HR · 14 March 2016

Taking on an apprentice: What’s in it for small businesses?

Monday 14 March marks the start of National Apprenticeships Week 2016
Hiring an apprentice as a small business owner may, in the first instance, seem like a costly and inefficient exercise when compared to recruiting a candidate with the necessary skills, experience and qualifications but this isnt necessarily the case.

With the start of National Apprenticeship Week 2016 falling on 14 March, the government is raising awareness of apprenticeships across the UK, encouraging firms of all sizes to consider apprentices when thinking about growing a business.

Apprenticeship programmes provide a tried and tested method of employing and training new staff. For small firms, apprenticeships enable new employees to be brought in specifically with the objective of developing the exact skills required for a business, or a certain role within a business. As smaller firms may not be aware, apprenticeships can be implemented as a way to up-skill? existing staff into more senior roles, as well as provide a training platform for new recruits.

Alleviating unnecessary pressure whilst offering small businesses a competitive advantage, apprenticeships can go a long way to addressing skills shortages within a venture. Owners should consider monitoring any staff or skills shortages they believe might be holding back the growth potential of their business, and consider taking on an apprentice accordingly.

Many small business owners may also feel discouraged by the financial implications of training a new recruit from the ground-up alongside the need to cover the workload of a mentor during a training period. In most instances, they neednt worry. Small businesses are eligible to apply for support funding from the government when undertaking apprenticeship programmes.

Apprenticeship funding generally covers the cost of training, with an apprentice’s salary left to be paid by an employer. This isusually a less costly practice than hiring an experienced applicant, with younger apprentices in particular entitled to a level of pay under the level of National Minimum Wage. For apprentices below the age of 19, the pay level is currently 3.30 per hour, compared to 6.70 for an employee aged 21 or over. Small businesses that cannot afford the full wages of a number of adult employees are given an advantage, allowing for the recruitment of a new member of staff at a fraction of the normal cost.

This is just one of the reasons why apprenticeships could result in revenue increases for small firms. According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in late 2015, Britain’s small businesses could see revenue growth of 18bn as a result of embracing apprenticeships.

Over and above the potential financial benefits to small businesses of hiring an apprentice is the innovative ideas and fresh knowledge these new and younger staff members often bring to organisations. Apprentices offer more flexible ways of working, are more malleable, and able to work according to specific role requirements. Younger workers offer a different perspective on industry or sector practices particularly useful for disruptive new startups.

Apprenticeship training and mentoring can have positive implications on staff retention too. Investing in an individual’s training can significantly reduce the chance of them deciding to leave a firm, as theyll likely be more committed to their role. Reducing the turnover of staff can massively reduce overall costs, and apprenticeships provide a great way to assess the suitability of a candidate acting as an extended review period, eventually resulting in firms being able to retain the correct talent.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.