No train, no gain
With government grants available for employers, extensive free advice available both on and offline, and training often being adaptable to suit your particular business needs, apprenticeships not only offer the learner the opportunity to pick up invaluable knowledge, but the employer benefits from a motivated member of the team who is being trained to enhance your business with job-specific skills.
Never has the old adage ‘speculate to accumulate’ been more apposite than when applied to hiring an apprentice. Yes, in the first instance, an apprentice will require your time – not only to find one, but then to mentor them – but you are effectively employing someone at less than the minimum wage and training them, with free help from recognised bodies, to fulfil a role that will enhance your business.
The statistics speak for themselves. According to the National Apprenticeship Service, 80% of employers say that their apprentices make their workplace more productive and 92% of employers with apprentices say they believe apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
Government Apprenticeship Grant
The recent introduction of a Government Apprenticeship Grant is providing further incentive for businesses to take on an apprentice. If you employ fewer than 1000 members of staff, have not taken on an apprentice for the last 12 months and are looking for an apprentice who is aged from 16 to 24 years old, then you are eligible for the £1500 government grant.
“Employers become eligible to receive the payment of £1500 when the young person completes week 13 of their apprenticeship programme,” explains Rachael Fidler, managing director of HTP Training, which specialises in the design and delivery of work-related training and services across a wide range of sectors. “It is important to bear in mind that it may then take up to nine weeks for that payment to be processed. So anyone considering taking on an apprentice – minimum wage for which is currently £2.65 an hour – needs to ensure they can pay their wages for the first few months.”
Is an apprentice right for you
An apprenticeship usually runs for 12 months, so it cannot be viewed as a short-term solution to staffing problems. “First, evaluate why you want an apprentice and what you want them to achieve,” advises Fidler. “What do you want the apprentice to contribute to your business and what can the apprentice gain themselves? You need to see the apprentice as an integral member of your business and not a ‘temp’ who will help you to secure a government grant.”
Westminster Kingsway College in central London works with a number of employers in the hospitality industry to provide apprenticeship training programmes. Louise Jordan, the College’s head of hospitality apprenticeships, is a firm believer that apprenticeships benefit both learner and business, but only if both parties are equally committed.
“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for young people to gain experience in the hospitality industry and to develop their skills at college while being in paid employment,” says Jordan. “Equally, apprenticeships offer employers the opportunity to develop their workforce and to mentor a young trainee. We actively encourage the employers with whom we work to devote their time and energy to mentor the apprentices they employ as the benefits of having an apprentice will only come if the apprentices are actively learning through their employment.”
There to help
At first glance you may feel as though the application process is complicated enough to prevent you from continuing. Never fear, free advice is at hand.
“Most training providers will walk you through the paperwork and provide support when you come to complete it,” says Fidler. “Following the completion of the paperwork, the training company will then advertise the position, at no cost to you, to find suitable candidates. Applicants will then be screened to ensure that they fit your requirements and the most suitable will be sent to you for interview selection. Once you have selected your applicant, the next stage is for the training company to work with you and the chosen apprentice to develop a training framework that incorporates both your requirements and what the apprentice wants to get out of the programme.”
Thereafter a dedicated training consultant from the apprenticeship training provider (be it college or independent company) will help deliver the skills and knowledge required for the role – just as an internal training manager would. It is worth repeating that all this support will cost you nothing as this is a government initiative.
While most apprenticeships involve the apprentice attending college one day a week, this arrangement will not suit all businesses.
“Many employers are unaware that they can access government-subsidised training in the workplace, which means that businesses do not have to release staff in order to attend college during the working week,” comments Jill Whittaker, managing director of HIT Training, one of the UK’s most successful apprenticeship providers in the hospitality, hotel and catering sector. “This ‘Work-Based Learning’ (WBL) is an attractive alternative to traditional ‘day release’ courses – especially for small businesses that may not be able to spare a key member of the team or afford extra staff to cover.”
If you do not want to hire an apprentice who is completely wet behind the ears, there is an alternative. Developed by The Hospitality Guild in conjunction with hospitality employers, Employment 1st is a pre-employment training programme specifically designed for the hospitality industry.
Jeremy Scorer, managing partner at Charnwood, a training company that operates nationally, points out that your apprentice could already be known to you. “There are two ways to employ an apprentice: either employ a new member of staff for the purpose or nominate an existing member of staff to go onto an apprenticeship,” advises Scorer. “The bottom line is that apprenticeships are intended for employees who are embarking on a new role or preparing for a more senior role, so take a look at your team – front of house, service staff, kitchen staff – and see who has potential, who needs nurturing or who would benefit from further development. Of course if there is a gap in your team, you will more likely need to recruit a new member of staff.”
Scorer also points out that not all apprentices require day release. “If you choose Charnwood as your training provider, all training, coaching and mentoring is done on-site and online so your apprentice need never leave your premises,” he says.
Online portal alternative
Another route to avoiding day release is by using Apprentice 1st – an online portal developed by sector skills council, People 1st, in conjunction with training provider Exemplas. The portal enables employers, learners and training providers to access all aspects of an apprenticeship, including coursework, assessments and practical training material, from a single screen online.
“We believe the benefits of this approach are numerous,” comments Andrew Wallbank, product delivery manager, Apprentice 1st. “While the apprentices still have face-to-face contact with their assessor every four to six weeks, in the interim learning is done online, thereby negating the need for the apprentice to attend college each week – this is particularly helpful for businesses that find themselves a long way from a college or provider.”
Images courtesy of People 1st