How to employ an apprentice (England)

There are seven steps which your organisation can take in order to employ apprentices, including working with training providers and understanding the apprenticeship levy.

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Image: On set of Flowers © Sister Pictures 2018

Why take on an apprentice?

If your organisation is big enough to recruit and employ staff, apprenticeship training can work well. Apprenticeships provide a cost-effective solution to developing staff and businesses. If you want to find out more about apprenticeships and how they can work for your organisation  please download our booklet 'A practical guide to apprenticeships'.

Seven steps to get started

The process of employing apprentices is very similar to employing regular employees. Follow the seven steps below to get started.

1. Identify skills gaps

If you need to recruit for a role or want to promote an existing member of staff, consider apprenticeships as an option. By defining your skills needs and searching available apprenticeship standards, you can match roles you are recruiting for to available standards. This will allow you to draw down funding for training staff and can support you in recruiting and building talent, and can be especially useful with job roles that are difficult to recruit for.

2. Find apprenticeship training providers

If you offer an apprenticeship opportunity, you will work in partnership with a government-approved apprenticeship training provider. This could be a college, private training provider, university or even your own (government-approved) internal training team.

To find apprenticeship providers who deliver relevant apprenticeship standards, visit the government’s Find apprenticeship training service. Remember that apprenticeship standards can sometimes have different names from the job roles you are looking to recruit for, so it is worth reviewing the available standards to find a suitable match.

3. Contact training providers

Training providers can help you through the process of organising apprenticeships and recruiting apprentices. They work in a similar way to a recruitment agency, and it is worth calling several training providers to explain the role you’re looking to recruit for and ask how their apprenticeship programme could help.

It is worth understanding the types of training they can provide, and what counts as off-the-job training, to best define your own requirements and see how training can fit in with the day-to-day operation of your business.

4. Money and motivation

Apprenticeships can make a lot of financial sense for your busines. Understanding the costs and benefits of hiring an apprentice, such as how much you can afford to pay and who will line manage the apprentice, will ensure you get the best from your investment.

If you are required to pay into the apprenticeship levy, or struggling to recruit staff, there is an added incentive to make apprenticeships work for your organisation and access training funds.

5. Choose the right provider

It is important that you can build a long-term relationship with the training provider and that they can support you in developing your workforce. Feeling comfortable with how training will fit into your day-to-day business activity, and what the value of training will be in upskilling your workforce, is key to choosing the right partnership.

For most organisations, employing an apprentice directly and working with a government-approved apprenticeship provider is the simplest way to get an apprenticeship programme up-and-running.

However, if you are large enough to have your own internal training team, there are other alternative models you may want to consider.

6. Sign an agreement with the training provider

Once you’re happy you’ve found the right partner, sign a service agreement with the provider and they will support you through the remaining steps, such as:

  • Supporting you with your government apprenticeship account
  • Writing a job description and personal specification
  • Advertising, sifting vacancies and even interviewing with you
  • Creating a bespoke training plan for you and your apprentice
  • Working through any questions or queries you might have

7. Employ your apprentice

Once you have chosen your training provider, you can work with them to recruit your apprentice. Training providers will often have experience of recruiting apprentices and will be able to help you through the process. Unlike usual recruitment processes which often rely on past employment to demonstrate ability,  you’re not expecting the apprenticeship candidate to be the finished article. Apprenticeships allow you to recruit for potential and aptitude, supporting you to:

  • diversify your workforce
  • develop new talent
  • upskill existing staff

Once the apprentice is ready to start and the first few training sessions are booked in, you can see them become a competent and productive member of your team.

It’s important that you identify real jobs that need filling and monitor the impact the training is having on apprentices and your business. Over time, you can use this insight to work with the training provider to tweak the programme.