Did you know that the Government has committed to achieving 3-million apprenticeships by 2020 and are incentivising business to help plug the skills gap in this way, but is it worth an SME taking on an apprentice?

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Sadly it would seem many don’t believe so, because in the year since the apprenticeship levy scheme (which taxes large employers to fund apprenticeships) came into effect the number of apprenticeships has actually declined significantly. The levy system demands that employers with an annual pay bill of £3-million or more contribute .5% of that amount as the levy. Smaller businesses that don’t pay the levy share the cost of training and assessing apprentices with the Government. Funding and grants are available to most businesses for apprenticeship training and assessment (100% of the cost for 16 to 18 year olds, and 90% for apprentices aged over 19 will be contributed by the Government). You’ll have to pay your apprentice/s though for the work they carry out – at the very least minimum wage.

So, what have you got to gain by taking on an apprentice? Isn’t it a hassle to hire green youngsters and have to spend time and effort mentoring and instructing them, and having to allow them to spend 20% of their time at a formal training institution?


Actually, hiring an apprentice is a very cost-effective way to recruit an employee. You’ll be able to choose an enthusiastic school leaver who has a keen interest in your business, product or service – or perhaps even a graduate – whom you can mould to suit your business model and support your key staff. While you get an extra pair of hands their formal training will be fully funded by the Government, as they earn while they learn, and if they’re aged between 16 and 18 you’ll get £1000 grant as an apprentice employer.

Research has shown that having an apprentice on staff actually boosts the morale and productivity of existing staff. As far as your customers go, they’ll be impressed that you have a sense of social responsibility and are employing an apprentice. Depending what sector your business falls in, you’ll be helping to tackle a skills shortage, and you’ll ultimately be rewarded with having a talented, loyal, committed and highly skilled staff member once the apprenticeship is over; 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer after completing their apprenticeship. You are, however, not compelled to keep employing your apprentice after the apprenticeship contract comes to an end.

There are literally hundreds of directions apprentices can be trained in (UCAS lists more than 1,500 job roles available for apprenticeships in England) – from IT to the trades, business administration and accountancy to floristry or graphic design. Whatever sort of business you run you can benefit from hiring an apprentice.

Selecting an apprentice


The Government is eager to have firms take on apprentices, so they have made it remarkably easy to go through the step-by-step process of recruiting a candidate and setting him/her to work.

There are just a few points to consider before you go ahead and start the process:

  • An apprentice will have to be paid the age appropriate minimum wage for the duration of his/her contract;
  • Apprentices are entitled to receive the same benefits as other employees at a similar level or in a similar role, for example paid holiday, and sick pay;
  • Apprentices are classed as employees and therefore you’re legally required to have employers’ liability insurance in place (up to a cover level of £5-million);
  • Apprenticeships must last for at least a year, but can be as long as five years depending on the type of apprenticeship you contract for;
  • If you decide for some reason to make the apprentice redundant before the contracted end of the apprenticeship, you will have to follow the law regarding staff redundancy – apprentices have the same rights as all employees.

When you are ready to hire an apprentice you’ll be walked through setting up an apprenticeship “framework” to suit your requirements. This will lead into selecting appropriate qualifications, and once you’ve settled on the right one you can advertise your apprenticeship vacancy and wait for the applications to roll in. Green Labyrinth can also help you potentially with CVs from interested local candidates.

When you’ve chosen your candidate, you’ll need to set up an apprenticeship agreement with him/her, detailing things like the training you’re giving, the working conditions and the qualifications they’ll work towards (the Gov.uk website has templates for these).ILM Logo

Green Labyrinth offer apprenticeships at all levels including AAT bookkeeping and accountancy and Level 5 iLM training and qualifications. Speak to one of our team today to discuss your requirements and explore the possibilities for your business.

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That’s all there is to it … you will hopefully have enriched and future-proofed your company, and your industry as a whole, by introducing a fresh, eager face to the profession or trade you ply.