Taking on an apprentice is an effective way of furthering your business goals – whether it’s to create valuable, long-term staff members, fill a skills gap or improve your products and services.
Once you’ve decided it’s the right route for your small business, it’s not a difficult job to learn everything you need to know about apprenticeships, but there are several requirements and responsibilities it’s vital you are aware of.
That’s not solely to ensure you fulfil the basic requirements of this type of work placement, but that you make the most of the programme for the benefit of your business and the apprentice.
Below, we list the ten essential requirements for small businesses looking to take one on:
1. Make sure the specific apprenticeship role is needed within the business
This could mean planning out what tasks you want the apprentice to do and what skills they will need to learn to fulfil that, before taking them on.
Businesses are advised to create a full development plan for the duration of the programme – also laying out in detail the skills, learning and achievements needed.
2. Understand the cost of apprenticeships for employers
This understanding should incorporate wages and contribution to training costs – if applicable.
That’s as well as any other costs associated with taking on a new staff member, such as insurance and the necessary equipment.
It’s also important to know whether your business will need to pay the apprenticeship levy – a fund contributed by those whose wage bill is more than £3m a year.
For more information, visit the Government’s guide to funding an apprenticeship here.
3. Find the right training provider
It’s crucial you find the best training provider, who will offer quality training and assessment compatible with your business requirements for the apprentice.
Many offer flexible but structured training designed to meet the needs of the employer, so as part of this process, research is critical.
Important things to consider about these firms include what apprentices and other employers say about them, as well as taking note of the early stages of how they communicate with you about the training.
In addition, you should be thinking about the level and duration of the training, and be sure to discuss your specific expectations with the provider too.
Lifetime Training has put together a handy listicle revealing the six things to look out for when choosing a new apprenticeship training provider – that include coverage, quality of provision and reputation.
4. Facilitate the recruitment process
Like with recruiting for any role, it’s important to consider each of the different parts of the recruitment process.
That includes advertising for the role, attracting applications, shortlisting candidates, preparing for and carrying out the interview process, right through to selecting and appointing the successful candidate.
5. Develop the apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement
All apprentices must have an apprenticeship agreement between the individual and the employer, stating that they will be undertaking the placement in a particular skill, trade or occupation. It can be used to reinforce the understanding of the requirements of the apprenticeship.
This document should also cover the amount of training they will receive, as well as the start and end dates of the apprenticeship.
The commitment statement is a separate document explaining what all parties must do to ensure the placement goes to plan.
It must be signed by the apprentice, employer and training provider. It’s similar to the apprenticeship agreement, but this one must cover what the training will consist of, what the employer and training provider has said it will deliver, how queries or complaints will be resolved, and what is expected of the employee and the student.
6. Allocate the apprentice a mentor from your existing staff
This is a great way to help your apprentice get the most out of the programme, giving them additional support and guidance throughout the workplace.
The idea behind this is that conversations between the mentor and mentee will be confidential, meaning the apprentice feels they can be open and honest. Having this support in place also provides them with a voice in the business – and will surely build their confidence within the workplace.
7. Provide a safe working environment with adequate supervision
Just like any member of staff, apprentices should feel happy and safe in work. As well as safe conditions, there should be health and safety induction training, personal protective equipment provided where necessary, and advice and guidance when needed.
Adequate supervision is vital too, with help on hand whenever needed. This should also include regular reviews and guaranteeing enough time for them to reach their training objectives.
UK Training and Development has written a checklist of the responsibilities of an employer during apprenticeships.
8. Schedule check-ins
These should be with the apprentice themselves, carried out by those working with the apprentice day-in day-out and the training provider. They should take place on a regular basis for the duration of the programme, to ensure development is going to plan.
9. Be aware of how the apprentice will be assessed – and find your end-point assessment organisation
Assessing the apprentice is not a part of the employer’s responsibilities, however employers are required to choose the body that will carry the assessment out.
That includes a training provider – whose responsibility will include carrying out an initial assessment to establish the starting point for the apprentice.
All apprentices in England are also assessed at the end of their training by an end point assessment organisation (EPAO) to ensure they are competent in their occupation – checking knowledge, skills and behaviour learnt throughout.
The EPAO must be different to the training provider, and it’s a good idea to start looking for one early on during the placement. For more information, the Government has put together this page on apprenticeship assessments.
10. Consider what happens after the apprentice completes the programme
This consideration should include questions such as whether there will be an ongoing role for them in your business.
Employers are advised that it’s best to begin these discussions as soon as practically possible, for both sides to manage expectations and plan accordingly.