The sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week begins on 11th March. In celebration of this national effort, we have taken the liberty of collating some of the most basic queries about ‘Apprenticeships’ you may have in mind. These will present some intrepid reporting to help you understand if taking on apprentices is the right thing for your small business.

Historically, apprenticeships have always been deemed to be more suited to larger businesses. This is because they often have more time, resource and money to invest in training young people. However, since the launch in February 2012 of the government initiative Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE), we have seen SME’s come to the forefront in this arena. Small and medium-sized companies can now benefit from a £1,500 Apprenticeship Grant for Employers when they recruit their first apprentice. This incentive, along with the additional support to companies, and increased availability of training for apprentices, means there has never been a better time for SME’s to jump on-board the apprentice wagon!

What types of Apprenticeships are out there?

There is an extensive list of apprenticeships out there. These cover a whole raft of industries from mechanical and retail through to child care, electrical, and customer service. For a full list of what is available, the Gov.uk website has extensive information and guides to get you started.

And of course, the question that will be asked by every business of all shapes and sizes:
“What’s in it for me as a business owner?”

3 Key benefits for you…

Firstly…

Bringing new blood into the company is always a good idea. A young and enthusiastic trainee may sound like hard work. However, think of all the fresh ideas and new perspective they could bring to your business! While they are working with you, they will also be attending college or similar training. This where they could learn new techniques and best practices, which you may not have tried or considered before.

Secondly…

It is an opportunity to review, refine or streamline your existing work processes. When you have a new employee onboard, it is important that they learn all the elements of the job in the simplest and most logical manner. It may be the case that your working procedures, manuals and systems are a little out of date, or need an overhaul. What better time to do this, than when you have a fresh pair of eyes to assist you.

Thirdly…

In a tough economic climate hiring an apprentice makes financial sense. One in five employers is hiring apprentices to help them through this difficult time.

In addition to these 3 key points:

If you find a great apprentice, it is not at all unlikely that they could stay with you for years to come. One would reasonably guess that many of them will, in fact, have an unparalleled loyalty stemming from genuine gratitude.

Many apprentices can go on to be great managers, having started at the ground level in the industry and learnt from those around them.

What the experts say:

Ian Harper is the Chief Executive of ATG Training, a not-for-profit training provider who specialises in training and placements for apprentices. Operating since 1967, ATG Training has over 500 apprentices qualifying each year, so are fully aware of huge benefits an apprentice can bring to a business.

Forward-thinking businesses are snapping up talented school leavers. They put them on structured apprenticeships and develop their talents to suit their employers’ strengths and needs. Most business leaders learned their most valuable skills ‘on the job’. This is exactly what apprenticeships offer; instant skills of instant worth to the employer and employee. 

Employers that draw their talent from a variety of sources will reap the rewards. They will build a workforce with different skills, thought processes, learning styles and attitudes that arise from their varied development paths.

Apprenticeships in action

Destiny Hair Design is an SME based in Aylesbury. In their busy salon, 28% of their staff are presently trainees on an Apprenticeship Scheme. Since they started trading in 2004, Destiny has employed 18 trainees, who have progressed on to become the company’s future professional stylists.

Emma is one of Destiny’s apprentices, who is working towards her NVQ Level 2 and in her second year of training. When asked why she likes doing an apprenticeship her response was that it has given her independence, not only in the salon, but out of work also. She feels that working in a salon environment gives her the chance to really focus on her work. She also gets lots of opportunities to train and meet different clients. “Even though it’s only been 16 months since leaving school, Destiny has helped me to grow and take on the world as an adult”.

Where do I go to find out more?

To find out more about employing apprentices, and whether your business is eligible for the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, go to the Apprenticeships website.

Published Wednesday January 30, 2013.

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