5 things to know when you take on an apprentice

Lord Sugar may have brought the cut-throat world of The Apprentice to our television screens, but what does employing an apprentice really involve?

Apprenticeship schemes provide useful opportunities for employers across roughly 200 industries, including agriculture, construction and law.

They help you, the employer, deal with skills shortages without large recruitment costs and boost productivity.

However, there are a number of key points that you should know before you decide to take on an apprentice.

1. Recruitment 

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the National Apprenticeship Service has a Small Business Team. This team specialises in helping smaller employers find apprentices to suit them. The service has a dedicated vacancies website where you can advertise positions.

Grants of up to £1,500 are available to help small- to medium-sized employers recruit new apprentices aged between 16 and 24. Employers can claim support for up to 10 apprentices.

2. Support

Most apprenticeships are delivered in partnership with a training organisation, such as a college, which sets the content apprentices need to fulfil while working. However, as the employer, you can add further content to meet specific business needs.

Employers can also apply for funding to cover training costs. Funds are paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship – in most cases the learning provider. The amount depends on the sector and the age of the candidate. However, in general, 100% of the cost is paid for those aged between 16 and 18, and 50% for those between 19 and 24.

3. Hours

In general, apprenticeships take between three and four years to complete, with apprentices working for at least 30 hours a week. However, the number of hours can be reduced depending on the length of the apprenticeship programme.

4. Pay

You must pay your apprentices at least the appropriate minimum wage, which currently (end of 2014) stands at £2.73 per hour. If an apprentice is 19 or over and has passed their first year of apprenticeship, then they are entitled to the usual minimum worker rate for their age.

5. Health & Safety

You must provide exactly the same protection for apprentices’ health, safety and welfare as you do for regular employees. This can include training and personal protective equipment (PPE). If you’re taking on an apprentice, you should review your risk assessment and make sure your company insurance is up to date.

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