1) Apprentices must be paid
Apprentices must be paid a regular salary by their employer. While this is often lower than a graduate or equivalent hire, it’s important that you factor this cost in to your recruitment strategy. The national minimum wage for apprentices currently stands at £2.68 per hour, although it is at your discretion whether you want to increase this amount as their job role develops. The National Apprenticeship Service, established by the government to coordinate apprentices in England, will contribute towards the cost of training, although businesses do not receive a direct payment as an incentive for hiring an apprentice.
2) The length of each programme varies
Unlike work experience placements, which in some cases last only a matter of days, apprenticeships are often viewed as a longer-term solution to an organisation’s current recruitment needs. There are many apprenticeship schemes available and their length varies accordingly, with programmes commonly lasting between one and four years. The advantage of a longer commitment is that it allows you to train the apprentice across complex, niche areas of the business while they build on their knowledge. And don’t forget to look beyond the end date of the apprenticeship scheme; ideally you want the relationship to be a success, so there is every chance that this individual will become a permanent member of staff.
3) Remember who you’re dealing with
Apprentices often come straight from school with no work experience and lack any form of further education. For employers used to dealing with graduates and young professionals, this can come as quite a shock. Part of your duty is not only to train the apprentice in skills specific to your line of business, but also to help nurture a responsible work ethic. Moreover, you may need to teach the very basics, such as good timekeeping, a professional phone manner and office etiquette. Make sure you factor this into your plans, as it could potentially involve assigning specific members of staff to assist in developing these abilities.
4) Learn from the best
Some of the early adopters of apprentices have already developed impressive programmes that have proven extremely successful. The likes of O2 and BSkyB are well known for their forward-thinking approach to apprenticeships, so why not use them as inspiration for your own organisation? The Telefonica Advanced Apprenticeships programme combines classroom study with practical work experience and, once completed, can lead to a graduate development programme and other ongoing opportunities with the organisation. The success of this scheme has brought many benefits to the company itself, including enhancing its profile and strengthening its employer brand. Looking at existing schemes is a great way to decide how your business could benefit from introducing a similar programme.
5) It’s a two-way street
While much of your time will involve developing the skills and abilities of your apprentice, it’s important to recognise the benefits your business is getting from the relationship. Apprentices can add real value, not only in terms of the additional manpower they bring, but also in their individual qualities. This is particularly true of younger apprentices placed on digital programmes, where their innate ability with modern technology may be superior to the skills of a permanent employee who has been with the company for many years. Assessing your current knowledge gaps and matching these to a suitable candidate will aid your decision in hiring the right apprentice.