How to start an apprenticeship scheme. By Alison King

There has never been a better time to start an apprenticeship scheme with the Government’s push to generate three million places by 2020.This has resulted in the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and other initiatives for businesses to get on board. So how do you start a scheme, and what are the key things you need to know?

What does an apprenticeshipscheme look like?
According to the National Apprenticeship Scheme, apprenticeships currently exist in around 1500 occupations in the UK.Apprenticeships vary in length: they must last for at least a year, but many can last as long as five years – depending on the level of the apprenticeship.Apprenticeships combine time in the workplace and study at college, university or other training provider to gain skills, knowledge and qualifications for a job. Apprentices can be new or existing members of staff.

Business benefits
Not only does employing an apprentice result in a fully trained and qualified member of staff at the end of the scheme, but research has shown it can make your business more profitable.The National Apprenticeship Service claims that apprenticeships increase business productivity by £214 per week, and vastly improve staff retention rates; as staff who have started from the ground upwards (with training) are more likely to remain loyal to the business. Other benefits include reduced recruitment costs, improved customer services results and tangible financial returns on investment.

How to start a scheme
Before you embark on a pilot scheme, you will need to choose the relevant apprenticeship framework or standard and determine the level of apprenticeship that meets your business needs. Within manufacturing alone there are currently over 90 possible apprenticeships on offer at all levels:

  • Intermediate: level 2 (equivalent educational level of 5 passes at GSCE grades A – C) • Advanced: level 3 (equivalent to 2 A Level passes) • Higher: level 4, 5, 6 and 7 (foundation degree and above)

Once determined, you will then need to find a registered training provider who can help run your apprenticeship with you. The National Apprenticeship Service has a directory on its website

Legal issues

  • Your apprentice must have an Employee contract but the employment contract you use for standard employees may not suffice for an apprentice. There’s a requirement that you must sign an apprenticeship agreement with your apprentice. This can be incorporated into your contract of employment. The apprenticeship agreement will state:
  • how long you’ll employ them for
  • the training you’ll give them
  • their working conditions
  • the qualifications they are working towards

You must ensure that your business is paying no less than the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage (£3.50 for apprentices age 16 – 18, rising to £3.70 per hour from April 2018, the same applies for apprentices 19 and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, after that they are entitled to the National Minimum Wage). Another point to note is that all apprentices would normally be expected to work for a minimum of 30 hours per week. Many of the special protections in the regulations for young workers under 18 will apply to apprentices.

Inducting your new apprentice
It is important to acknowledge that your apprentice may not have had a lot of experience of the working environment. You must give your apprentice a full induction which clearly explains what you expect from them and ensure they know essential information to fulfil their role. Some key policy and procedures to cover include: Health and safety, equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies, employment rights and responsibilities, confidentiality policies, data protection policy and complaints procedures as well as information about your company, who’s who, organisation charts etc.

The apprenticeship levy
Introduced last year to help increase the number of apprenticeships, the levy requires all employers with an annual wage bill of more than £3m to contribute 0.5 per cent of the monthly wage bill to the levy. If you are a levy-paying business, you can use this to fund your apprentice. For those businesses not eligible, the government is offering co-funding 90 per cent of the costs, leaving on ten per cent for the business to pay. Employers are also not required to pay national insurance contributions for their apprentices if under the age of 25 and on earnings below the higher tax rate £827 per year.

Training and development Training can be delivered in a variety of ways depending on the type and level of the apprenticeship. For each apprenticeship, there will be standard set of requirements and regular assessment carried out by the training provider. In some cases, apprentices are visited in the workplace on a regular basis by their training provider coaches to help them with any questions, provide support or help them adjust to the world of work.

For some apprenticeships, all the training and assessment for the apprenticeship may be completed on-site. The apprenticeship may need to build a portfolio of evidence and may be obserced in the workplace

Other programmes are delivered via a blended approach – giving apprentices time in the classroom alongside other resources and learningon- the-job to support their development.

Higher level apprenticeships are normally provided by colleges and universities and the apprentice given day release to attend their chosen course of study.

There is a plethora of help available online at the Government site: take-on-an-apprentice and numerous specialist apprenticeship training agencies ready and willing to help you source, employ and train an apprentice taking the hassle of trying run an apprenticeship scheme yourself.

Alison King Alison King is Director at Bespoke HR, an independent HR consultancy and outsourced services provider. Founded in 2005, It helps growing businesses to manage and develop their most valuable asset their people.