Are apprenticeships worth it for small businesses?

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There’s no doubt about it: taking on an apprentice will deliver a sure-fire boost for your business, no matter what its shape or size.

Across the UK, there are countless apprentice success stories to tell from firms that took the plunge – from increasing new business wins to developing a more motivated workforce.

Here, we reveal why apprenticeships are good for business – and why this cost-effective way of hiring motivated individuals is definitely worth it for your SME.

Enthusiastic, talented, loyal employees

Firstly, apprentices bring your organisation fresh ideas that can be contagious to other employees, too. Keen to learn from you and your team, they’re enthusiastic about the qualification they’ve chosen, and will provide a fresh perspective on how you do things.

What’s more, they create loyal, motivated employees that will help future proof your business – often solving recruitment crises before they have the chance to begin. This often comes by firms offering apprenticeships in areas of the business they know they’ll need in future to grow the company. And apprentices will more often than not become loyal members of staff, too – the Government says around 90% often stay on in their role once the apprenticeship has concluded.

Thirdly, apprentices often bring with them bags of experience. That’s because contrary to the popular belief that they are all school leavers, many people with varying levels of experience across industries are in fact retraining and doing apprenticeships due to the wealth of superb benefits they offer.

Fourth, if kept on in a permanent role, they often quickly progress into more senior positions. This is because after having been effectively moulded into the ideal employee with skills perfectly matched to your organisation, they have unparalleled knowledge of your business – ideal for working their way up the ladder.

And for any business owners concerned there won’t be an apprenticeship to fit your specific sector or niche, fear not. As the FSB explains here, there are over 550 apprenticeship standards to choose from, meaning you’re sure to find one that suits your business aims and objectives.

Apprentices can make a big difference to your bottom line

Even more pertinent for smaller businesses than their larger counterparts is the long-term impact apprentices can have, particularly on your bottom line.

Apprentice helping employer

According to research by the team at TSW Training, offering these types of roles makes your company more likely to win new business. Their survey found 41% of small employers saying so, perhaps because they were able to take on more people to complete the work required by new contracts.

Furthermore, a Government report in 2017 showed apprenticeships are a great way of improving your service and boosting your bottom line, with 86% of employers who took one on reporting the development of skills relevant to the organisation. And according to, 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity, with 74% saying they helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

They’re a cost-effective way of hiring new staff

Previously, the Government had offered some attractive apprenticeship incentive grants aimed at enticing small firms to take on apprentices. Even though many of these are now gone, there are still plenty of reasons why they are still a fantastically cost-effective way of taking on new staff, particularly for smaller organisations.

SMEs pay just 5% of the training and assessment costs for each apprentice, with the Government contributing the other 95%. In terms of wages, apprentices must be paid at least the current apprenticeship rate and, if the placement is longer than a year, at least the current national minimum wage from 12 months on.

Make the most of your apprentice

Now that we’ve (hopefully) persuaded you that an apprenticeship is the right way to go for your small business, you’ll probably be after some tips to try and make the most of it!

Luckily for you, we’ve got loads of them.

Firstly, be sure to give them a dedicated mentor for the duration of the programme – a member of staff who is not their line manager, but instead someone who can help guide them through the work side of the scheme. Mentors are crucial to the apprentice developing the skills needed to complete the programme, but doing so can also help you train other staff for management and progression too, by giving them responsibilities related to the apprentice that they don’t already have.

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.

Next, be sure to include them across all areas of the business so they get wider experience and support – and encourage them to share ideas. This, of course, is a win-win. Not only do you get more out of them, but they get the most out of the experience, too.

Your apprentice will have a training provider with whom they will work closely. But it’s also important that you as an employer keep open lines of communication with them throughout the programme. This is so both parties are informed about progress, and any issues can be dealt with swiftly.

We’ve compiled this blog with tips for businesses looking to make the most out of the process – from recruitment to apprentice feedback.


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