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The first steps of hiring an apprentice

With the government continuing to raise the profile of apprenticeships, an increasing number of businesses may be thinking about investing in an apprentice.
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What exactly is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme, which is relevant to the needs of a business. The apprentice will work as they learn, completing on-the-job training and educational studies, which are sometimes undertaken away from the workplace with a learning provider. Apprenticeships can be undertaken by new or existing employees, and take at least one year to complete.

Are there different levels of qualification?

Yes, similarly to GCSEs, A-levels and degrees, apprenticeships span a range of different levels. Intermediate Level Apprenticeships are the first step, moving up an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, and then a Higher Apprenticeship.

What about different types of qualification?

With more than 250 different types of apprenticeships, offering over 1,400 job roles and spanning a wide range of sectors, any type of business can benefit from an apprentice. From engineering to health and social care, to retail, customer service and business administration, organisations that design apprenticeship qualifications have worked hard to ensure that all sectors and industries are included.

This means that the training is tailored to the needs of the business – for example, a retail apprentice can learn about handling money, stock levels and merchandising displays, where as an office based apprentice may learn about planning and organising events, data management and delivering presentations.

How would a business employ a new apprentice?

There are two ways to recruit a new apprentice into your business. Firstly, you can work with a learning provider – which may be a regional college or educational establishment, or a specific training organisation – to find an apprentice that has registered with the provider to actively seek a role. Alternatively, you can open a position within your organisation for an apprentice, and advertise this online at the National Apprentice Service website, as you might with any other vacancy.

How will it benefit a growing business?

Not only is taking on an apprentice a cost effective way of expanding your workforce, but there are many other benefits cited by businesses. Research by the Learning and Skills Council found that 76 per cent of employers believe having an apprentice has helped them to deliver higher overall productivity. The same study also found that 77 per cent of employers feel having an apprentice on board has made their business more competitive.

Anecdotal evidence from organisations that have taken on an apprentice suggest they are keen to learn, highly motivated and a loyal team member. With job prospects becoming less certain and finding work remaining difficult, those who secure an apprenticeship are more likely to want to make the most of their opportunity. Supporting this notion, the Learning and Skills Council research found that 88 per cent of employers believe apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

What funding is available?

For businesses with less than 1,000 employees, the government has recently decided to extend its Apprenticeship Grant scheme for an additional year. This means that throughout 2013, under the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE), SMEs that recruit an apprentice aged between 16 and 24-years-old can be awarded up to ten grants.

Adding to this, for businesses that take on apprentices aged between 16 and 18-years-old, the employer will only be responsible for paying the salary, with the government funding the apprentice’s studies.

What next?

Start looking for an apprentice, advertise a vacancy, or simply get more advice and guidance. You can also request a call from an apprenticeship representative, and complete a simple online checklist to determine whether you are eligible for the AGE funding.

Myra Wall is managing director of Skillsfirst Awards.

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