Unlocking the Potential: Why Employers Should Embrace Apprenticeships

Payroll and HR | 27.11.2023

by Azets

Apprenticeships offer numerous benefits, such as earning while learning, gaining recognized qualifications, and acquiring sought-after skills. However, before hiring the first apprentice, practical considerations, available financial support, and optimizing the opportunities for both the apprentice and employer need to be addressed. 

In this article, we will bust some of the prevailing myths about apprenticeships, dive into the benefits that apprenticeships can offer SMEs, and talk about how to get the most out of these programmes.  

The information in this article is based on statistics from the UK and may differ between countries. We advise that you also read up on specific laws and regulations in your own country. 

Benefits for both employee and apprentice 

Nurturing talent from the beginning of their careers and developing someone from the ground up within your business, is an amazing opportunity. Surveys suggest that apprentices tend to exhibit greater loyalty to their employers compared to non-apprentices, often staying with the company for extended periods. Although it does take a few months to settle in, the transformation can be truly incredible. 

“I left school at 16 without a clear career path. I stumbled into accountancy and found my passion. I pursued an accounting technician qualification, a step below chartered status. My goal was to become a chartered accountant, and my employer supported this by becoming an approved training office. With my employer's mentorship and opportunities for growth, I thrived. I became a partner in the firm at 27 and later the office managing partner, embarking on a fulfilling career journey that started with an apprenticeship at 16.” 

  • Victoria Wainwright, Office Managing Partner at Azets 

 In many smaller businesses, you often find leaders who have risen through the ranks as apprentices. This personal experience makes a significant difference because they truly comprehend the process. When there's a senior figure within the company who has experienced an apprenticeship, they typically have a deep appreciation for it and actively encourage other employees to become apprentices as well.

“Upon completion, apprentices are likely to secure lifelong careers, with around 90% finding good jobs with their employing companies. The cultural shift in our approach to apprenticeships and skills is evident, and even discussions like this would have been unimaginable a decade ago.” 

  • Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education. 


Common concerns 

A common preconception for SME owners may be that it won’t be worth the investment, and myths persist. Some still consider apprenticeships inferior to a university education, but this perception is changing, especially among SME leaders.

It’s too expensive. There are a wide range of apprenticeship schemes, as well as fundamental skills training, which provide financial help as you get your apprentice settled into your business. Government assistance is available, and it just takes some research and asking the right sources to find a solution that works for you.

Too much time spent away from the workplace. Typically, 20% of an apprentice's time is spent in the classroom, with the remaining 80% in the workplace. This 20% isn't just off-site learning but also includes on-the-job training, including team updates. It's not time away from the workplace. Apprentices bring back fresh ideas and technology from the classroom, enhancing a business's capabilities. 
It’s just for young adults and practical trades. Anyone seeking to change their profession, or enter the workforce for the first time, can greatly benefit from apprenticeships; it is not just for young adults. You hire based on how well you think your future apprentice will fit into your workplace, and that perfect chemistry can be found in anyone. While practical trades have a longer history of taking on apprentices, this is a practice all sectors could benefit from, and this is becoming a new standard. 
The interviewing process

Confidence doesn't always equate to competence in interviews. Shy individuals can be incredibly skilled. It's important to be patient. It takes a few months for people, including apprentices and employees, to settle in and adapt to the work environment, especially if they have limited prior work experience. Proper training and patience are crucial, even though it can be challenging in a small office compared to larger companies. 
“Having a good mentor who is encouraging, enthusiastic, and provides constructive feedback is crucial. They should be like a critical friend, emphasizing that there's no failure, only feedback. Opportunities to shadow your mentor, listen to phone calls, or attend meetings are valuable. This immersive learning experience helps you integrate various skill sets at a higher level.” 

  • Victoria Wainwright, Office Managing Partner at Azets  

Training providers

Training providers work in partnership with both the employer and the apprentice, creating a three-way approach. Regular review meetings ensure progress and facilitate feedback from the employer to the training provider. This collaborative support aims to deliver the best outcomes for all parties involved. 

Common missteps for employers 

Not being patient enough. Failure should be expected from someone stepping into a new workplace, and it is vital that there is room for it.  

Underestimating how much you need to put into the first months. It's a formative period for people, especially young people coming into a business for the first time, and the rewards depend on the work you put into the training. 
Becoming complacent. Make sure that you know what you're doing, because if you think, “Oh, I've got an apprentice and there'll be a training provider, I don't need to put much work into it”, there's a risk of failure, because you're not providing the right opportunities for development.  
Not knowing what you’re getting into. Have a plan, make a strategy both for yourself and to provide the best possible work environment and training for your new apprentice. A lot can be learned from other business owners who have hired apprentices before, so asking questions and educating yourself on the topic is a great start. 
Not going through a training provider. Seek out the best solutions, and the process will be a lot smoother. 

Short-term pain for a long-term gain  

“Give it a go. It is an investment. You spend the time now to save in the future, as far as I'm concerned with apprentices. It is front loaded. But it's a short-term pain for a very long-term gain.” 

  • Victoria Wainwright, Office Managing Partner at Azets 

Commitment is key when developing an apprentice, so understand your needs and plan accordingly.  

Analysis. Start with a training needs analysis to create the right opportunity for both your business and the apprentice.  
Training provider. Find a training provider that aligns with your goals and utilize your business's existing skills.  
Find expertise. Seek HR or development expertise if needed, explore government websites, and collaborate with local providers to kickstart your journey.  
Assess your needs. Match a standard to fill the gap and choose an apprentice to bridge it. Becoming a mentor can be quite rewarding.  
“Don't focus too much on the funding, the funding is there for you. And if you find the right provider, they'll talk you through what you need to do. Those opportunities are out there waiting on you. So don't be scared.” 

  • David Whitson-Black, Global Head of Talent and Performance at Azets 

Some small business owners may feel they lack the time, resources or knowledge to take on an apprentice. But apprentices can give you the opportunity to address skill-gaps, diversify into new areas, and build diverse, more innovative teams. And there is financial help available. But it is important to do some research. Be patient and know that you're investing in a future talent pipeline that should pay dividends for years to come, even if you must invest a bit of time and effort in the process first. You are giving back while aiding your business and shaping someone’s career. 

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