8 Steps to employing an Apprentice

Apprenticeships are a great way to progress in work and life they work for people of all ages and backgrounds and can transform the lives of both young new apprentices and motivate your existing staff. Even those who already possess a degree can undertake an apprenticeship to learn new skills.

How can you access apprenticeship funding, how can you hire an apprentice and what is the recruitment the process?

With Apprenticeship week here we have put together a quick guide to accessing funding, hiring an apprentice, and how training is delivered once your new apprentice is on board.

To keep these steps simple, we focus on new apprentices here, but you can check out our blog on How to use apprenticeship funding to upskill staff here.

Background and new incentives

Government investment: The English Apprenticeships 2020 vision document outlined the Government's plan to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships to reach a commitment of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. In addition, due to COVID and to keep this commitment on track, the Government has also pledged additional funding incentive until March 2021 detailed below:

If you:-

Employ an Apprentice aged 16-18:

£3000 incentive

Employ an Apprentice aged 19-25: 

£2000 incentive

Employ an Apprentice aged 25 plus: £1500 incentive

Payment is made in equal instalments of 50% one at three months and one on completions

So, if you have decided employing a new apprentice is a good thing for your business, then here is a guide to making the process easy both when hiring and training your new apprentice, but there are a couple of things you need to check first.

Check the minimum requirements:

  • The expectation is that apprentices are employed for a minimum of 30 hours. In exceptional circumstances, this could be 16 hours per week; however, the apprenticeship's total duration will increase to give the candidate sufficient time to complete their training.
  • All apprentices must be paid at least the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage relevant to their age
  • The place of employment must be in the UK, and the apprentice must have the right to work in the UK
  • You will need to create your own Digital Apprentice Service account and reserve funding.

Presently there is no limit to the number of Apprentices you can hire and the extension of the additional employer incentives as bee extended to March 31st 2021.

Step 1

Write a job description and a person specification

Yes, this sounds obvious, but each year thousands of school and university leavers start applying for work. Some do not even know what they want to do, so they will start applying for lots of roles in an automated fashion. 

One client, I spoke to the other day, put up a job description on a well-known jobs site, and received 250 CV's in just a few days, which is not only daunting but to sift through them is a waste of a business owner's time.

If you are clear about the person you want, for example, a second jobber, and clear about the skills and qualifications you want your apprentice to have, the better chance you have of getting the right match quicker.

As a minimum:

  • A person specification should include essential and desirable knowledge criteria, previous experience and the specific skills you're looking for in the successful candidate.
  • A job description should include a job title, the main duties and purpose of the role, information about the company and the job location.

Step 2

Deciding how much to pay

Although the Government has set a National Minimum Wage, they encourage employers to pay a salary that they feel is fair and reflect the level of work and study undertaken and attract the best candidates to apply for your vacancy.

Remember that your apprentice will need to pay for travel and lunch, which can be quite costly. Some employers consider using the incentive payments to support things like uniform, training and so on to help their learners manage their finances through the apprenticeship.

Further information Visit gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

Step 3

Decide on how you will manage your apprenticeship training

It is important to remember that even though you are adding new staff to your business at a lower rate than employing a fully qualified member, you will have to commit to providing apprenticeship training.

If you have already found a candidate, you can still use the apprenticeship training provider to deliver the course. In short, the Government funds the training, and for SME's, the Government approved training provider provides it.  

There are several ways the apprenticeship course can be delivered. Most of the training is on-the-job at an employer's premises, working with a mentor to learn job-specific skills in the workplace.

Off-the-job training is provided by a training provider and is delivered either through on-site and online learning, day release, block release, or a blend of different methods.

Step 4

Advertising the apprenticeship vacancy and inviting applications

Whilst hiring through word of mouth may be economical, it is likely to lead to a much smaller pool of suitable applicants and does not satisfy equal opportunities or apprenticeship requirements.

When advertising the position, there is a range of options available to you. Your training organisation will be able to guide you as to the most appropriate method.

National Apprenticeship website – The go-to site for aspiring Apprentices

  • All apprenticeship vacancies should be advertised on the Find an apprenticeship website.
  • Find an apprenticeship lets candidates search for your vacancies using selected criteria such as geography, occupation, job role and keywords.
  • Your training organisation will do this on your behalf.

Only one vacancy per company can be advertised on this site, so using multiple training providers is not an option.

Live vacancy RSS feed

  • RSS commonly stands for 'Really Simple Syndication' and allows training organisations and other partners to display current apprenticeship vacancies on their website.

Universal Job match

  • Find an apprenticeship automatically feeds through to Universal Job match which is a service offered through Government Gateway

Linking to your recruitment website

  • If you have your own recruitment system, it is easy to link from the Find an apprenticeship website to your own website.

Some employers also advertise their vacancies in other ways: local newspapers, trade magazines, and online job and recruitment sites.

Step 5

Shortlisting suitable candidates

You have two options when it comes to shortlisting candidates that have applied for your vacancy:

1 Request that your training provider sends you copies of all applications submitted

2 Ask your training organisation to perform an initial sift on your behalf and then forward you all suitable applications. As mentioned earlier, this can help to save you time

If using an Apprenticeship provider, then it helps to give them shortlist criteria. At Aspire, we also use more than one person to shortlist candidates to avoid possible bias.

Step 6

Preparing for the interview

Using standard questions for all candidates will help make the process equitable and fair.

The majority of candidates will likely be aged 16 – 24 and not have a great deal of experience outside of the educational environment. By tailoring your questions to reflect this and preparing questions that avoid yes or no answers, you'll gain insight into their attitudes and behaviours.

Suppose you have a pool of candidates to choose from or making more than a single hire. In that case, you might consider second interviews that include a social event, such as a lunch, ask candidates to use equipment or discuss a professional scenario.  Doing this will help you assess their communication, creative and leadership skills and gauge their interest level in the role.

Step 7

When a candidate attends an interview, it is their chance to form an impression of your company as much as it is for you to find out about them. First impressions count!

  • Ensure they feel prepared by letting them know the interview format, outline the job role, and how it fits within your company or department.
  • Keep control of the interview but allow the candidate time to think and answer your questions. Remember this may be the first interview that they have attended there are no right or wrong answers, if they get stuck, lead the with probe questions – What, Who, Why Where.

On closing the interview, advise the next steps and when a decision will be made. Your role is not the only one they will have applied for, so try to let the candidate know when that will be and how you will notify them.

Congratulations you have your new aspiring apprentice!

Training your new candidate: -

Once you have decided which candidate you wish to appoint; you will need to provide your apprentice with your employment contract just like any other employee.  

Your training provider will then help you set up your Digital Apprentice Service account to access your incentives.  They will also provide an apprenticeship agreement to complete within the first week of employment, including things like a health and safety and safeguarding check of your business environment.

The next step will be to develop an individual Learning Plan (ILA), for your new learner. We develop this with you and to fit in with your business operation and working hours. At Aspire to Learn, we deliver our apprenticeship courses both face-to-face and online. We help you manage the required 20% off the job learning, which effectively gives the learner time to complete their qualification.

We hope this has been helpful, but please feel free to get in touch if you require more information.


03 Feb 2021