For many small businesses, the concept of hiring an apprentice is appealing. An apprentice can help to support your business at a relatively low cost and studies have shown that hiring an apprentice can reduce staff turnover as most apprentices are more incentivised to stay in their jobs when training and qualifications are part of the package.
Currently, the UK Government has a scheme in place to help 16 – 24 year olds into apprenticeships by offering wage grants to their employers. It is hoped that this grant will encourage more small businesses to take the necessary steps to hiring an apprentice where otherwise they might have been more cautious about recruiting someone full time.
The key components that define a role as an apprenticeship as ruled by the High Court are:
- That the apprenticeship secures wages for the apprentice for the duration of the training programme;
- That the training programme will allow him or her to acquire valuable skills; and
- The programme will provide employment opportunities in the labour market following the successful completion of the training.
So who can apply for this grant?
If you are interested in taking advantage of this scheme you must have less than 250 employees. Each employer may recruit up to three new apprentices through this scheme with a grant but other apprentices can be taken out without the funding. Employers will receive £1500 in wage grants in addition to the training costs of the Apprenticeship framework which are met in full for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and 50% for those aged 19 to 24.
Working with a professional training company, your company will provide the apprentice with regular working hours, a job description and allocated time for training. The apprentice will receive regular training each month from the company as part of their contract with you and the training modules that they cover will contribute to an overall qualification and will reflect the job that they do within your organisation. For example if you were to want to take on an apprentice to support administrative roles within your organisation, many of the modules would focus on processes, basic IT skills or time management.
According to the National Apprenticeship Service, 88% believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce. This could be due to the fact that the apprentice is gaining more than a salary and employment from the employment with your organisation. They are gaining education, skills and qualifications that can be used in the workplace and to further their careers later down the line too.
As an employer of an apprentice, you will have certain obligations as you would with other employees. The apprentice must have an employment contract, although the contract will be for training rather than actual employment. Small businesses can look to the FSB for help with employment contracts for apprentices. Obviously included in this will be the apprentice’s statutory rights including holiday allowance and pay, sick pay and maternity/paternity/adoption leave. As of October 2011, national minimum wage for an apprentice stands at £2.60 per hour but this is set to change in October 2012 to £2.65 per hour – although many employers choose to pay more.
This funding provides a fantastic opportunity for small businesses who might otherwise not recruit a permanent or even temporary employee. Your apprentice will gain valuable experience from working with you and a qualification, and you will gain an employee that is willing to learn and can support your organisation.
This article has been written by Laura Jennings for Gordon Dean Solicitors, employment solicitors from Norwich. More information about apprenticeships can be found at apprenticeships.org.uk.