The benefits of employing apprentices for small companies

At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Peter Done looks at the practicalities of taking on an individual.  

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At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Peter Done looks at the practicalities of taking on an individual.  

At first glance, hiring an apprentice may seem like a costly way to fill a position compared to hiring a candidate with the necessary experience and qualifications. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, as according to a 2015 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, UK businesses could see a possible increase in revenue of £18 billion from apprenticeships alone.

It is important to note, that any business can benefit from having an apprenticeship programme as they are a tried and tested method of training new staff. Apprenticeship schemes provide the opportunity for employees to be brought into the workplace with the specific objective of developing the exact skills required by the business in question. Additionally, employers should be aware that apprenticeships are not utilised solely for new recruits, but can be implemented as a means to ‘up-skill’ existing employees into higher job positions.

If your business is experiencing a skills shortage, training a staff member to increase their knowledge and skill level can help alleviate undue pressure on the business, while giving you a significant competitive advantage in your sector. If you do not currently offer an apprenticeship scheme, monitoring and analysing skills or staff shortages within your business can help you identify whether hiring apprentices could be part of the solution to solving this issue.

While some employers may feel discouraged by the additional financial strains felt by training an individual from the ground up, alongside the need to cover a mentor’s workload during this period, they needn’t be as businesses can receive funding from the government to support apprenticeship programmes. This has been put in place as a measure to make apprenticeships more widely available by offsetting the cost to the business. Usually this funding covers the cost of the training, leaving the salary to be paid by the employer.

This is generally less costly than hiring an applicant with experience, as apprentices under the age of 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to a minimum level of pay under the national minimum wage (NMW). The NMW for apprentices is currently £3.30 per hour compared to £6.70 for an employee aged 21 or over. This can work as an advantage for SME’s which cannot afford to pay an adult wage to numerous employees. It will allow them to employ a person for the role at a fraction of the cost through the tough economic climate.

Another advantage is that you can tailor apprenticeships to fit your organisation and the specific job role you are looking to fill. This makes them a flexible way to strengthen your workforce, whilst meeting the demanding needs of your business. Apprenticeships can be particularly helpful for small to medium sized business or start-ups by introducing fresh ideas, knowledge and talent into the business, encouraging positive growth, while adding a competitive edge.

As apprenticeship schemes are generally open to a younger age group, it can bring generation specific knowledge to an organisation, as well as a different perspective on industry specific issues. Adding an extra level of diversity to your workforce will in turn help you to diversify and/or widen your range of customers and clients through innovation and out of the box thinking.

Many employers feel that apprentices can increase the productivity of their organisation through exchanging ideas with more experienced staff and offering feedback. Moreover, as they are fully employed, you can task them with responsibilities which can have a direct boost to the staff productivity and performance.

Along with all the aforementioned benefits, apprenticeships can have a positive impact on your employee retention. Reducing costs due to staff turnover can significantly reduce the total costs to your organisation. An apprenticeship can be a great way to assess the suitability of a candidate; it can be like an extended review period allowing you to retain only the talent which you need. Developing your talent management strategies to allow your employees/apprentices the opportunity to grow and develop within the company will build a strong employment relationship which will encourage them to remain with the company leading to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

Further reading on apprenticeships

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