Is your Business aware of National Apprenticeship Week?
National Apprenticeship Week runs from 5th to 11th February across England marking the perfect time for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to explore how apprenticeships can help their business. This week not only marks a celebration of apprenticeship success stories but is also a reminder for businesses to understand and leverage the benefits of apprenticeships.
In this article, we’ll explore apprenticeships, their advantages for companies, and the key things SMEs should consider when taking apprentices on.
Apprenticeships are structured training programs that combine practical work with study, allowing individuals to earn while they learn and gain nationally recognised qualifications. These programs meet the specific needs of employers while ensuring that apprentices learn the relevant skills and knowledge of their industry. Apprenticeships span various levels, from GCSE equivalents to degrees, covering a broad spectrum of fields and professions.
Accessing Government Funding
Understanding the apprenticeship funding landscape may feel daunting. However, the government provides substantial support to make apprenticeships accessible and affordable for SMEs. Knowing how to access this funding is crucial for businesses considering apprentices.
Many SMEs do not realise that apprenticeship funding is available to them. They are under the misguided impression that they cannot access this funding, as they are not contributing to the Apprenticeship Levy.
The government offers funding to help cover the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment. For SMEs, the funding process is straightforward and supportive.
For non-levy-paying employers, which in the face of it applies to most SMEs, the government will pay 95% of the costs of training and assessing an apprentice with the employer required to contribute the remaining 5%.
Besides the co-investment, SMEs are often eligible for incentive payments for hiring new apprentices. These incentives are designed to encourage the employment of young apprentices and support businesses’ recovery and growth.
Extra funding is available for hiring apprentices aged 16 to 18 and for those under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or who have been in the local authority’s care.
If you decide to access these funds, SMEs must first create an account on the Apprenticeship Service website. This platform allows employers to choose from approved training providers, select an apprenticeship standard, and manage their apprenticeships and funding.
The strategic advantages of Apprenticeships for businesses
There are numerous strategic advantages for SMEs taking on an apprentice.
Apprenticeships allow SMEs to cultivate a workforce with tailored skills development aligned to their specific operational and strategic requirements. This often helps mitigate the skills gap, enhancing productivity and competitiveness.
Investing in apprentices will significantly boosts employee morale by demonstrating a commitment to staff development. This, in turn, enhances loyalty and reduces staff turnover, meaning lower recruitment and training costs in the long-run.
Apprentices are often young and bring new ideas and innovative approaches to problem-solving, which will be invaluable in driving growth and improving processes within an SME.
Of course, utilising the government funding and incentives to employers who take on apprentices, make it a cost-effective solution for talent acquisition and development.
The empowering journey of apprenticeships for aspiring professionals
In all businesses, where every team member plays a pivotal role in driving success, apprenticeships present a unique win-win scenario. As SMEs nurture talent directly aligned with their business needs, apprentices receive invaluable on-the-job training, mentorship, and the opportunity to earn while they learn. This dual-benefit framework not only enhances the operational capabilities of SMEs but also empowers individuals to carve out rewarding career paths, highlighting the mutual advantages of apprenticeships in the modern business ecosystem.
For an apprentice, they will receive a salary, allowing them to earn an income while acquiring new skills and qualifications. Completing an apprenticeship opens up numerous career opportunities and provides a solid foundation for professional growth and advancement.
Apprentices gain hands-on experience in their chosen field, giving them a competitive edge in the job market with real-world skills employers’ value. Apprenticeships offer the chance to build a professional network, connecting with experts and peers in their industry, which is beneficial both to your organisation and for their future career prospects.
Key considerations for employers embracing the apprenticeship journey
Embarking on the apprenticeship journey offers a myriad of opportunities for growth and development for both employers and apprentices alike. However, employers considering embarking apprenticeships for the first time should do so with ‘eyes-wide open’ and be mindful of specific challenges and have given the idea considered considerations.
Training an apprentice requires significant time and resources to ensure they receive the necessary support and mentoring. It is essential that business embarking on the apprenticeship journey be well prepared for the time and resource required to give the apprentice and the apprenticeship scheme everything it deserves.
It’s vital that these young workers are thoroughly briefed on these critical requirements, such as employment law legislation and industry specific regulations which quite often are intricate and require considerable effort on the part of the manager to help the apprentice fully grasp the importance.
This educational process is essential, ensuring that apprentices are not only compliant but also possess a deep understanding of the legal and regulatory landscape that shapes their roles and responsibilities within the organisation.
Finding the right apprentice who fits the company culture and long-term goals requires a thoughtful recruitment and selection process.
Apprenticeships are a long-term investment and companies should be prepared for this commitment and have a clear plan for integrating and utilising the apprentice within their workforce.
Finding the perfect apprentice for your business
In the quest to inject fresh talent and innovation into your business, identifying the ideal apprentice candidate becomes a pivotal step. Finding an apprentice whose aspirations, skills, and potential should align seamlessly with your company’s vision and needs. This process goes beyond merely filling a vacancy; it’s about creating a synergistic relationship that fosters growth, learning, and mutual success. Through strategic recruitment practices, engaging with educational institutions, and leveraging digital platforms, recruitment for an apprentice is no different to adopting your normal recruitment practices.
Having a clear outline of the skills and qualifications needed for the role, taking your business’s long-term goals and how an apprentice can contribute is a good starting point. This will enable you to engage with training providers who will advise on the relevant apprenticeship standards to your industry. They may also assist in matching your business with potential apprentices.
Utilise the Apprenticeship Service
This facilitates funding and helps employers advertise their apprenticeship vacancies. This service will significantly widen your reach to potential apprentices.
Advertising the apprenticeship on your company’s website, social media channels, and local job boards is an easy route for publicising the opportunity. You should ensure that you highlight the benefits and opportunities your company offers, as this will attract more applicants.
Engage with local schools and colleges
Many are eager to work with businesses to provide their students with career opportunities. Participating in career fairs and workshops will help you connect with young people looking for apprenticeships. Maintaining a local focus will also enhance your company’s visibility and reputation within the community.
Design a selection process that assesses candidates’ technical abilities and soft skills. Remember, that whilst this may be their first interview and may not articulate their abilities very well, attitude and willingness to learn is just as important as existing skills.
For SMEs, apprenticeships are not just a means to fill immediate job vacancies but a strategic investment in the company’s future talent pipeline and growth potential. By accessing available funding and carefully selecting apprentices, SMEs can cultivate a skilled, loyal workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
As we’ve explored the multifaceted advantages and considerations of integrating apprentices into your business, it’s clear that while the journey is rewarding, it also presents a unique set of challenges, particularly in managing the ‘people stuff.’
Recognising this, our service is designed to lift the weight of these complexities from your shoulders, allowing you to concentrate fully on driving your business forward. We understand that employment laws, industry regulations, and the intricacies of finding and nurturing the right talent can be daunting. That’s where we step in, offering expert guidance and support to manage these aspects efficiently. By partnering with us, you gain the freedom to focus on what you do best—growing your business—secure in the knowledge that the people side of your operations is in capable hands. This peace of mind is invaluable, especially for SMEs looking to make the most of apprenticeships without being overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities they entail.
A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.