How to Take on an Apprentice


How to Take on an Apprentice

Hiring an apprentice is an effective way to nurture your workforce and develop homegrown talent by offering training to suit your individual business needs. They are a useful tool, both for taking on new employees and for upskilling existing staff.  

Government figures show that: –

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
  • 74% of employers said internships helped them improve the quality of their product or service

Apprenticeships aren’t limited solely to new staff; existing employees can also take advantage of apprenticeship training. While there’s no upper age limit for apprentices, they must be at least 16 years old.

This blog post looks at how apprenticeships work, what funding and support is available to businesses, and how to go about hiring apprentices. 

How do apprenticeships work?

An apprentice’s time is split between off-the-job and on-the-job training, with at least 20% of their time being spent on off-the-job training; this can be at a Further Education College, University or a private training provider.

The employer and training provider arrange the delivery of the off the job training, which could be in the form of: –

  • Regular day release
  • Block release
  • Training days/workshops

 Off-the-job training can be at the workplace but must not be part of their normal working role. Practical training can be delivered as: –

  • Shadowing
  • Mentoring
  • Industry visits

This means that apprentices benefit from a structured programme, combining learning and on the job training with the support of a mentor. While at the same time gaining a deep understanding of company culture by shadowing and learning from their peers and colleagues.

Apprentice in supermarket


Who can employ an apprentice? 

All employers can take on an apprentice. Sole traders and freelancers cannot take on an apprentice directly but can employ an apprentice via the Apprentice Training Agency (ATA)

What is the apprenticeship levy?

The UK government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, to help fund the improvement and availability of apprenticeships. It is paid by larger companies with a payroll greater than £3 million. The Apprenticeship Levy amounts to 0.5% of their annual pay bill. The fund is then used by organisations to pay for apprenticeship training. 

It is paid monthly, along with income tax and national insurance contributions and stored in a digital account. After 24 months, any unused funds are classed as expired and returned to the Government, which encourages companies to use their account to fund apprenticeships within that time period.

What funding is available?

If you don’t pay the apprenticeship levy, the government pays 95% of the employers’ costs for training and assessing apprenticeships. Companies are asked to pay 5% of the cost, which will be paid directly to the trainer at an agreed schedule.

There are several incentive payments available to employers, for example, if you take on apprentices who are: –

  • aged 16 to 18 years old
  • aged 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan or who has been in the care of their local authority

If you do pay the apprenticeship levy, the government will provide a top-up of 10% to the funds in your account. However, if you don’t have sufficient funds, you may only have to pay 5% of the outstanding funds, depending on the funding band maximum. You also have the option to transfer a maximum of 25% of your levy funds to another employer.

How much do I pay an apprentice?

You are responsible for paying apprentices for both their on-the-job and off-the-job training hours. They should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which is determined by the apprentice’s age and year of apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship Laws

Apprentices have the same rights as other employees. They must be offered employment for at least 30 hours per week, including off-the-job training time, and are entitled to holiday pay.

As an employer, you are not duty-bound to provide employment at the end of the apprenticeship.

Before taking on an apprentice, you must draw up an apprenticeship agreement and a commitment statement.

An apprenticeship agreement details: 

  • The job role and apprenticeship programme.
  • The amount of off-the-job training hours.
  • Working conditions and rate of pay.
  • The length of employment and training.

The commitment statement must include:

  • the planned content and schedule for training
  • what is expected and offered by the employer, the training organisation and the apprentice
  • how to resolve queries or complaints

Apprenticeship Levels 

You’ll need to consider what level of apprentice you are looking to take on. Firstly you need to identify the role you are looking to fill. Maybe it’s an entry-level position, or you might be looking to upskill an existing employee to work in a more senior role. It’s important to have a clear expectation of what you wish to achieve.

There are four apprenticeship levels to choose from:

Intermediate Level 2 Apprenticeships

Intermediate Level 2 Apprenticeships provide an alternative to staying at school and are roughly equivalent to five GCSE (9-4) passes. GCSE grades have been recently changed from A-E to 9-1, clarification on the new GCSE grades can be found on the BBC website

 The minimum age is 16, and there are no formal entry requirements. However, some employers may ask for two GCSE’s or that you take qualifications in Maths and English. Level 2 Apprenticeships usually take between 12 to 18 months to complete and focus on developing soft skills and specific work-based training. Once qualified, apprentices can go on to study for an advanced apprenticeship.

Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship

The Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship is equivalent to two A-Level passes. They are a great way to develop sector-specific work-based skills. Entry requirements vary, depending on the employer, but typically apprentices need five good GCSE’s, grades 9 to 4, including English and Maths. It takes around two years to complete.

Higher Level Apprenticeships Levels 4 and above

Higher Level Apprenticeships Levels 4 and above are equivalent to a foundation degree, Higher National Diploma (HND), or an NVQ Level 4.  Entry requirements are either an Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship, NVQ’s, BTEC Level 3 or A-Levels. Depending on the pace of study, Higher Level Apprenticeships can take up to 5 years to complete.

Degree Level Apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)

Degree Level Apprenticeships are the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree. Entry requirements are typically either A-Levels or significant sector-specific work experience. They can take up to 6 years to complete. The split between work and university usually is 80% work and 20% studying.

Apprentice Mechanic

How do I hire an apprentice?

All new apprenticeships are funded and managed via the Apprenticeship Service. When recruiting an apprentice, employers need to set up an Apprenticeship Service account, which provides a central portal for managing all aspects of the apprenticeship, including funding and training.

You can recruit apprentices yourself, or your training provider can help you. It’s up to you to decide how much help you need. You might even want to take advantage of any career fairs being held by local educational establishments. It’s a great way of getting your company known to the broader community.

How do I find a training provider?

A complete list of training providers is available from the government’s apprenticeship website. Your training provider will work with you to deliver the training element of the apprenticeship. They will advise you on all aspects of taking on an apprentice, from recruitment to endpoint assessment. Training providers are subject to Ofsted Inspections. 

There are several considerations to make when choosing a provider. It’s important to feel comfortable with your training agency and be confident that they not only understand your aims and objectives but that they will provide the level of support you require. Don’t feel that you have to compromise your objectives. Look at how well they communicate with you and get feedback from other apprentices and companies if possible. 

Another essential factor to consider is location, as training must be easily accessible to the apprentice. If you’re taking on a younger apprentice, they may not be able to drive. After so many hours spent online delivery during the pandemic, they may also welcome face to face training and having the opportunity to interact with other learners.

Employer’s responsibilities

As an employer, you have responsibilities and obligations to meet when taking on an apprentice. Before training starts, you must sign a commitment statement with both the apprentice and the training provider. You will also need to ensure: –

  • Apprentices must be issued with a Contract of Employment
  • Comply with Health and Safety Requirements
  • Apprentice Training must meet the requirements set out by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
  • Provide opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills required through access to real productive work
  • Provide adequate supervision
  • Regular progress reviews
  • Determine endpoint assessment (in conjunction with the training provider)

Apprentice and mentor

What’s the best way to support an apprentice?

Taking on an apprentice can be a big step for both the employer and the apprentice. If you’re taking on a new apprentice, it may be their first step into the world of work; or if you’re upskilling an existing employee, they may feel immense pressure to meet your expectations.

 As with any new situation, it’s essential to allow all parties involved time to settle in and adjust to their new role. Make sure the apprentice gains a picture of all aspects of the business and understands how their part fits into the bigger picture. Regular reviews are an effective tool to know if you need to change the original plan.

A key element to the success of the program is to allocate a mentor. The mentor provides support and guidance to the apprentice and shares their experience, skills, and knowledge.

Suppose you’re taking on a younger apprentice. In that case, they could well be Generation Z, who have grown up experiencing the impact of the financial crisis and a pandemic, have very different character traits to millennials. There has been some interesting research carried out on this diverse, digital-native generation.

Any further questions?

We hope we’ve answered all of your questions, but please contact us if you need any further information.