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What is an apprenticeship scheme and how can my business benefit from it?

3-minute read

Josh Hall

Josh Hall

29 June 2010

Apprenticeships are a useful but often overlooked tool. They can help you to develop a uniquely well-trained workforce, perfectly qualified to contribute to your business – and in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

  • Hiring an apprentice: how to hire an apprentice for your small businessIs employers’ liability insurance a legal requirement?

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are work-based training schemes. Once the informal bedrock upon which many industries were built, they have fallen out of favour in the past few decades. But the previous government took steps to restore the position of apprenticeships at the centre of the world of work, collaborating with employers to develop useful qualifications that provide firms with highly-skilled employees.

Both new and existing employees can develop their skills within the apprenticeship frameworks. These individuals receive a mixture of ‘on-the-job’ and classroom-based training.

Why would I take on an apprentice?

There is a range of important, highly visible business benefits associated with apprenticeships. These benefits can be enjoyed by firms in virtually every sector.

Perhaps most importantly, apprenticeship schemes help to ensure that your business has precisely the skills it needs. No-one knows your business better than you do, and apprenticeships allow you to impart this knowledge to potential employees – meaning that you end up with a workforce that is perfectly suited to the unique demands of your firm.

Apprentices also tend to be highly motivated – often significantly more so than conventional employees. They recognise the investment that has been made by the firm that trains them, and many remain ferociously loyal to the business that helps to start their career. Apprentices can therefore help to improve productivity within your business – and this, of course, has a direct impact on your bottom line.

What are my responsibilities?

If you are considering taking on an apprentice for the first time, it is vital that you are aware of your responsibilities. There is some confusion regarding the nature of the agreement between apprentice and employer and, unless this is cleared up, it can lead to difficulties later on.

Broadly speaking, apprentices are entitled to the same working rights as conventional employees. Indeed, an apprentice is an employee of your business; you must therefore ensure that they receive at least the basic working rights that are enshrined in law. In practice, this means that apprentices must, amongst other things:

  • be paid at least the National Minimum Wage
  • receive at least 20 days' paid holiday, in addition to bank holidays
  • not be forced to work an average of more than 48 hours per week.

It is also important that you understand the nature of the apprenticeship training process. The training received by each apprentice should follow a framework, which is set by the National Apprenticeship Service. Frameworks have been developed for a range of different industries; details of the framework that applies to your business can be found on the National Apprenticeship Service website.

As the employer, you are responsible for providing the on-the-job element of your apprentices’ training. In addition to this, though, apprentices must also receive some classroom-based instruction. Many employers are deterred by this – but thankfully, there is a range of organisations ready to help you with this element of the training.

What help is available?

The government recognises that most employers are not in a position to offer the classroom-based part of the training themselves. So, if you wish, you can ‘outsource’ this element of the apprenticeship scheme to a learning provider.

Learning providers work with your business to develop a comprehensive training plan for each apprentice, and often offer all of the classroom-based training your apprentices require. This leaves you to get on with providing the on-the-job training – and, of course, running your business.

Your local learning provider will often be a college or other further education establishment. You can find details of your local learning provider on the Learning and Skills Council website.

There is also some financial assistance available to firms that wish to take on apprentices. The size and nature of this assistance, which is provided by the National Apprenticeship Service, will depend on the age of each of your apprentices, and on the sector in which you work.

  • You can receive 100 per cent of the cost of training an apprentice aged 16-18.
  • You can receive up to 50 per cent of the cost of training an apprentice aged 19-25.
  • The amount you receive for apprentices aged 25 and over will depend on the sector in which your business operates.

Apprenticeships can provide your business with the highly skilled staff it needs to thrive. If you are looking for an efficient, cost-effective way of developing your workforce, you should seriously consider apprenticeships.

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