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How do I take on an apprentice?

You’d be hard pushed not to hear anything about apprenticeships in the news these days. The government in particular is setting some large targets.  This section helps you understand what it’s all about and if it’s right for your business.

What is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships is the name given 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:

Level Qualification equivalent
Level 2 This is an intermediate level apprenticeship; it is equivalent to 5 A* – C at GCSE
Level 3 This is an advanced level apprenticeship and is the equivalent to two A Levels
Level 4 This is the higher level apprenticeship and will be equivalent to degree level qualifications


What is the benefit of an apprentice? 

  • Almost 9 in 10 of every employer that takes on an apprentice report benefits to their business 
  • 70% reported that apprenticeships improved their productivity or the quality of their product or service
  • 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer.

Source of data

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. 

What do apprenticeship programmes look like?

The main elements 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.

How much will an apprenticeship cost me?

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.

The Skills Funding Agency provide apprenticeship grants up to a value of £1,500 per apprentice for apprentices between 16 and 24 years old.  To be eligible for the grant you must have less than 50 employees. You can claim up to 5 grants.

You can also apply to the government for funding to cover the cost of your training.  The government will send the funds direct to the training provider rather than to you.

How do apprenticeships work?

  • Frameworks

    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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • The Skills Funding Agency

    The Skills Funding Agency will help small businesses through the process of hiring an apprentice. You can speak to their small Business Team advisor on 08000 150 600.  Alternatively, your training provider will be able to advertise the apprenticeships for free on the apprenticeship vacancies website.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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