How to take on an apprentice

There are many benefits to hiring an apprentice. This guide explains how to navigate the process of finding, employing and managing an apprentice...

Earning while learning is the name of the game and taking on an apprentice is a great way for a small business to develop home grown talent.

Apprentices are new or current employees aged over 16 that receive paid on-the-job training for between one and five years. Your apprentice will work alongside experienced staff at your business learning specific skills towards a work-based qualification.

Businesses that do take on an apprentice could be eligible for a grant from the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers.

You may have already read of the many benefits an apprentice can bring to your business, but now we’re going to take you through the stages of hiring one…

Writing the job description to hire an apprentice

Don’t be afraid to be very specific about the kind of person that would make your ideal candidate when hiring an apprentice: outline desired knowledge and experience, skills etc.

As well as information about your company and its location, the job description should include a job title, the main duties the apprentice will be undertaking and the purpose of their role.

Most employers then need to find a training organisation to recruit an apprentice for them. This service can be found online, but you’ll need to create an account with the government’s Information Management Services system first.

  • Advertising for an apprentice online – Training organisations can post a vacancy on your behalf through Recruit an apprentice: an online system for registered training providers to manage applications for apprenticeships and traineeships. The service allows candidates to search for vacancies using criteria such as geography, occupation and job role.

Interviewing your apprentice candidates

Preparing a list of standard questions to ensure each candidate is interviewed fairly and assessed on an equal footing is the best approach. For advice on how to interview staff, read our guides here.

How much should you pay an apprentice?

Any apprentice you take on must earn at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) during their placement at your business, which currently stands at an hourly rate of £3.30, increasing on an annual basis.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t pay more than the NMW. By offering an apprentice a competitive salary, which reflects the level of responsibility and skills required for the role, you will attract high quality candidates for your apprenticeship scheme.

Is your business eligible for an apprenticeship grant?

If you hire an apprentice you could be eligible for a grant or funding to cover the cost of their training during their placement.

There are currently two different government incentives available for businesses taking on an apprentice:

  • Apprenticeship Grant for Employers – Available for small employers of fewer than 50 staff who are employing apprentices aged between 16 and 24 and haven’t employed an apprentice in the last 12 months. If your business meets these criteria, you may be eligible for a £1,500 VAT free grant.
  • Training grants – If you’re providing your apprentice with employment and also formal training with a view to an accredited qualification, then you can apply for funding to cover any costs. The amount you’ll receive will depend on what age your candidate is. If they’re aged between 16 and 18 you can get all of their course costs up to advanced level apprenticeship qualifications (e.g. higher diplomas or A-levels) covered. For 19 to 23 year-olds, half of their costs can be covered, while only minimum costs will be covered for apprentices aged 24 and over.

The work rights of your apprentice

Once you’ve hired your apprentice you’ll need to create an apprenticeship agreement and get your apprentice to read, agree and sign the terms. This will detail the nature of your agreement and the apprentice’s contract. The contract should include:

  • How long the apprenticeship will be for
  • What training you’ll provide
  • Their working conditions
  • The qualifications they are working towards

You can write your own apprentice agreement or download an apprenticeship agreement template.

If you want to make an apprentice redundant, you should seek legal advice. Remember that you can’t let an apprentice go or prematurely end their contract if you run out of work to provide them with.  

Apprenticeship standards

Government-backed apprenticeship standards are available to demonstrate exactly what an apprentice should learn and should complete during their apprenticeship. For the current apprenticeship standards, divided by occupation, click here.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

Only open to businesses with £3m turnover or more, from the 6 April larger businesses will be required to make an investment in apprenticeships. For more information on the Apprenticeship Levy, click here.

Apprenticeship assessments

In line with apprenticeship standards, all apprentice schemes must contain an end-point assessment. The assessment will be carried out by an independent organisation to ensure fairness and that each apprentice is assessed consistently.

A list of these organisations (the register) is available online here, and only these listed organisations are considered suitable to conduct these assessments and gain receipt of public funds.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to select an organisation to conduct the final assessment. If you’re interested about applying to the register of apprentice assessment organisations, click here.

Want to know more about taking on an apprentice? Read these apprenticeship case studies here.

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