Managing your Team

Apprenticeships demystified - how to hire an apprentice in 3 steps


Would you take a thousand pounds to hire an apprentice?

Not only will the government pay for 90% of an apprentice’s hiring and assessment costs, small businesses who take on teenagers or young people in social care are eligible for a £1,000 grant.

In a lucrative reversal of the classic The Apprentice formula – which sees the winning apprentice receive a lump sum as reward – the government currently pays small businesses for the hire.

Combined with an enticingly low apprentice wage – as low as £3.40 per hour for apprentices under 19 – this should be more than enough incentive for SME’s to flock to government-backed programs.

So what’s stopping them?

Of course, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Many small businesses report confusion, or are simply unaware of the government scheme.

We think it’s an option that shouldn’t be passed over, so we’ve broken the process down into 3 easy steps:

Hiring an apprentice:

1. Decide on the role you want your apprentice to fill

Use the tool to find the type of apprentice you’re after. For example, if you run a barber shop or hair salon, you can search “hairdresser” and choose between a Level 2/3 Hairdresser (a 12 month placement) or a Hair Professional (24 months).

2. Find a training provider

You’ll then be directed to a search engine. Entering your postcode will bring up a list of nearby organisations who can teach your apprentice new skills and qualifications.

N.B. Remember to click ‘No’ when you’re asked if you pay the Apprenticeship Levy. You probably don’t – unless your pay bill is over £3 million!

3. Contact your provider

Once you’ve picked the provider you want (their entries will helpfully include an employer satisfaction %, based on past performance) you can contact them by email or phone. They will be fully responsible for finding an apprentice for you – meaning you’ll incur no recruitment costs.

The not so good

Though hiring an apprentice is not as mystifying as is often believed, there are still hurdles to overcome - and recent changes to the government policy have only made apprenticeships less of an easy sell.

Whereas apprentice's training was fully covered by the government until recently, you will now have to pay 10% of the cost - or more, if training costs more than the government has allocated.

In addition, the AGE grant of £1500 for taking on apprentices aged 16-25, has been replaced by a £1000 grant that only applies to teenagers and those in social care.

We spoke to Kate Waller, director of Intrigue and a veteran apprentice-hirer, who explained why she won't be hiring an apprentice this year:

"It seems very confusing. My interpretation is that I now need to find a training company that offers the type of apprenticeship we want - digital media, for example. They can then charge whatever they like, and we have to pay at least 10% of that - possibly more, if the training cost is higher than the government allowance. We are all at the mercy of how much the private training companies want to try to charge us. Also, getting funding involves a lot of paper work and the payment is very slow to appear so it does affect cashflow."

Intrigue provides marketing services for small businesses, and specialises in delivering down-to earth, jargon-free campaigns and messaging. You can find their full range of services on their website.