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Thinking about an apprentice?

The Apprentice is back on our TV screens and I confess I’m not a huge fan. With my HR hat on, I find the tasks, arguments and competitiveness cringeworthy and end up throwing the remote at the screen in frustration. I do appreciate it is entertaining and funny but I wonder how many viewers think this is what an apprenticeship really involves?

While the perceptions of what an apprenticeship is may have been slightly coloured by the antics of Lord Sugar, a real apprenticeship should be about how to do a job with full training and support. Individuals are training to become the future of a particular industry, job, or business, learning real skills, gaining proper experience, and working towards a qualification.

An apprentice needs to be aged 16 or over and combine working with studying for a work-based qualification – from GCSEs or the equivalent up to degree level during their working week (eg at a college or training organisation).  Apprentices can be new or current employees and should be placed with experienced staff to mentor them.

The training element of an apprenticeship is really important. Many young people are being lured into fake apprenticeships, only to find out later they are unqualified. These schemes can leave students out of work, according to responses to a Government consultation on plans to give apprenticeships legal protection. Anyone offering fake or low-quality apprenticeship training could face a fine and prosecution if this consultation becomes law.

There are lots of help and support for employers who are thinking about offering apprenticeship training. This site https://www.gov.uk/take-on-an-apprentice provides links to the approved training providers framework covering all industries from construction to marketing and everything in between.

You could also use an Apprenticeship Training Agency to find an apprentice for you and take responsibility for learning and assessments, saving you the hassle of paperwork.

You might find you qualify for funding to take on an apprentice. Check out https://www.gov.uk/take-on-an-apprentice/employer-grants-apprentices for information and help with grants.

So, as an employer, why would you consider taking on an apprentice given the hoops you need to jump through to set up a scheme or even take on one person?  Here are a few reasons why it might be a good idea.

Talent: Lord Sugar is right in that it’s a great way to introduce talented people to your organisation.  Many companies find it tough to recruit people with the particular skills they need to help move their business forward. Taking on an apprentice solves this problem, as you can hire someone with the enthusiasm and talent you are looking for and train them up for a specific role to you. “Growing your own” might be better than teaching someone experienced new tricks, especially if they’ve picked up bad habits. People who join companies as apprentices also tend to remain loyal,

A Fresh Perspective: Younger apprentices may not have much workplace experience, but they can offer new ideas which are valuable to a growing business. For example, they may have strong technology and social media skills that you might find useful. Don’t forget, there is no age limit on apprenticeships, almost 2,500 people aged over 60 have taken up apprenticeships over the past 5 years, Among those aged 45-59, there has also been a marked increase, from 9,810 to 41,850 people looking to retrain between 2010 and 2014. They have the potential to bring experience, a whole new perspective and a great work ethic to your company.

Cost: The red tape may put some employers off, but in reality apprentices often pay for themselves within a few years. The initial outlay of hiring an apprentice is often smaller than hiring skilled staff, thanks to government funding and the fact that they often start on the lower minimum wage level. They also tend to remain loyal, resulting in lower turnover.

Finally, as with any regular job, an apprentice needs to pull their weight and impress – just like on the TV show. So, as I sit down to tune in can I remind you all, if things don’t work out, please don’t sit round a table, point your finger and shout ‘you’re fired!’  Give them some constructive feedback to work on, just like any other employee, and see if that leads to things improving before you skip to any kind of disciplinary or dismissal process.

By Melissa