Taking on an apprentice

During National Apprenticeship Week, SmallBusiness.co.uk provides some tips on making the internship work.

With the recent government pledge for an extra 75,000 apprenticeship positions to be created, it is more timely than ever to assess the benefits of taking an apprentice on.

Some 5 per cent of the workforce of engineering firm GSH consists of apprentices. ‘This commitment to providing opportunities to young talent ensures that we retain knowledge and expertise within the business,’ declares managing director Paul Cottam. ‘Apprenticeships provide young people not just with new skills, but also with an environment in which to grow and develop. We are continuing to invest in our apprentice scheme and wider training solutions to provide opportunities to young talent within the sector and to ensure that our customers receive a consistently high-quality level of service.’

Troy Trewin, CEO of social enterprise Responsible IT, took on his first apprentice two years ago and has never looked back. ‘It was about investing in someone we could skill up and mould into our way of doing business,’ he says.

The company pays anything between £100 and £170 a week plus a performance bonus on top, but it has to be earned. ‘You have to be brutal in the first few months; if they’re not right you have to get someone else in.’

Trewin recommends a recruitment process similar to that for permanent staff: ‘Put everyone through two rounds of interviews and do some aptitude testing too.’ It is also important that apprentices are motivated. ‘Don’t start them if there is no position for them at the end,’ Trewin advises.

Not just for plumbers

Traditional perceptions of apprenticeships are becoming outdated, argues Josephine Perry, marketing and communications director at the National Apprenticeship Service. ‘There’s still a perception that apprenticeships are a rather old-fashioned way of training people, such as plumbers, hairdressers and mechanics, but that’s not entirely true.

‘Apprenticeships today are far more varied, with fantastic career opportunities in a wide range of job roles including creative and digital media, recruitment consulting, marketing and communications.’

Perry adds that apprenticeships provide measurable business benefits for employers, with 80 per cent of those surveyed in a recent Populus poll agreeing that they boost productivity. ‘They bring productive, enthusiastic and loyal people into your organisation and demonstrate your commitment to investing in your people to customers and suppliers,’ she says. ‘Apprentices are good for business.’

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