Why apprentices make great long-term employees

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When you’re running a business, bringing in new employees can be a constant headache – especially within the trades sector. As demand for work soars, you can’t be in two places at once – and with experienced tradesmen often hard to find, even at high rates of wage, it’s a challenge for many.

However, there is another way to expand your business and lighten your workload, without major disruption or heavy cost to your day-to-day operations – through an apprenticeship.

In this article we’ll explore:

Why choose an apprenticeship?

Hiring an apprentice could be the answer, and it’s an option the Government is urging more employers to take up to help plug the UK’s skills gaps.

An apprentice is an employee like any other, but one that you can help train and shape into exactly the type of skilled worker you need. If you choose to hire one, you could benefit from:

  • A committed and loyal employee
  • A cost-effective training process
  • Growth for your business
  • Financial incentives to help with funding and training

It’s this that makes hiring an apprentice unique from other recruitment routes, and the benefits are rewarding, practical and long-term.

5 benefits of recruiting an apprentice

1.     Investing in an apprentice at the start of their career can pay off

Typically, an apprentice is someone starting out in the world of work, and they’re often aged between 16-18 (although there are no age limits) having recently left education.

This provides you as an employer with someone eager to learn new skills, with no previous experience that may differ from your methods, and no bad habits picked up over the years.

In the early days, they’ll be by yours or an experienced trainers’ side, watching carefully to copy your best practice, as well as learning the workings of the industry at a college or training provider some days of the week. This tried and tested process can quickly develop your apprentices into employees that are:

  • Competent and confident
  • Ready to work independently
  • Motivated with a clear career path ahead of them
  • Loyal – around

2.     It’s a simple way to future proof your business

Choosing an apprenticeship doesn’t only benefit the apprentice and the employer, as it can also have a positive impact on your whole business. If you’re in a position where you’re considering recruiting one, it’s likely that you’re reaching capacity, or might already be exceeding it.

This inevitably leads to longer hours, more work and for employers, more work-related stress. None of this is sustainable and could harm your business in the long term, which is why it’s even more important to find a permanent solution.

Apprentices can have a big impact on a business, with a willingness to learn and fresh approach that has a positive influence on the workplace.

In addition, your employees will be grateful for a new team member to delegate work to, making for a win-win situation where time-served employees can reduce their workload, while the apprentice can get stuck in and start the learning process.

3.     Apprenticeships are cost effective at every step

Bringing an apprentice on board doesn’t have to be expensive either, despite small to medium sized trades business often citing cost as the biggest hurdle to investing in apprenticeships.

In the past year, the Government has recognised these concerns, and introduced the highest-ever financial incentives to encourage take-up of apprentices. Now, employers who hire them can benefit from:

  • A grant of £3,000 to put towards training, salary, or any equipment you need to buy (However this extra incentive ends 31st January 2022 so will not be applicable past this point.)
  • A £1,000 payment for all new 16 to 18-year old apprentices (and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, where that applies

For example: An employer of a 16 to 18-year old, will receive £4,000 in total for each apprentice taken on.

A business taking on three 17-year-olds on an electrician apprenticeship would be able to claim grants totalling £12,000.

4.     Apprenticeships are a sign of a successful business

Choosing an apprenticeship is a recognised means of gaining employment, with many working in trades and construction having started out as an apprentice themselves.

Often that means they’re more familiar with the process, meaning apprenticeships are positively received by those already in the industry and across lots of UK sectors.

They’re not only popular internally, but externally too, as hiring an apprentice gives businesses several opportunities to raise their profile with:

  • An enhanced reputation through creating jobs, and hiring local people
  • Participation in National Apprenticeship Week (7-13 February 2022)
  • Better commercial performance – 81 per cent of consumers favour businesses who take on apprentices, according to National Apprenticeship Service data

Local government authorities also regularly hold events promoting apprenticeships, and your own apprentice could prove a valuable brand ambassador by discussing their journey and the skills they’ve learned, adding a further long-term benefit beyond their skills on site.

5.     You’ll be supported with a quality training process

If you haven’t trained anyone up before, choosing an apprenticeship means you won’t be doing it alone.

An apprentice will divide their time between working on site with you and working towards their formal qualification at an official training provider. Once enrolled, they’ll have access to:

  • Expert trainers, who will act as mentors during the training process
  • A structured learning plan, covering all key aspects of the trade
  • A formal assessment at the end point of the course
  • Certified qualification at the end of the apprenticeship

This means that even when your apprentice is away from work, they’re learning key skills and standards to continue their professional development.

Over 500 apprenticeship standards are available depending on the industry, and they all have different associated training costs, which will in part be funded by the Government. The amount you’ll receive towards training is calculated by the Government’s funding bands.

What is the minimum wage for an apprentice?

Now you know the benefits of an apprentice, you’ll need to decide if it’s a viable option for your business. This begins with looking at the cost of hiring an apprentice, and the wage you’ll be paying them.

An apprentices’ wage is set at the National Minimum Wage, depending on their age and the level and stage of apprenticeship they’re on.

In the first year, apprentices must be paid at least £4.30 an hour, rising to the current rate relative to their age after the completion of their first year:

  • Under 18: £4.62
  • 18 to 20: £6.56
  • 21 to 22: £8.36
  • 23 and over: £8.91

These rates change on the 1st April each year, and can be checked on the UK Government website.

Do apprentices pay tax?

Apprentices are PAYE employees, so pay tax in the same way any other employee of a business would. Tax will simply be deducted from their pay packet after you’ve registered them as an employee with HMRC.

However, for the first year, it’s unlikely they will be taxed much or even at all, as for the 2021/22 financial year, earnings less than £12,750 per annum are known as a personal allowance.

Only earnings over this amount will be taxed to the appropriate income rate.

What is the average apprentice wage per week?

Apprentices in their first year will typically earn at least the minimum wage figure of £4.30 an hour, amounting to around £172 per week, with the current average standing at £200 per week. For any apprenticeship, the rate of wage will depend on:

  • The age of an apprentice
  • Sector
  • Region
  • Level of apprenticeship

As the employer, it’s ultimately up to you to decide how much to pay an apprentice, as long as it is at least £4.30 for the first year,  the national minimum wage thereafter.

How to find an approved apprenticeship training provider

With hundreds of different apprenticeship training providers available, selecting one can often seem a complex and challenging task.

There are two things you need to consider:

  1. The course that will give your business the right level and skills
  2. The availability and location of training providers

Then you need to establish if an apprenticeship training provider is right for you, to do this there are several questions you may want to consider.

  • How qualified are the trainers – what experience do they have in your sector, industry, or required skill?
  • What are your training facilities like? Is there an opportunity to look around them?
  • What qualifications do they offer, is it a wide range or do they specialise?
  • Can you help with finding an apprentice, and the recruitment process?
  • What is your course structure? How will the apprenticeship programme fit into your business?

What happens at the end of an apprenticeship?

Once an apprenticeship has been completed, there are a number of options to continue employment. Typically, apprentices will stay on in their role, but may have the option to extend their education through:

  • A higher or degree-level apprenticeship
  • Additional industry-specific training
  • Continued professional development delivered in-house

Completing an apprenticeship signals the point of formal qualification, but there’s plenty of opportunities to keep employees engaged and learning once they’ve finished their time as an apprentice.

Why now is the time to choose an apprenticeship

As businesses begin to get back on their feet, and Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease in England, more and more of us are cautiously taking steps to return to normal.

However, the road to recovery won’t always be straightforward, as multiple industries face skills shortages and the lasting impact of the pandemic, coupled with Brexit.

The simple process of taking on an apprentice could make all the difference, which is why it’s important to act sooner rather than later. Bringing enthusiasm, motivation to learn, and clear career aspirations to the table, an apprentice has the potential to be the person who will drive your business forward over next three, five and even ten or more years.

How to get started

With incentives at their highest-ever levels, there’s never been a better time to take on an apprentice, which is why we’re on a mission to make it easy for employers like you.


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