In this article we’ll explore and address some of the questions and perceived complexities of taking on an apprentice within your SME.

Throughout our years of facilitating training and providing upskilling opportunities we’ve heard the full spectrum of responses to the concept of apprenticeships. From concern over the potential cost and workload implications to outstanding, rave reviews of the experience and the contribution that an apprentice brought to the workplace.
Many worries about apprenticeships, including cost and commitment are actually unfounded, with recent research showing the vast positive potential that apprentices can offer to SMEs.

There are many benefits that an apprentice can bring to an organisation, some more obvious than others. At SMART SKILLS it is our role to listen to the concerns and needs of the company and help to examine all the training opportunities available. Sometimes taking on an apprentice ticks more ‘solution’ boxes than you might imagine.

For many business owners who have taken the step to offer an apprenticeship placement, the decision is one of the best and most valuable they have made for their company.

Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the positive ripple effects of an apprenticeship can often be felt throughout the organisation. From integrating new ideas to better communication with customers and more innovative methods of providing your goods and services; an apprentice can bring more to your company than simply filling a vacancy.
Let’s start with some of the more obvious benefits to SMEs.

Fresh Skills. Fresh Thinking.

Taking on any new team member offers a chance for a clear sighted perspective on your business. With an apprentice this can be elevated further.

Apprenticeships are for ALL AGES. This means that the person coming to work with you and your team could have a diverse set of skills and experience that allows them to look at your processes and practices with an evaluative eye. They may spot something that allows you to maximise productivity or economise without sacrificing quality and service. They may have a set of contacts or an established network that allows you to diversify or branch out to reach a new customer base.

For those younger apprentices coming straight from a college environment, your business could reap the benefits of a dynamic new mindset. Up to date with all the latest training, tech and software they can show you strategies that enable your business to take leaps forward rather than small steps.

Contrary to some unhelpful but entrenched beliefs, apprentices are committed and passionate about what they do. They want to find a company that is the right fit for them and a large proportion will stay with the business they apprenticed with for a considerable period of time.

The Federation of Small Businesses found that 90% of apprentices stay with their company after completing their course.

In addition to this you have the benefit of an individual who is continually reflecting on and evaluating their work and progress as a part of their learning. This practice can then become integrated into your workplace ethos, inviting new and established team members to examine their approaches and explore ways of improving and refining. It’s the positive ripple effect we spoke about earlier.

Alongside these softer skills are clearly measurable benefits that impact positively on your output and productivity.

A recent study by the Apprenticeships initiative found 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 apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

The Right Person in the Right Role at the Right Time

Struggling to fill a position within your company? An apprentice could be the answer.

Recruitment agency fees can be pricey and the entire recruitment process itself can be costly and time consuming if you are tackling it all on your own. In many ways, the partnership of SMART SKILLS + Training Provider + Apprentice can offer a lot of the solutions you need at no cost.

Taking on an apprentice to fill a relevant vacancy within your organisation provides an opportunity, not only to take on an individual whose skillset is up to date and evolving but also someone who can be offered additional training to meet the specific needs of that role. Essentially creating the perfect candidate for that post through a combination of external and in-house training.

You can even liaise with the training provider to fine tune and adapt the training an apprentice has access to so that it meets the needs of your business.

As we ourselves have experienced from offering apprenticeships here at CSW and within the SMART SKILLS initiative:

“When we offered our apprentice a position within the team, we were able to help them mould their skills and experience to the needs of the role, helping them to expand their abilities and creating the perfect fit for the vacancy. It gave us an opportunity to empower an enterprising and dedicated young person to gain employment, qualifications and valuable experience.”

Not Just an Apprentice

Apprentices are paid employees. They are members of your team and like any other individual in your workforce they bring a wealth of potential benefits.

You have the freedom to set their salary above the minimum apprenticeship rate if you want to. This can have a variety of results, not least of which is finding an apprentice who understands that you recognise their value. This in turn increases the likelihood that they will continue to be part of your team long after their apprenticeship is completed.

Workplace buddy systems have also been proven to work exceptionally well. With an established team member partnered with an apprentice, often the learning, skill sharing and benefits are a mutual two-way street.

Bringing fresh thinking and forward focussed people into your workforce via apprenticeships helps to solidify your company’s position and shape your business to meet the needs of the ever changing business landscape. It’s future-proofing in its most valuable and practical form.

And don’t forget that SMEs could receive £1000 when they hire an eligible apprentice.

If you want to offer an apprenticeship placement to a dynamic and motivated individual who will help you to develop your business and inspire your team, get in touch with our specialist Skills Advisers to talk through all the potential options.

Phoebe, who has been an apprentice here at SMART SKILLS, took some time to share her reflections on the experience with us.

“My apprenticeship has helped me to gain invaluable experience that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to within further education. I have learnt about the dynamics of the workplace and how to maintain positive stakeholder relationships. I enjoyed getting to learn while on the job and working collaboratively in a team. I feel that my apprenticeship has helped to support future career prospects, as it shows I am dedicated and have a practical understanding of the working environment through first-hand experience. I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone because it not only allows you to learn while you earn but is a great step into finding a job you’re passionate about.”

For more information on the benefits of employing an apprentice the Federation of Small Businesses has created a blog on the 6 key benefits of employing an apprentice.

SMART SKILLS is funded by the European Social Fund