Apprenticeships hit the news headlines recently as part of the government’s A Plan for Jobs 2020, which is the latest component of the coronavirus (COVID-19) relief measures.
Increased funding for apprenticeships and similar schemes make them even more attractive to businesses.
I think they’re one of the best ways of investing in an employee’s future. As such it’s also a way of investing in your business – but few businesses realise the full value that apprentices bring.
How does the apprenticeship scheme work?
I advise you to research this yourself, but here’s a basic overview of how apprenticeships work.
It’s important to remember that apprenticeships are structured, vocational training. They deliver a real qualification, and 20% of the apprentice’s working time has to be spent training on apprentice-related tasks.
The levels of training attached to apprenticeships provide everything from the equivalent of school qualifications, all the way up to postgraduate-degree equivalent.
Therefore, the first step is to ensure there’s apprenticeship training to match the role you have in mind. For example, you might want somebody to work in the finance team and specialise in taxation.
Or you might want training specific to your industry, such as a manufacturing speciality. There’s hundreds of choices, offered by a range of professional bodies.
You’ll then need to find a provider offering this kind of apprenticeship training.
Somebody will need to take ownership of the apprenticeship application. Obviously, somebody will also need to manage the apprentice.
I’ve found the best managers are those that were formerly apprentices themselves because this means they’re more inclined to offer mentorship and coaching too.
What do apprenticeships cost and is there funding for employers?
Once you’ve identified the training online, you’ll see what the costs are.
Unless yours is a large business, the government will pay 95% of the cost of training and assessing the apprentice. This is paid directly to the training provider, and you pay the remaining 5%.
You also pay the apprentice’s salary (with 12 months being the shortest possible period), and there are apprenticeship minimum hourly rates that apply.
You might receive some payments from the government. If the apprentice is 16 to 18 years old – or those who are 19 to 24 years old with special needs and therefore an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan – you will get a payment of £1,000 per apprentice.
The great news is that the aforementioned A Plan for Jobs 2020 coronavirus relief brings an additional payment of £2,000 for every apprentice under 25, while for apprentices 25 and over a payment of £1,500 is now available.
Once you’ve sorted out the training and funding, you’ll need to advertise for an apprentice.
This is similar to advertising any job, but is best done through the Find An Apprenticeship online service.
Existing employees can also take up apprenticeships and it’s important to note that they’re not limited to younger people. In fact, increasing numbers of people over 25 are taking advantage of the scheme.
Why take on an apprentice?
Once you’ve got on top of the admin requirements then it’s not too difficult to hire an apprentice, and the Apprenticeships Service offered by the government is a great source of support.
But you might be wondering if an apprenticeship is worth it when you could simply take on a basic trainee.
This overlooks the key benefit of apprenticeships: creating a skilled employee.
There’s a skills shortage across the world, and especially here in the UK. Over the past few decades, the UK has transitioned to a service-based economy, but we lack many of the key specialists – the engineers, for example, and especially people skilled in areas such as digital transformation.
If it’s done right, an apprenticeship is a winning situation for everybody.
Your business will get a highly skilled and qualified employee. The employee gets the qualifications and experience they need. And society and communities benefit because we gain a skilled workforce.
People often ask how a company can retain an apprentice after the training ends. Well, the answer should be obvious. They’re an employee and they will respond to motivation, just like any other employee. I’m drawn back to my management training and the Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory.
In short, treat employees well and they will repay your loyalty with their own loyalty.
Some employers could be concerned that apprentices won’t stay the course, especially considering the investment they must make.
But again, my advice is to remember they’re an employee and are recruited just like any other employee. The interview process is vital in determining personality and character, as well as enthusiasm and potential.
It’s also worth noting that the current economic climate means there’s large numbers of people applying for apprenticeships, so be prepared to take your time to find the person who’s right for the role and who will be a good fit in your organisation.
What can apprentices bring to your company?
I’ve used the apprenticeship scheme in companies I’ve been involved with, and regularly advise my clients to make use of it too.
The training directly benefits your business in terms of delivering a highly skilled employee and can also be applied to your business.
If your marketing apprentice needs to create a social media plan, for example, then why not apply it to the business’ real-life social media accounts?
The other way the business can benefit is to regularly ask the apprentice to give presentations about what they are learning and being trained in.
This can be incredibly illuminating.
I’ve seen people who’ve worked in a role for decades learning things they didn’t know from apprentices. This is especially useful in professions where things are constantly changing and developing, such as those relating to technology.
An apprentice offers a way for the entire company to keep on top of these changes.
Speaking personally, my role is within people management, training and recruitment.
Recently one of our digital marketing apprentices told me about Loom. This is a new technology that lets you send a PowerPoint presentation, as one example, while recording yourself on the webcam. You appear in a bubble at the bottom of the screen.
This has the potential to revolutionise a lot of what I do – but I might not have heard about it unless I had that vital contact with somebody so close to the latest developments in technology thanks to their apprenticeship training.
Apprenticeships are a terrific way of enhancing your business and are a sound investment in people who have the potential to change how you work.
With the additional cash bonuses introduced by the coronavirus relief measures, they form an incredibly attractive proposition for just about any kind of business that aims to grow and thrive.