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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Member Blog: How can an apprentice benefit your business?

By Adrian Bird - The Apprentice Finder

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week in the UK, so now is a good time to take a look at apprenticeships and how they could benefit your business in time for the summer influx of candidates seeking apprenticeship positions.

First of all, let's get the basics out of the way. The Oxford Dictionary definition of an apprentice is: A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.

Breaking the definition down, the wage needs to be at least £2.73 per hour, the work needs to be for at least 30 hours per week (therefore classified as full-time) for a minimum of 12 months. Most industries have a form of structured apprenticeship scheme to offer these days so it is a viable way for businesses to introduce entry-level employees into their workforce and should see apprenticeships as part of a structured long-term succession plan to ensure that they have the skills needed within their organisation. Apprenticeships shouldn't be seen either as a short-term fix or a low-cost solution. To be effective, you need to ensure you have the resource to support, mentor and train your apprentice(s) so they go on to be successful for your business.

Apprenticeships were often seen as a second-class option for many educators, offered only to those who didn't have the capability to enter higher education. This is no longer the case. Professional organisations such as accountants, schools and solicitors are now turning to apprenticeships because many able young people are being put off by the high cost of attending University (the average debt a graduate can expect currently stands at £44,000). The benefit for the young person is clear, but what about the employer? Well, it gives the employer the chance to recruit someone with graduate potential before they want to command the graduate salary. They can mould the apprentice into the type of employee they're looking for at an age when people are at their most impressionable. Many employers will then subsidise and support their apprentice through higher levels of learning when it's appropriate because by that stage they know that they have a staff member worth investing in.

In some instances, apprenticeships can offer the same learning as a degree can. Take Digital Media for instance. I was recently discussing and comparing what apprentices learned on the Level 3 apprenticeship as opposed to a degree in the subject with a University lecturer. His response to me was: “If they learn how to update web pages, optimise them, write blog articles and manage social media accounts there's not much point in sending them to us as that's what we teach them.”

In order to recruit an apprentice, there are several paths an employer can take. Local further education colleges are one option, as are the wide range of private training providers that deliver the training. You might find that the ideal candidate makes a personal introduction or you could also use a specialist apprentice broker/ recruitment service such as ourselves to help you. Typically there won't be a recruitment fee to pay as the Skills Funding Agency factor recruitment costs into the funding amounts issued to the providers.

In order to give yourself the opportunity to find the most suitable candidate, as an employer you should expect the process to take a couple of months from start to finish. It might be that the agency you work with already has the talent you're looking for on their books. If so, the time frame will be shorter. At this time of year candidates that are still at school or college start making enquiries. Often these are the strongest candidates as they are working pro-actively to ensure they have their next step arranged before they tackle their exams in May and June.

If you think that apprenticeships could benefit your business, why not book an initial consultation with The Apprentice Finder? They work with a range of providers in the area to make apprenticeships happen. You can contact them on 08001444022 or by sending an email to:  

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