Following on from National Apprenticeship Week, you might be considering taking on an apprentice or wondering whether an apprenticeship is right for you or someone in your family. There are no easy answers but there are some things to consider and I hope my blog might give you some more insight to help you make your decision.
Thinking of Taking on an Apprentice?
An apprentice can be a good solution for a small or medium sized business looking to grow but without the resources to employ someone on a standard salary to a permanent position. It also allows you to train and develop the young person to suit your company’s ethics and business values. The young person will receive training to suit their chosen apprenticeship and may attend a college or training provider or undertake distance learning to learn relevant skills.
To get the most out of your apprentice you need to take time to select the right person. Most of the time when an apprenticeship hasn’t worked out, it is because the young person wasn’t really ready for the world of work or wasn’t committed to studying for the qualification. Take the time to interview the young person yourself to see if they are the right fit for your company. Most apprenticeship programmes offer a trial period so both parties can make sure they are happy.
The employer also needs to make sure they are investing time in training their apprentice. A well trained apprentice can be a valuable asset to a business once qualified and is likely to reward you with loyalty. Some employers see apprentices as cheap labour and don’t allow them time to complete their training and development, which is a real shame as both apprentice and employer miss out on the main benefits of having an apprentice.
As an employer you may be eligible for a government grant once the apprentice has been in post for a certain period of time. New regulations are coming into force soon where larger employers will pay an apprenticeship levy and smaller employers will be able to take advantage of further incentives to take on an apprentice. Make sure you find out how this could affect your business.
Thinking of becoming an apprentice?
There are so many options for young people now it can be hard to know what the best route is. Stay on at school? Go to college? Study for university? If you don’t know what career you are aiming for, it can make it even harder to choose. I suggest making a list based on the factors below and seeing how you fit into each category.
Depending on your age, college courses can be free or there can be a cost. University courses are more expensive but you may be able to complete distance learning at a lower cost. If you are on a college course, there will be some free time where you may choose to get part time work. As an apprentice you would not pay anything towards your training, but you may lose out on certain benefits someone in full time education may get such as free eye tests. However, you will be earning a wage and you can start saving towards your pension (an important consideration nowadays).
As an apprentice, you will be entering the professional world and will be expected to behave as an adult and will be treated like one. You need to be able to work independently and take initiate as well as following instructions. Some people are not ready for this at 16, 17 or even 18 and need a school or college environment to develop those life skills before they start work. To decide if you are ready for work think about whether people describe you as mature, whether you complete study or homework on time without someone forcing you to do it and whether, If you have had a part time job or work experience before, you just did as you were told or whether you asked questions and tried to learn more. Thinking about these factors will help you make your decision.
If you know what career you want to go into, you should check if there are specific qualifications you need before deciding on your options. If you are not sure what you want to do, you might consider what apprenticeships or courses give you the broadest range of career options at the end.
Some people enjoy classroom learning and study and want to continue down a very academic route. Some people prefer more practical and contextual learning. Bear in mind there will always be some theory and writing involved and you cannot avoid studying English and maths until you have achieved a C at GCSE or equivalent as an apprentice.
Mistakes to Avoid
Common mistakes people make when choosing an apprenticeship are thinking it is an easy option and they can avoid studying. You need to be committed and ready to work long hours, which can be a shock to the system. Some apprentices use their college day as a chance to ‘have a break’ from work rather than putting their effort into learning skills and getting their work done. These apprentices usually then have to spend extra time at the end trying to get everything finished, are less likely to be taken on as a full time employee and may not achieve the qualification.
The final mistake is when a young person enters the family business as an apprentice and thinks that the qualification doesn’t matter. In the long term you may choose to move on or the firm could have difficulties so you need to give yourself as many options as you can. Don’t ever restrict yourself to just one option.
If you are interested in knowing more about apprenticeships, talk to your local college or training provider.