The promises and pitfalls of hiring an apprentice

So you want to grow your team, but you’re unsure whether hiring an apprentice is the way to go?

If you’re at the point where you can’t take on any more work or, to grow your business, you need to hire more staff…hiring an apprentice is as good an option as any. Yes, they might not be as experienced as a fully trained potential employee, but you can mould them to fill any specialist gaps in your firm.

Getting some new blood on board can be a great investment, you just have to know what to expect. Here are the pros and cons of hiring an apprentice.


Promises (the pros)

a plant pot with money in it1. They save you money

The majority of apprentices are young school or college leavers with a lack of experience. Therefore, they work for lower wages as an apprenticeship is part of their training. As well as not having to find the resources for a typical annual salary, employers can also receive funding from the Government to help with the cost of an apprentice!

The current Apprenticeship Levy means that businesses who qualify only have to pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing your apprentice, and the government will pay the remaining 95%. If you hire an apprentice between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021, you can also claim up to £2,000 as an incentive payment.

2. They are willing to do the grunt work

Apprentices will happily do the grunt work. This means that you can delegate the low-value tasks to them and your employees will be free to focus on the things of higher-value. Not only will this enable your apprentice to learn the ropes, but it will improve productivity and morale in the whole team too.

a man looking through a magnifying glass to represent getting a fresh perspective when hiring an apprentice3. They give you a fresh perspective

It’s always beneficial to get a fresh set of eyes on the way you work. Even if apprentices don’t have much experience, they will be able to look at your processes in a way that will make you question why you never thought of that yourself. The younger generation has strong technology skills, so you may be surprised by the new ideas they come up with.

As well as perspective, apprentices tend to bring a new dynamic and fresh energy to the team. Especially in smaller firms. In fact,  80% of companies who take on apprentices have seen a significant increase in employee retention.

Get your team to work together better! Download our team effectiveness review sheet to pinpoint exactly what your problems are and what you need to do to fix them.


4. They could bridge your skills gap

If you are finding it difficult to recruit people with certain skills that you need to move your business forward, apprenticeships can open you up to a whole new pool of applicants. Whether you hire a school leaver, an individual who is not qualified for the job yet or an existing employee, you can train them up for this specific role.

The stats:

  • 86% of employers have said that apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.
  • Successful apprentices often become loyal employees as 90% often stay on after their qualification has finished.

a person counting money5. They can improve your bottom line

Yes, apprentices are an investment initially. However, if you have a solid process in place to train and develop them, within a year onwards, they can help improve your bottom line. It’s true!

  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity.
  • 74% said they helped improve the quality of their product or service.


Pitfalls (the cons)

1. It's a serious commitment

Unlike when you hire an experienced employee, apprentices can’t hit the ground running. They need supervision at all times. You will need to dedicate significant time to training them, in even the simplest of things such as workplace etiquette, and email and phone protocol.

For them to be an effective member of the team, you have to put in the time to show them how to do tasks properly. When they feel confident to do it, only then can you start passing them everyday tasks without having to supervise them.

a icecream on the floor to represent being prepared for mistakes when hiring an apprentice2. You have to be prepared for mistakes

Apprentices are there to learn, they won’t know everything and maybe slower to learn than you’re used to. From the get-go, you need to be prepared for some muck ups. Yes, you may have to take some knocks at first, but these are opportunities to teach them how to learn from their mistakes and explain why things are done a certain way.

Read: The surprising reason why your employees won’t take initiative (and what you can do to change it)


3. They could leave your firm when qualified

There is always the risk that your apprentice could complete their training with you but then leave to work for someone else. This can be rather frustrating for employers, especially since you’ve invested your time into training them and moulding them to fit your firm.

While this a risk, in reality, 90% of apprentices are grateful for the opportunity and stay on after their qualification has finished. If you actually take the time to mentor them and build a relationship with them, this will be even less of a risk as you’ll hopefully be building loyalty too.

Read: 12 simple tips for quickly welcoming a new employee to your team and making them feel valued

hanging pocket watches to symbolise the long process for hiring an apprentice

4. The process is a lengthy one

The process for hiring an apprentice isn’t quick and easy, to say the least. For this reason, you need to find a candidate that you believe will not only fit your company but will learn and grow at the pace you want to be a successful addition to your business.

5. You need to be aware of what is expected of you

You could get caught out if you’re unaware of what is expected of you during an apprenticeship. To prevent any costly misunderstandings, here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • You have to give your apprentices time off from work so they can complete their studies. You still have to pay their wage during this time and if not planned for, this could result in scheduling issues and potentially paying for another worker.
  • Apprentices need to complete at least 20% of their working hours as off-the-job training. This needs to be considered when assigning tasks and planning their workweek.
  • There are additional costs to employing an apprentice. For example, you need to pay for their training as well as their salary, but it is possible to receive government funding to help with these costs.


Know what it means to hire an apprentice

Hiring an apprentice can be a great investment, but only if you have no illusions about what it means. An apprentice won’t hit the ground running; they will only start to earn their keep 6-12 months into their employment.

If you know exactly what to expect from hiring an apprentice, you have a great system for hiring and developing them, and you’re willing to put in the time to mentor them, you can reap all the benefits of moulding new employees.


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