15 frequently asked questions about apprenticeships by employers

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Apprenticeships are without a doubt one of the best, most innovative, modern methods of bringing valuable skills into your business. They’re suitable for people at any level, so perfect for whether you’re looking to upskill an existing member of staff or hire someone totally new.

However, when it comes to apprenticeship rules for employers, there are often many questions left unanswered, meaning the business may decide against hiring one altogether. But that doesn’t need to be the case.

Below, we answer 15 key questions about apprenticeships employers may have – from how they work, to how much they cost, to their rights and what happens once the placement is complete.

1. Why should I employ an apprentice rather than a regular new employee?

There are so many reasons why going for an apprenticeship over a conventional employee is a superb idea – not least because the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) reports 96% of employers who took one on saw benefits to their business.

These employees can be developed to meet your current and future business needs, meaning you’re effectively training a new employee to think and act in the interests of your business from day one, with no lingering bad practice from previous roles.

They’re a great way to grow your team while keeping costs down, with most of their training completed on the job and funding available to cover much of it.

They also bring benefits in increasing your workforce diversity and helping companies compete in the modern marketplace.

What’s more, they’re fantastically loyal – and according to the NAS, 90% stay on in their place of work after completing an apprenticeship.

2. How do apprenticeships work?

Apprentices must be aged 16 or over and be paid at least the minimum wage. They combine working with studying to gain skills and knowledge in the job.

Working with experienced staff, they learn job-specific skills and get time for training or study during their working week – all of which is done in partnership with a training agency.

Depending on the level, ability and industry, most apprenticeships last between one and four years, with the individual gaining a qualification upon completion.

3. How much will an apprenticeship cost the business? 

There are many variables to how much your business will have to pay for a placement, with training fees, wages and recruitment all playing a part.

There is, however, support on offer via a number of different sources including the Government’s apprenticeship levy for many businesses, from which smaller businesses can benefit.

According to the Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal, 98% of businesses pay a maximum of around 5% of the training costs towards an apprenticeship, with the Government paying the remaining 95%. The other 2% pay into the apprenticeship levy.

4. Are all apprentices school leavers?

The perception all apprentices are young school leavers is a myth.

Apprenticeships are for anyone over the age of 16 – including groups from career changers to people wanting to develop their skills while working in their job.

Employers often prefer selecting older candidates for posts – as they usually bring more maturity and experience. In 2019/20, 47 per cent of the apprenticeships started were by people aged 25 or over.

5. Can I offer a part-time apprenticeship?

Yes – part-time apprenticeships are very common as long as the employer, apprentice and training provider are all in agreement – they will usually just last for longer than a similar full-time apprenticeship, to ensure that the apprentice has enough time spent to gain both the job skills and off-the-job training needed to successfully complete the programme.

6. Can I offer apprenticeships to existing staff members?

Also yes! Apprenticeships for existing staff – even very experienced employees – are very popular.

They may be keen to get a formal qualification in their specialist area or have the aptitude and drive to learn something new and progress into a different role.

7. Do apprentices have the same rights as other staff?

Pretty much, yes. They are entitled to a contract of employment, a minimum of 20 days’ paid leave a year, as well as rest breaks and health and safety protection. UCAS has more information about the rights and responsibilities of an apprentice in the world of work.

8. How much time will an apprentice spend on their off-the-job training?

Employers are responsible for ensuring the apprentice spends at least 20% of their hours at work doing off-the-job training – usually meaning one day a week away from the office or shop floor, although many apprenticeships will group this training together into blocks to minimise disruption to work and the focus on studying.

9. What are the employer’s responsibilities with an apprenticeship?

On the whole, to provide the apprentice with real-life work experience.

According to CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, they include ensuring the apprentice takes on “real, productive work” giving them the chance to access, develop, practice and evidence knowledge; allowing them to attend off-the-job training; taking part in regular reviews with the apprentice; and liaising with the training provider to choose an assessment organisation.

10. Can I fire an apprentice if needed?

That depends on the type of apprenticeship on offer, with most in England and Wales falling under an apprenticeship agreement.

According to Real Business, agreements may contain clauses setting out circumstances such as redundancy or poor performance that could lead to the scheme being terminated early. On the whole, apprentices can be fired in the same way a company may fire any other employee.

If their apprenticeship falls under an apprenticeship contract, dismissal can only occur in the most serious of cases.

11. Can an apprentice be made redundant if needed?

Similar to decisions regarding dismissal, those with apprenticeship agreements can be made redundant – but the Government funds training for at least 12 weeks afterward, giving the individual time to find an alternative placement.

For those with apprenticeship contracts, they can only be made redundant if circumstances dictate that it is no longer possible for the placement to continue, most severely in the case of the business closing down.

12. Do I have to offer the apprentice a permanent job if they successfully complete the programme?

Apprentices are, in the vast majority of cases, often offered permanent employment during their placement or at graduation, but this isn’t always the case. They can also be released, with the decision depending on how well you think they have done during their placement and whether there is a permanent role available for them to move into.

According to the An Apprenticeship blog, it’s worth considering the time and energy you have put into them and whether training someone new would be worth it. It advises if you want to keep the apprentice on but there is no job for them, you may need to think about creating a new role for them.

13. Can I offer an apprenticeship for an area of the business with a skills gap?

 This is often the biggest benefit of apprenticeships to businesses, as it allows them to hire a candidate whose skills are in line with the skillset they’re looking for.

What’s more, with apprenticeships, these skills can then be developed on the job, meaning an apprentice’s abilities will be catered precisely to your business – without bad habits picked up from previous roles.

14. Do apprentices need to shadow an existing member of staff for the duration of the programme?

Employers are encouraged to provide ‘on-the-job’ training for the apprentice, but how you do it is mostly up to you.

It could include aspects such as a comprehensive induction, mentoring or regular one-to-one guidance with a specific member of staff, social enrichment and networking opportunities, performance reviews and mental health and wellbeing support.

15. How do I get started?

If you’re ready to take on an apprentice, you don’t have to do it alone. Check out our jobs board and advertise your new apprentice role now!


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