Expert Advice & Knowhow

Apprenticeships: an untapped resource for small businesses


Taking on an apprentice is win-win: good for your business, your budget and your community.

With student fees sky-high and a renewed national focus on practical work experience, apprenticeships have surged in popularity. And for small businesses, taking on an apprentice can be hugely beneficial. Here, we look at how apprenticeships work and why they can help you grow.

Why are apprenticeships good for small businesses?


Apprentices are paid a lower hourly rate than an ordinary employee – £3.30 per hour if they’re between 16 and 18 (or 19 and over but in the first year of their apprenticeship).

You may also be able to get a government grant to cover some of the costs, which is worth up to £1500 per apprentice.


Apprentices combine work with study, so they’re an excellent way of bringing new and specific skills into your business without breaking the bank.


Offering apprenticeships means that you’re helping to tackle unemployment in your local area.

For small businesses, this matters. Local custom is your bread and butter, and your standing in the community is directly linked to your success as a business.

How do apprenticeships work?

Apprenticeships last between 1 and 4 years, and an apprentice should work at least 30 paid hours a week.

An apprentice must spend part of their week studying for a work-based qualification at a college or training facility – and they must be paid for this time. And essentially, apprentices are entitled to the same benefits as your other employees. Holiday pay, sick pay, and any other incentives you offer must be replicated.

How do you hire an apprentice?

Firstly, you need to check what apprenticeships are available in your industry, and then register your interest with the National Apprenticeship Service.

Next, you need a training organisation that offers a relevant course to suit your industry. This organisation will then advertise your vacancy, and you can select your apprentice.

The final stage is drawing up an apprenticeship agreement. This needs to capture the length of the apprenticeship, the training they’ll receive and the qualification they’re working towards. Getting this agreement created and signed is vital because without it, you could be liable to pay the full national minimum wage.

During this process you can also apply for a grant. To be eligible, you simply need to have less than 50 employees, and be taking on someone between 16 and 24.

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