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How do I take on an apprentice?

Over the last 10 years, the government has tried to raise awareness around apprenticeships and get more businesses and young people considering this training route. We’re going to look at some of the reasons why hiring an apprentice makes good business sense and what you need to do to start an apprenticeship programme. 

What is an apprenticeship?

The term apprenticeship refers to the nature of the employment relationship between you and a particular type of worker – an apprentice. An apprentice studies for a work-based qualification whilst in your employment. The different levels of apprenticeships available are:

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A level
Higher 4,5,6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree

These levels refer to standards in England. Different organisations deal with apprenticeships in Scotland and apprenticeships in Wales.

What are the business benefits of apprenticeships?

There are a number of benefits to hiring an apprentice:

  • It’s cost-effective – you’ll only need to pay 5% towards the cost of apprenticeship training and the government will cover the remaining 95% of the funding band maximum (£8,000 per apprentice). You’ll also need to pay the apprentice’s salary too, but you can take advantage of a reduced apprentice rate of pay in their first year – currently £3.90 per hour, rising to £4.15 from April 2020. After that, they must be paid the national minimum wage.
  • It increases loyalty – 90% of apprentices stay with the company they trained with after completing their apprenticeship (Source:
  • It increases productivity – 78% of employers who have invested in apprentices report improved productivity (Source:
  • It expands your business – if you’re looking to grow the size of your business, it could be a more cost-effective way to do this than through conventional recruitment programmes. 
  • It nurtures existing talent –if you have a staff who are already in a role but would benefit from training, it’s a great way to invest in their future. 
  • It fills your skills gap – equally, it ensures you have stronger foundations as a result of employing better-equipped staff with sector-specific expertise. 
  • It freshens up your workforce – having younger staff members can help to make the office more vibrant as well as bringing a fresh perspective. 

What age are apprentices?

The minimum age for an apprentice is 16 but there’s no upper age limit. The reality is though they are more likely to be at the younger end of the scale. 

How do apprenticeships work?

The main element of an apprenticeship programme is the training, this is often managed by a training provider. Mentoring and coaching is often another key element of the apprenticeship.

The number of hours will vary depending on the nature of the skills the apprentice is developing. Some more practical orientated skills require more on the job training than traditional classroom-based training. Therefore they are training while doing.

Employers need to be highly involved in helping to develop and design the training required, including any mentoring, coaching and supervising on the job training.

A successful apprenticeship programme is based on the relationships between all parties involved and one where the employer has a genuine desire to invest in the development of their apprentice.

  • Women working on a boiler

    All apprenticeships must be part of an apprenticeship framework. A list of current frameworks is available here. Apprenticeship frameworks range from office-based professions through to skilled crafts, including health, legal, horticulture, animal welfare, and manufacturing. 

  • Trainer talking to a class
    Working with a training provider

    Once you have found the appropriate apprenticeship framework you may wish to work with a training provider to help build your apprenticeship programme. Remember the apprenticeship is about work-based training and therefore needs to be a properly organised training programme. Large businesses may choose not to but small businesses are likely to significantly benefit from the expertise of a training provider. 

  • Hairdresser training students with live model
    Training and development

    Working with a training provider doesn’t absolve you of the need to participate in the training and development of your apprentice. This is a work based programme so you and your employees will likely be involved in some way. The plan will set out what happens when and who is responsible. This can range from some standard practices such as induction and basic training but may also require some mentoring and coaching from other members of the workforce. Your training provider will deliver some of the training but you will also be involved to a certain extent.

  • Two tradespeople overseeing a job
    The Education & Skills Funding Agency

    The Education & Skills Funding Agency will help small businesses through the process of hiring an apprentice. You can speak to their small business advisors on 0808 239 6294. Alternatively, your training provider will be able to advertise the apprenticeships for free on the apprenticeship vacancies website.

  • Man signing a contract
    Apprenticeship agreement

    All apprentices must sign an apprenticeship agreement at the start of their apprenticeship. An apprentice is an employee and therefore is protected under the same employment legislation as your other employees. An apprentice also requires as is their statutory right a statement of written particulars within 2 months of the start of their contract.

  • Calendar with pin on date
    Start and end dates

    Most apprenticeships have a specific start and end date. You will still need to follow the statutory requirements to provide notice of the end of the contract. Prior to the end of the contract if the apprenticeship has been successful most employers would be discussing the possibility of keeping their apprentice on a permanent basis in a particular role that suits their experience, training and strengths.After investing the time and money in your apprentice you want to consider holding on to such a valuable resource. If you want to end an apprenticeship early you may need to seek legal advice.

How much will I need to pay an apprentice?

Apprentices are governed by standard employment legislation which means you must abide by the legislation around national minimum wage for hours worked. The minimum number of hours an apprentice can work a week is 16, however, on average they usually work for 30.

Paid hours of work include time spent at college or in training as well as actual working hours. They are also entitled to all the paid benefits under the UK employment legislation.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

Introduced in 2017, the apprenticeships levy is a mandatory government tax that is payable by all UK employers with a pay bill over £3 million (typically over 250 employees). If your pay bill is under £3 million, you do not have to pay the levy. 

Levy-paying businesses have the opportunity to directly drive the skills and training they need. You’ll be able to access your levy funds via the online Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS). Through this servive, you’ll be able to access your ‘levy allowance’ of £15,000 to offset against your contribution to apprenticeship training costs. You’ll be able to see how much is in your account and allocate payments to providers of government-approved apprenticeships.

Read further guidance from GOV.UK on how apprenticeship funding works


Checklist: 10 steps to setting up an apprenticeship

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