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Tips for taking on an apprentice

Guiding businesses through the process of hiring an apprentice and establishing a successful programme for the future

Taking on an apprentice could help to fill talent gaps as many small businesses struggle to hire the staff they need to grow. A combination of Brexit, the great resignation and people choosing to retire early following the Covid-19 pandemic (1) has meant that firms have had a smaller pool of talent to hire from, leaving many with gaps to fill. The benefits of taking on an apprentice are numerous, especially in securing a future talent pipeline for your business. However, for small businesses, who are unlikely to have significant HR and recruitment teams to support the process, establishing an apprenticeship scheme can seem daunting. In this article we give tips to guide businesses through the process of hiring an apprentice and establishing a successful programme for the future. 

1.    Establish links with local education programmes  
Unlike full-time employees, apprentices are still learning their craft and still in education. As a first step, explore whether there are any training or higher education providers that are in your local area that are relevant to your industry. You can find more information about training and education providers here. By linking up with a higher education provider, you will have access to a pool of talent to hire from. For example, the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme is in partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (“AMRC”), at the University of Sheffield. Through the programme, Close Brothers helps local small businesses wishing to take on an apprentice by partially funding their qualification. The apprentices will spend part of their apprenticeship learning the newest techniques at the AMRC, and part of their time at small businesses like Hallam Castings or Penny Hydraulics. You can read more about the apprentices that have taken part in the programme here.

2.    Consider how you will fund the apprentice
There are several incentives and support schemes available for businesses looking to take on an apprentice. Through the Apprenticeship Service – the portal which all employers should use when hiring an apprentice - employers can claim for benefits when hiring a new apprentice or one that has been made redundant elsewhere. Indeed, employers could receive funding of £1,000 for taking on an apprentice who is either 16-18 years old or 19-25 years old and has an education, health and care plan or has been in the care of the local authority. This cash incentive can be used for any costs associated with supporting the apprentice in the workplace, from uniforms to travel costs. 

Smaller employers, those whose annual pay bill is less than £3million, are not required to pay the apprenticeship levy. However, the government asks these firms to make a 5% contribution to the cost of training the apprentice - the rest (95%) is paid for by the government. For more on the apprenticeship levy and who is required to pay click here

3.    Prepare ahead of time
For obvious reasons, taking on an apprentice is different than taking on an employee with experience, and more preparation is often needed to ensure they are set up to thrive when they begin. Ensure that you have thought about their induction and first few weeks of work. They’ll likely need time to get accustomed to the workplace and allowing them space to get to grips with the job and a substantial in-work training programme will be necessary to ensure they feel supported. While this process of adjustment and training may take longer than hiring a skilled employee, there is significant evidence to suggest that apprentices tend to exhibit strong loyalty and integration in their workplaces, which benefit businesses in the longer term (2).

4.    Bring the rest of the team on the journey
It’s important that the rest of your team also feel empowered to support the apprentice in their training and development. While the apprentice will soon add value to the team, at the beginning they’ll likely need more support. They will spend part of their time away from their business at their training provider, and other team members will need to understand their schedule and the effect of this on workloads. Establishing a ‘buddy’ or a ‘mentor’ for the apprentice who can guide them through their early careers will benefit the apprentice and will provide valuable collaboration and managerial training to the chosen team member. 

5.    Put in regular check-ins
To really make a success of the apprenticeship make sure you are checking in regularly with your apprentice. This will allow you to spot any issues early on and make improvements to their training programme. It will also help you build a rapport with your apprentice and ensure they are getting everything they need from the apprenticeship. Having a strong relationship with them will improve the likelihood that the apprentice will choose to stay at your business after finishing the training as a full-time employee. According to research, 85% of apprentices stay in employment after finishing their training, and 64% of those continue to work for the same employer (3).


2. Benefits of Apprenticeships for Existing Employees (
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