Ten Top Tips: Get the best out of an apprentice

With National Apprenticeship Week drawing to a close, Crawford Knott, of Hawk Training, explains how apprenticeship schemes can work for your business.

by Crawford Knott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Many organisations are re-thinking the way they recruit and realising that apprentices are an ideal way of harnessing new talent. With over one in five 16-24 year olds currently unemployed and rising university tuition fees, many young people are looking at vocational careers and choosing to learn while they earn.
Here are ten tips for hiring an apprentice for your business or organisation:
Make sure you have a mentor in place
Apprentices can yield great benefits to an organisation, but they need an environment where they can flourish and a big part of this is having a mentor who is prepared to provide the necessary guidance and support.

Use the Apprenticeship Vacancies Online service
The National Apprenticeship Service provides an online platform for employers to advertise their apprenticeship vacancies free of charge. It enables you to reach a vast pool of potential candidates.

Pick the right programme
It's important the apprentices work towards a nationally-recognised qualification in their chosen sector. With over 200 Apprenticeship Programmes available which relate to over 1,200 job roles, there's bound to be one that fits the bill.

View an apprentice as part of your succession planning
It's no good taking on an apprentice as a quick fix. Apprentices can add real value and can become the managers of the future, but they need a structured progression pathway which offers the opportunity for them to grow with the organisation and learn the ropes.

Provide regular feedback
For some apprentices, this placement may well be their first job and it's important to schedule in regular meetings to feed back on their performance and set objectives. Apprentices need to know what they're doing well and where they need to improve in order to maximise their potential.

Use a work trial

An initial work trial of around a week or so enables an employer to gauge whether the apprentice is right for the role and vice versa. If it doesn't work out the first time, don't be put off from giving other candidates the chance to shine.

Use a training provider
Training providers are able to advise employers about what support and government funding is available. The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers is aimed at helping eligible employers to employ young people through the Apprenticeship Programme by providing wage grants to assist them in recruiting their first apprentice. An incentive of £1,500 is available to take on new 16-to-24 year old apprentices, with priority given to small businesses of under 50 employees, although some funding is available for organisations with up to 250 employees.

Use successful apprentices as mentors
No-one is better placed to understand the needs of a new apprentice and offer support and advice than former apprentices themselves. Being mentored by someone who has done it themselves helps new recruits to see what they can aspire to.

Encourage apprentices to keep on learning
An Intermediate Apprenticeship is equivalent to five GCSEs, and an Advanced Programme is the same as two 'A' Levels. Higher Apprenticeships and foundation degrees which can be carried out alongside work provide effective progression pathways, without having to study full-time and pay expensive tuition fees.

Motivate apprentices
Apprentices can be very loyal and valuable employees, especially if they feel they are being invested in. Incentives, perks and benefits can be used a s a motivational tool when apprentices reach certain milestones, whether hitting targets and achieving objectives or successfully completing their programme.

- Government-funded Hawk Training created The London Academy of Apprenticeships, a £1m apprenticeship training facility, at the end of 2011. The Academy will deliver over 3,000 Apprenticeship Programmes in 2012 across a diverse range of vocational sectors, from retail and hospitality, to management, information technology and childcare.

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