounting to finance and engineering, so it’s really up to you to decide. Have a look at the apprenticeship standards to get a flavour of the types of roles you can choose from.
2. Make sure you’ve got business insurance
For most businesses, if you hire anyone in the UK, employers' liability insurance is a legal requirement and this extends to apprentices, too. Looking after the health and wellbeing of your employees is key, and this type of cover will ensure you’re covered if your apprentice suffers an accidental injury or illness while working for you.
If you already have business insurance, make sure that your provider covers apprentices, otherwise you won’t be adequately covered.
3. Create an apprenticeship service account
This apprenticeship service is provided by the government and allows you to manage your apprenticeships in one place, including setting them up, accessing the right funding and contact training providers.
4. Decide on the details
Before hiring an apprentice, you’ll need to narrow down the specifics, such as what age you’re looking to hire, the salary and the length of time you’ll hire them for. Here are a few requirements for employers to think about:
- Your apprentice must be aged 16 or up
- Your apprentice must be paid at least National Minimum Wage
- They should work a minimum of 16 hours a week, but the average is 30
- The apprenticeship must be a sufficient length of time for your apprentice to learn the skills they need
- They should have at least 20% off-the-job training, which helps the apprentice gain the skills they need to complete the apprenticeship successfully and can include teaching theory, practical training and learning support or time to write assignments.
5. Find a training provider
The apprenticeship service account you signed up for earlier will provide you with access to the training providers that can deliver the course you’ve chosen. It’s important to pick one that not only fulfils what you need them to but also feels like a good fit for your business.
6. Advertise your apprenticeship
Now it’s time to start recruiting. You can use your apprenticeship service account to create an advert and you can either create one yourself or give your training provider permission to create one for you. You’ll find the details of what needs to be included in this government’s guide to creating an apprenticeship advert.
7. Select your apprentices
Once you’ve had enough applications and conducted some interviews, you can give the successful candidate an offer. If you can, be sure to give feedback to those who weren’t successful. For many, it will be the first time they’ve applied for a role, so giving constructive advice will be super useful for them.
8. Draft the paperwork
When hiring an apprentice, you’ll need some agreements and statements in place. These include:
- An Apprenticeship Agreement – covering pay, length of employment, working conditions and training provided
- An Apprenticeship Commitment Statement – outlines training schedules, complaints procedures and what will be expected from both the employer and apprentice
9. Select your End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO)
Within three months of hiring an apprentice, you’ll need to have selected an EPAO. This is an independent body that will conduct the assessment that’s been designed by you. They will evaluate whether your apprentice has gained the knowledge, skills and behaviours that were outlined at the start.
10. Deliver the apprenticeship
Now you have the preliminary steps sorted, you’re away! Be mindful that this will likely be your apprentice’s first experience of a job, so they could be nervous. Be sure to settle them in slowly, give them all the information and support they need and have regular check-ins to see how they’re feeling.
What funding support is there for businesses?
Apprenticeships played a key role in the government’s promise to kickstart economic recovery in 2020 – and they’re still doing that job.
It’s never been a better time to make the most of funding for small businesses; as the pandemic recedes, so too will enhanced support of businesses.
To be eligible for the incentive payment from the government, your apprentice must have started or be starting their apprenticeship between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022, with applications closing on 15 May 2022.
You can also get the following government help to fund apprenticeships:
- If your pay bill is over £3 million a year, you’ll pay a levy, and the government will top up your funds by 10%
- If you do not need to pay the, you’ll pay 5% towards the cost of training and the government will pay the other 95% to your training provider
- If your apprentice started before 1 April 2019, you’ll pay 10% towards to cost of training
- You can receive extra funding, which is calculated based on yours and your apprentice’s circumstances
Giving feels good
By the end of giving an apprenticeship, you’ll no doubt want to keep doing more. They’re a great way to add fresh talent and valuable skills to your business and there’s nothing like helping people reach their goals, both professionally and personally.
If you’re going to look into hiring an apprentice, remember you’ll likely need employers' liability insurance in place.
This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.
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