How to employ an apprentice

Apprentices can fulfil your company’s immediate needs and represent a trained and loyal workforce for the future. But how do you employ one?

For small and medium-sized business owners, navigating the process of bringing in and nurturing new talent can often be a complex task. In this article, we break down the benefits, how to create opportunities for apprentices and key things to consider when doing it. 


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Apprenticeship application form

Understanding UK apprenticeships

Unpacking the Apprenticeship Framework

An apprenticeship is a legitimate form of employment, with an accompanying training programme. It allows the apprentice to gain knowledge and skills specific to the industry, alongside the experience of day-to-day workplace activities. For small business owners, this means an opportunity to mould a candidate to suit your company’s specific needs.

According to data from the House of Commons Library, in the 2022/23 academic year there were “752,150 people participating in an apprenticeship in England”. These stats showcase the popularity and scale of these programmes.


Benefits to small and medium-sized businesses

For businesses that may not have the resources to hire fully trained workers, an apprentice offers a cost-effective solution with a learning curve that aligns directly with business needs.

A common misconception is that hiring an apprentice is an expensive venture. In reality, the government funds and supports the training with financial incentives taken from the apprenticeship levy, making it a financially viable talent acquisition model.

Apprentices bring a fresh, innovative mindset to the company, often unburdened by industry preconceptions and bad habits. This can lead to fresh ideas, new energy, and new solutions to business challenges, particularly when guided well.


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Manager training apprentice in the office

Setting up an apprenticeship programme

Identifying your training needs and skills gap

A crucial step when employing an apprentice is identifying what the company, and by extension the apprentice, needs to succeed. This is not a one-size-fits-all process but a bespoke evaluation of current and future skills required.

To help identify these requirements you can draw up a series of documents:

  • Conduct a skills audit – Look at the skills your business lacks and where additional capacity could meet your growth objectives.
  • Craft a training plan – With identified gaps, tailor a training plan that combines structured learning with on-the-job experience.
  • Setting objectives and agreementsClearly defined objectives for both the business’s skill needs and the apprentice’s personal and professional development will help keep the programme on track.


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Row of apprentice recruits waiting for job interview

Hire an apprentice: recruitment process

How to attract the right candidates

A compelling job advert leveraging your brand values and culture is key to drawing in applications. You can use apprenticeship training providers such as Access Industry to host your advert and support in attracting the right talent. 

When devising an attraction strategy you might want to consider the following factors:

Showcasing your business – Utilise social media, industry forums, and career fairs to amplify your brand and the opportunity you’re offering.

Structuring the interview process – This is your opportunity to select a candidate based on not just their skills, but their personality and fit for your company culture.

Use competency-based interview techniques to get a well-rounded view of the candidate’s capabilities and potential alignment with your business.


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Group of apprentices attending training

Onboarding and training providers

Welcoming your new apprentice

The first days are critical when setting the right tone and for making your apprentice feel part of the team and the company’s vision.

It’s important to be mindful of the Importance of a full induction. An inclusive, comprehensive induction programme will clarify roles and expectations, promoting a sense of belonging from day one.

One requirement is that you will need to find an appropriate apprenticeship training provider (such as Access Industry). They provide the training element of the apprenticeship and can help you recruit the apprentices.

They will often provide a learning programme for your apprentice, which will typically involve the below:

  • Structured training – They could develop a training schedule that merges college or institutional learning with practical on-the-job training.
  • Mentorship and support – They might assign a dedicated person or team to oversee the apprentice’s development and provide mentorship.


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Compliance and financial support

Understanding your responsibilities

It is imperative for any employer to clearly understand and abide by the legal obligations that come with apprenticeships.

You must ensure you are paying your apprentices correctly, and according to the national minimum wage for apprentices. This is a set amount dictated by the government. According to unionlearn.org.uk, the government each year specifies “a minimum wage that employers must pay their apprentices. The minimum wage rate applies to apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year”. 

You’re responsible for making sure your apprentice works with experienced staff, learns job-specific skills and gets time off during their working week for apprenticeship training.” – gov.uk


Funding and support

As previously stated, the apprenticeship levy is a source of funding that was created to help subsidise businesses that want to take on an apprentice. There are different options, depending on circumstances, but to find out more please visit the government website. 


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Job performance review form

Monitoring and evaluation

One area that should not be overlooked is the continuous evaluation of progress. To track the apprentices’ development journey, there are a few actions you could consider.

  • Performance appraisals – Implement regular appraisals to provide feedback and set new targets.
  • Personal development – Encouraging an apprentice’s personal growth will enhance their value to your business and their future employability.
  • Training and certification – Monitor and track the apprentice’s progress towards their certifications and qualifications.

It is also worth noting that this is an area of the apprenticeship that your apprenticeship training provider may support you with. 


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Female apprentice on job interview

Employing apprentices – growth and innovation

Employing an apprentice for a small or medium-sized business can be a game-changer, redefining the business’s capacity to innovate and grow. By following the guidelines and best practices outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can leverage the benefits of the apprenticeship model to craft a workforce that is skilled, loyal, and invested in the company’s success.

If you are a small business owner still ‘on the fence’ about taking on an apprentice, consider the tailored support and funding available. The government is committed to helping businesses large and small in this vital aspect of economic and social growth. 

Here at Access Creative Industry (the apprenticeship arm of Access Creative College) we offer a robust apprenticeship programme for employers, providing their employees with opportunities to upskill and broaden their horizons. The apprenticeship programmes and courses available are in a range of subjects such as Music & Events, IT, esports, Digital, and Marketing.

Last updated on: 21st March 2024