Could an apprentice benefit your business?

Managing people

23 March 2016

Ever thought about taking on an apprentice? If the answer is no, you're not alone. Uptake of apprentices among SMEs hasn't been hugely widespread, and this is hardly surprising. Considering how many tasks you have to juggle as a small business owner, looking into apprenticeship schemes can quickly slip down the agenda.

Awareness is on the increase, however, as the UK government works towards creating three million apprenticeships by 2020. You're likely to hear a lot more about work-based training and education over the next few years, so how could your business benefit?

First of all, it's important to remember that an apprenticeship is designed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. The young person gains skills, experience and a qualification, as well as a reliable wage. But the business has a lot to gain as well – they receive a dedicated, loyal worker who can develop the skills the company needs for the future.

Loyalty in the workplace

Loyalty isn't always easy to come by in today's job market, so an apprenticeship is a great way to nurture a long-term relationship with an employee. Car manufacturer Bentley reported an 88% retention rate for people on its apprenticeship schemes in recent years, and other employers have shared similar success stories. A spokesperson for the car maker described "loyalty and commitment to the company" as a key advantage of taking on apprentices.

Productivity boost

There's evidence to show that hiring apprentices can also make your business more productive. According to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), 72% of businesses report improved productivity due to the presence of an apprentice. Even better, the average apprenticeship can push productivity up by £214 per week by the end of the scheme.

Getting started

To offer a successful apprenticeship, you need to ensure that your apprentice works with experienced staff, learns job-specific skills and studies for a qualification during their working week (at college or a training organisation). You must also pay your apprentice at least the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices.

If you're confident your business will meet these requirements, you can register your interest with the NAS. Funding is available to businesses in England – you could qualify for a £1,500 grant. The NAS can also offer advice and help you find a training organisation to handle your apprentice's qualification and assessment.

With more and more businesses across the UK creating opportunities for apprentices as part of the new Government initiative, now is the time for your business to consider apprentices as part of your strategy.

Has your firm ever hired an apprentice, or is this something you’re considering for the future? Let us know in the comments below.