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How to employ an apprentice

How to employ an apprentice

 

Taking on an apprentice is exciting for both the organisation and the individual concerned. After all, the individual is learning valuable skills ‘on the job’ and there may well be a job available once the apprenticeship has ended. For the employer, there is the obvious benefit of the work that the apprentice does, as well as being able to ensure the individual is taught good habits, and being able to monitor how the individual performs during the apprenticeship.

 

As referred to above, apprenticeships offer a number of advantages to all concerned but the question is how to employ an apprentice, and what factors should be considered to ensure that the apprenticeship is successful?

 

Factors that should be considered to ensure that the apprenticeship is successful:

 

 

1. Does the proposed apprenticeship meet the required criteria?

 

Arrangements differ depending on whether the apprenticeship concerns Scotland, Wales or England. For instance, apprenticeships in England would typically need to meet the requirements of an Approved English Apprenticeship.  The Approved English Apprenticeship has largely replaced common law apprenticeships and therefore the Approved English Apprenticeship will be the focus of this article. The criteria for an Approved English Apprenticeship are essentially that:

 

  • As the name suggests, the apprentice must live in England

 

  • There must be an approved apprenticeship standard

 

This standard relates to the skills and knowledge required of the apprentice.

 

  • There must be training to achieve that standard

 

This is typically a qualification. The apprentice would learn this qualification during the off the job training, referred to below. The practical on the job activities would also support this learning.

 

  • There must be off the job or off site training

 

The off site training element may well vary depending on the provider, but the minimum requirement is 20%. Therefore, a full time apprentice would be off site for 1 day a week. Further information on off the job training during apprenticeships has been published by the Department for Education and can be viewed by clicking on the link.

 

  • The apprenticeship must last for a minimum of 12 months

 

  • The apprentice must be 16 years old or more

 

  • The individual wishing to be an apprentice must not be in full-time education

 

 

2. Consider what the organisation wants the apprenticeship to achieve

 

It is important to give thought to what the apprentice will be doing and what will be learned during the apprenticeship. Planning at an early stage will help to ensure that the apprenticeship is a positive and rewarding experience for all concerned.

 

3. Find a suitable training provider

 

The training provider will depend on the nature of the course that is needed to meet the required standard, and also the level of that course. In addition, the location of the provider is also likely to be a relevant factor.

 

4. Explore funding (which is available for an apprenticeship provided the required criteria are met)

 

Companies which have an annual pay bill of £3 million or more pay an apprenticeship levy. This levy is taken as 0.5% of the business’ yearly pay bill.

 

Firms that do not contribute to the Apprenticeship Levy need only pay 5% of the total costs of the training and assessment of the apprentice. The remaining 95% is covered by the government.

 

5. Consider the pitfalls and implement safeguards

 

  • Not having a valid apprenticeship in place

 

As referred to above, there are a number of criteria which need to be met in order for an Approved English Apprenticeship to be in place. Not applying the correct criteria is likely to be costly due to not being able  to secure funding, as the position would not be regarded as an apprenticeship. Another consequence of the arrangement not being a valid apprenticeship is that the individual would be entitled to a different rate of pay (not the apprentice rate).

 

Given the potential consequences, it is wise to seek advice at the outset so as to avoid any missteps.

 

  • Having inadequate or irrelevant documentation

 

Having documentation which is tailored to the apprenticeship is key. Some employers may think that there is no need to provide a contract at all, or may be tempted to reuse a standard contract for an apprentice. Either approach would be a mistake. It is also common for there to be confusion over whether or not an employer is required to keep the apprentice on for the duration of the apprenticeship under any circumstances or, if not, the steps that would need to be taken to bring the apprenticeship to an end prematurely.

 

  • Inadequate planning relating to the apprenticeship

 

Unless thought and care is taken by the employer throughout the apprenticeship,  things can easily unravel. For example, practical on site work can be viewed as separate to, and different from, the off site studying. However, the two elements should complement and support each other.

 

  • Inadequate performance management

 

Whilst an apprenticeship is likely to be exciting, it may well also be daunting. Obviously, everything will be entirely new for the apprentice. Not only will the nature of the work be unfamiliar to them, but for many their apprenticeship will be their first experience of work.

 

Due to the environment being entirely unknown, teething problems are common and swift action is needed to stop the situation from escalating further. The performance management of apprentices can easily be overlooked. This may be due to a desire not to dent the individual’s confidence, believing that all will right itself naturally, or perhaps the organisation feels it has enough to contend with as it is. Whatever the reason, neglecting performance management would be a mistake.

 

Effective performance management is central to an organisation’s success, and its importance is even greater for apprentices. For example, an apprentice is likely to need to demonstrate particular behaviours, as well as the required technical ability, in order to achieve what is required. In addition, having systems in place to regularly monitor performance will assist with the off the job tasks, as issues can be quickly identified and action taken to resolve them.  

 

Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law. We can assist with all aspects of having an apprentice and ensure your organisation avoids the pitfalls referred to above. If you would like to find out more about the ways in which we can help, please call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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