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Apprenticeships guide for small business

Find out what is involved in taking on an apprentice, including how to find a scheme and how much to pay apprentices.

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While small businesses understand the value of apprenticeships, the amount and accessibility of information available can often be a barrier to involvement and we're lobbying the government to create an information point that brings all relevant resources together in an easily accessible way.

To help you get started, we've put together the following guide to some of the sources of help and information available to small businesses.

Benefits of taking on an apprentice

Apprenticeships are popular with our small business members, with 77% of members on our training and skills panel saying they use them as a cost effective way of recruiting new staff, whilst enabling businesses to address skills shortages and improve productivity.

Benefits could include:

  • An affordable way of recruiting and helping to your business. As well as paying a lower hourly rate, an Apprenticeship Grant for Employers worth £1,500 per apprentice (up to 10 apprentices) may also be available. Conditions apply.
  • Fill skills gaps, particularly in new digital skills and help develop innovative new ideas within your organisation.
  • Train up future managers. Apprenticeship schemes can be one way to develop and train the managers of the future by training someone in the style of your business.
  • Social benefits, such as reducing unemployment in your local area and also inspiring a future generation of business owners by passing on entrepreneurial skills and experience.

Finding an apprentice

A great place to start for information on apprenticeships is the National Apprenticeships Service, which can advise you on available apprenticeship schemes, suitable training providers and financial support available. You can register your interest with them here and find a training provider.

Other types of work experience

Some small businesses may not have a need for an apprentice or cannot make the commitment of one to four years involved. Another option is to offer a short-term work experience placement for a young person, an adult looking for a career change or for someone who is long term unemployed.

Such placements enable small businesses to take on temporary staff as an extra pair of hands who can help support the work of permanent staff.

If you have a placement to offer, contact your local job centre, school or college.

Red tape

As well as lack of information, red tape can be an issue for small firms offering both apprenticeships and work experience. If you already comply with what is required by law to run a small business, such as health and safety and employment law, then you should not have to undertake any extra compliance measures.

In some cases minor alterations may be needed, such as updating of risk assessment policy for businesses not currently employing young people.

Your local job centre or training provider will often be able to assist to make sure your business is prepared so that any placement runs smoothly.

Always take advice

IMPORTANT If you take on an apprentice as an employer you must ensure you have an apprenticeship contract drawn up and signed by both parties. Otherwise you will be legally obliged to pay the national minimum wage rate, rather than the £2.73 an hour apprenticeship rate (2014/15).

Also, the way in which apprentices can be dismissed is different to normal employees, so you may need to make sure that you have a term in your contract that enables you to dismiss them for poor performance. We encourage all members to call our helpline on 0845 130 1722 before taking on an apprentice to discuss the options available to you.

There are also other steps to follow, such as ensuring the young person is mentored by an appropriate employee and that a training programme is in place, to enable both parties to get the most out of the placement.

If there are no performance indicators included in an apprentices contract before they start, then small firms can get into difficulties if an apprentice does not perform.

That's why we urge our members to contact our helpline prior to taking on an apprentice. Our team of business advisers will be able to help you to create a contract of employment and to ensure you are aware of any other requirements beforehand.