Whether your business is looking to employ an apprentice for the first time or is preparing to take on its latest batch of new starters, rest assured — you’re making a great decision.
Apprentices are without doubt one of the best ways to recruit new staff. In addition to offering an incredible opportunity to the young person, it brings huge benefits to the business, meaning you are able to mould a keen, motivated individual into your ideal employee.
With benefits such as grants and levy donations on offer, there’s never been a better time than now for SMEs to take on apprentices.
Although they are hugely beneficial, it’s also important to remember that they are not a quick fix. The input and preparation of the employer, along with the training provider, make a big difference to the experience and outcome of a successful apprenticeship.
Below, we outline eight steps businesses should take to make the most of hiring an apprentice – to be sure you don’t miss out on capitalising upon what is a terrific opportunity for both employer and employee.
1. Prioritise the recruitment process
Firstly, delivering a successful apprenticeship starts with the recruitment process and how it is managed.
It’s important to spend time thinking about the knowledge and skills you’re looking for in your new apprentice – so writing person specifications and job descriptions can often focus the mind as to who the ideal candidate is.
Each step of the process should be carefully thought through with help from the training provider, right through to giving feedback and notifying unsuccessful candidates.
We’ve created a 10-step guide to recruiting an apprentice that includes more detailed tips on how best to navigate recruitment.
Getting started may seem daunting, but it’s not so different to regular recruitment. And once you’ve done it the first time, you’ll then have a template to work from when you are able to recruit apprentices again in the future.
To smooth the process, businesses can use our jobs board – taking away the hassle and legwork. A completely free tool, it brings together trades and apprentice candidates to make the process as easy as possible.
2. Preparation is key
Employers should make sure that before the programme starts, all of the practical elements are sorted, and that equipment, workstations, lockers and logins are set up and ready.
Businesses and managers should be aware of the difference between on-the-job and off the job training – a description of which can be found on our things to know about apprenticeship training blog.
And with all apprentices in England assessed at the end of their experience to make sure they are competent at their occupation, it’s well worth knowing what skills, knowledge and behaviour new starters need to develop.
3. Make the most of inductions
Inductions are crucial not only as a box-ticking exercise but also to help introduce the apprentice to the organisation and staff, and start feeling valued.
This doesn’t just run one way – first impressions are important on both sides. Ensure the apprentice feels they have made the right choice by joining your organisation.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education says these are “much more” than conventional inductions, being the start of their career for many. Their guide to inductions for apprenticeships includes full details on all aspects of the induction process for employers, training providers and apprentices.
4. Value your apprentice – and communicate clearly with them
Apprenticeships are certainly not a way of getting someone in to just make the tea. These employees are there to be given work relevant to the job description – and not the same thing day in, day out.
The team at Professional Apprenticeships advise employers to get them involved in varied, exciting projects and to shadow others in their roles. That’s as well as setting them realistic, achievable targets to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Outline what is expected of them and any key milestones through the programme so they know what’s happening and when. It’s vital to communicate clearly with them and manage their expectations from day one.
If and when they hit those targets, reward them, be it with increased responsibilities or a small pay rise.
5. Put an appropriate mentor in place for each apprentice
Mentoring is a superb way of helping the apprentice reap the benefits of the programme, also ensuring your business gets the best possible return from the scheme.
The mentor should be a member of staff who is not the line manager or in their direct reporting hierarchy, but someone who can guide them through the work-side of the programme.
Mentors are crucial for the apprentice developing the skills needed to complete the programme, allowing the individual to build a great foundation for their career.
For more on this, including the skills a mentor should have, visit our blog where we’ve rounded up our top tips on mentoring engineering apprenticeships.
6. Keep lines of communication open with the training provider throughout the programme
This is so you’re both informed about the apprentice’s progress and can quickly deal with any issues that may arise.
Periodic check-ins are a great idea to help smooth the process and flag any issues before they become big, unavoidable problems.
7. Make sure your apprentice has lots of opportunities to feed back
Your apprentice should feel comfortable feeding back to you honestly – and with any concerns or problems they are experiencing.
Check-ins are advisable here too – with it being the employer’s responsibility to make sure they’re not just telling you what they think you want to hear!
8. Ensure the rest of the organisation understands the importance of apprenticeships
The Government’s National Apprenticeship Service reports 86 per cent of employers saying apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation. Another 74 per cent said it improved the quality of their product or service.
Therefore, efforts should be made to inform and educate the workforce on these schemes and how they are of benefit to your company.
Ask staff to welcome the apprentice and help them feel part of things. This will also help them settle in and give them a great basis from which they can push on and achieve success within your organisation.