Sugaring the pill on apprentices

Ever wondered about taking on an apprentice, but decided it was more trouble than it was worth?

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In that case, the London Apprenticeship Company reckons it’s the answer to your prayers. A joint venture backed by state funds, it aims to take the hassle out of hiring an apprentice by acting as a broker between employers and apprentices. The idea is that companies who are put off by the idea of having to run the whole process themselves can basically lease an apprentice from a central provider, which takes care of all the payroll and legal side and will also help out with training. Sir Alan Sugar’s apparently a big fan of the scheme – even if he himself appears to favour a rather more tortuous recruitment process…

A similar model has been operating successfully in Australia for 40 years, and a feasibility study suggested there was plenty of appetite in the UK too. Companies’ three biggest objections to hiring apprentices tended to be a lack of time to sort the process out, the absence of a central resource to find good people, and worries about training recruits properly once they were on board. The LAC is designed to address all three by finding, employing and training apprentices, and then placing them straight into industry. It also plans to focus on those companies or sectors that don’t normally hire apprentices: London’s creative industry, which currently employs no apprentices whatsoever, is top of the hit list, closely followed by retail, hospitality and leisure.

‘Imagine a hire and leaseback scheme that takes away all of the red tape and risk from the process of taking on an apprentice and just leaves you free and clear to reap the benefits,’ says Angela McConvile, who’s head of training provider Vital Regeneration (one of the JV partners). ‘We want the people who run businesses to think again about whether they could grow their own talent in-house through an apprenticeship scheme.’ Set to launch in London in April, the hope is that the scheme can soon be rolled out nationwide – assuming it works, of course.

It’s true that these straitened times could make some employers less keen to take risks. But the advantage of this scheme could be that it takes a lot of the risk out of the apprentice-hiring process – if you don’t like them, you can just send them back; if you do, you’ll have unearthed a bright young thing at a relatively low cost. And wannabe apprentices should certainly be keen; as far as they’re concerned, this has to be a more attractive proposition than a ten-week reality TV series where someone shouts at you a lot – whatever Sir Alan might tell them.


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Sugaring the pill on apprentices

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