How to start a new apprenticeship scheme in your business

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If you’re a business looking to invest in existing or new employees, launching a new apprenticeship scheme in your workplace could be a great way to do this, with many benefits for you, the individual apprentice(s) involved and your business as a whole.

If you’re unsure of what is involved in the process, it can seem daunting, but there are lots of resources to help employers and offering apprenticeships within your business probably won’t be as complicated as you think.

This article looks at why an apprenticeship scheme might be beneficial for your business and what the process is for starting a new scheme in a business which has not had apprentices in the past.

The process can differ slightly depending on the size of your business against the apprenticeship criteria.

The benefits of an apprenticeship scheme for businesses

Employing apprentices in your business is a long-term strategy that invests in the individuals whilst, at the same time, training and shaping them in the ways of working that are right for your business and company culture.

It can also be a great way to reduce skills gaps within your industry, by training a new generation of employees who often remain permanent employees once their apprenticeship is complete.

78% of employers say that having apprentices improved productivity within their business, and 74% say that apprentices have helped improve their products or service quality.

Offering apprenticeships can be a very cost-effective way to employ and train new employees. Your business will be responsible for paying the wages of any apprentices that you employ, but the majority (or all) of the costs of their training and ongoing assessments are often covered by the government, depending on the circumstances. There may also be additional funding and incentives that your business is eligible for.

What type and level(s) of apprenticeship should your business offer?

It’s important to consider which type and level(s) of apprenticeship will best deliver what your business needs from employees both now and into the future. An apprentice will be with you for at least a year, and in many cases, may well become a permanent member of staff once they complete the scheme.

There are potentially hundreds of different apprenticeship standards to choose from, offering tailored training alongside the work they do for you to help the apprentice to gain the skills and experience to fulfil an important role for your business. This includes everything from engineering and technical roles to administration-based apprenticeships. It’s important to note that an apprentice should be employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

It might be the case that you start by offering an intermediate or advanced level and then go on to offer higher apprenticeships as your workforce develops and your business grows.

The apprenticeship levels are:

  • Intermediate (Level 2) – equivalent to five passes at GCSE
  • Advanced (Level 3) – equivalent to two passes at A-level
  • Higher (Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7) – equivalent to a foundation degree and above
  • Degree (Levels 6 and 7) – equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

There may also be some apprenticeships that offer additional diploma qualifications, and some apprenticeships will require that the apprentice gains Maths and English qualifications (if not already achieved) as part of their course.

Registering your apprenticeship scheme

Once you have decided on the apprenticeship type and level you want to offer, you will need to register on the national apprenticeship service.

You can then access the funding that you’re eligible for, select the course you want to offer and team up with an apprenticeship training provider as well as advertise the apprenticeship to potential applicants via the government’s portal.

How does the training and assessment element of an apprenticeship work?

In order to offer an apprenticeship, the training and assessment needs to be managed by a training provider, who works alongside your business to help deliver the apprenticeship scheme. This will be a fully affiliated training partner. They will be responsible for delivering training and assessing the progress of your apprentice throughout the duration of the scheme.

At least 20% of the apprentice’s time will be spent on training. The way that this training is implemented will depend on the training provider and the arrangements you make with them. Sometimes this could be weekly or monthly time set aside for the training. Alternatively, this could be delivered in blocks of several days at a time at a few points throughout the year.

Training may be delivered at a local college or educational facility, online or where there are a large group of apprentices in one location, sometimes in the workplace. This will be discussed and arranged with the apprenticeship training provider before the scheme starts. The employer, training provider and apprentice will need to read, agree to the terms of, and sign an apprenticeship agreement before the programme begins. You can find an apprenticeship agreement template here.

What employee benefits and rights do apprentices have?

Apprentices are employees and therefore have the same rights and benefits as your other staff. As their employer, you will need to create an apprenticeship agreement (instead of a standard employment contract) and there will also be a separate agreement between your business, the apprentice, and the training provider.

The wages that you’ll need to pay your apprentice will depend on their circumstances and also the length of the apprenticeship. You pay not only for the hours that they work directly for you, but also for their training time.

For the first year of the apprenticeship, regardless of their age, you must pay them at least the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage, which is currently £4.30 per hour. If the apprenticeship lasts for more than 12 months, the wages must increase at this point to the National Minimum Wage Rate for the apprentice’s age. This currently stands at:

  • Under 18 – £4.62 per hour
  • 18-20 years – £6.56 per hour
  • 21-22 years – £8.36 per hour
  • 23 and over – £8.91 per hour

Once you have all of the practicalities outlined above sorted, your apprenticeship scheme is ready to go!


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