Apprenticeships in small businesses

Alex Richards
Training Partnership Manager | Business West
6th March 2017

There’s an age old myth that apprenticeships are costly and don’t fit smaller business models. These are big misconceptions. We’ve entered a new era for apprenticeships, so there’s no better time than now to get an apprentice on board.

Let’s first address the reasons why small businesses may hold back from hiring an apprentice.

"There aren’t apprenticeships in my line of work."

There are over 1500 job roles in more than 170 industries. From administrators to managers, engineers to sales and marketing; most businesses can find apprenticeships to fit their line of work. It’s a progressive industry and new apprenticeship standards developed by employers are becoming regularly available. 

"I don’t have time to train an apprentice."

One thing small businesses don’t realise is that there’s a lot of support available to support you and your apprentice on their journey. If you’re considering an apprentice, you’ll need to connect with a training organisation that can help you with all of this, from identifying the type of apprenticeship that fits your business requirements, to free recruitment processes.

Generally, apprentices have left education after GCSE's or A levels (and from May, graduates can become apprentices too) and are therefore on a fast learning curve. They will spend 20% of their time off-the-job learning and will develop their skills to add value to their role in your business. 

Apprentices can also give your business a productivity boost and help free up experienced staff from other key tasks. 75% of West of England businesses reported that employing an apprentice has improved the quality of their product or service. Research has also shown that apprentices increase productivity by as much as £214 a week. That’s £11,000 a year; not bad for someone you thought you didn’t have time to train.

"I can’t afford an apprentice."

The question should be; can you afford not to hire an apprentice? If you’re looking to grow your business, recruiting a dynamic member to the team to support your key staff really makes great business sense. 

For any business thinking of hiring an apprentice, a key question will be how much an apprentice costs. It’s a lot less than you think and is actually an affordable way to recruit and train an employee.

From May, small businesses won’t need to pay into the Apprenticeship Levy system. The government instead asks that businesses considering hiring an apprentice, with a salary bill of less than £3 million, to co-invest 10% of training costs, with the government funding the remaining 90%. If you also employ less than 50 staff members and recruit a 16 to 18 year-old, training is fully funded and you’re granted £1000 as the apprentice’s employer. 

"They won’t stick around for long."

Many fear they’ll spend time and money training someone up, for them to leave soon after. It’s an understandable fear but with the right work environment and support, an apprentice will feel more comfortable staying in a company that puts employee needs first. In fact, 77% of apprentices have stayed with the same employer after completing their apprenticeship.

"I don’t know how to hire an apprentice."

This is where we can help. We’ve launched a new programme, Skills West, which provides free impartial quality skills advice to ensure your business has the talented individuals you need to achieve business growth. Our Skills Advisors can connect you with local and national training providers who will support you in starting the process for hiring an apprentice.

Contact the team online today or phone 0330 124 4446.



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