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How to hire an apprentice the right way

In recent years there’s been a clear and expanding gap within the UK’s trade industry which makes it harder to find skilled tradespeople. However, you could help by hiring an apprentice. Learn how and why hiring an apprentice might be for you!

What is the state of Apprenticeships in the UK?

When it comes to encouraging skilled people to join the UK trade industry, suggesting school finishers start apprenticeships is essential. Not just because the trades need able tradespeople, but because going into the trades is an excellent career path.

And there has never been a better time than now to highlight a career in the trades!

There are plenty of apprenticeship openings going, and with university tuition fees increasing, it’s more financially viable than ever.

Get in with Checkatrade

Checkatrade’s Get In programme is aimed at connecting 16 to 25-year-olds with brilliant job opportunities across the UK.

We want to help by supporting businesses like yours to find apprentices. And in doing so, kick-start new careers across the UK through trade apprenticeships.

Why hire an apprentice?

Before looking at how to hire an apprentice. It’s worth asking why you should hire an apprentice to begin with.

  • Apprentices may actually be the key to saving the trade industry
  • The number of skilled tradespeople available is decreasing
  • We estimate a total of 244,000 qualified apprentices will be required to meet demand

Based on the UK Trade Skills Index report, there are several key challenges facing the industry overall. Not least of all an alarming labour shortage that’s set to increase in the next 10 years.

It’s the main reason why we’ve started our initiative to get more people interested in the trades.

What are the benefits of hiring an apprentice?

It goes without saying that there are many benefits to hiring an apprentice. And it’s very rare that it turns out to be a negative investment.

In fact, according to the National Apprenticeship Service website, 96% of employers said taking on an apprentice benefited their business.

The core benefits of hiring an apprentice for your business:

  • The government will provide financial support to train your apprentice, alleviating potential additional costs
  • Apprentices will support you with your work while the government pays for their training, giving you an extra pair of hands at practically no extra cost
  • Apprentices can be trained to meet your direct standards, based on your trade
  • Apprentices don’t have any bad habits to unlearn compared to self-trained tradespeople
  • Apprentices have been shown to improve productivity, with 72% of businesses reporting improved productivity as a result of employing an apprentice
  • Research shows as many as 80% of customers prefer to buy from companies employing apprentices
  • Employing an apprentice is a cost-effective way to grow your team as you don’t need to provide a full salary or meet training costs
  • Apprentices can be a great long-term employee, with 90% of apprentices staying in their place of work after completing their apprenticeship

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What’s involved in hiring an apprentice?

With the benefits of hiring an apprentice covered, it’s time to look at the hiring process. First and foremost, it’s important to look at the criteria a potential apprentice must meet:

An apprentice must:

  • Be 16 or over
  • Not already be in full-time education
  • Live in England and have the right to work (this guidance is specifically for England, as the laws for Wales and Scotland differ)
  • Work in a role for your business that is relevant to their apprenticeship

So, provided your applicants meet all these areas, you can take them on as an apprentice.

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What are the different apprenticeship levels?

Besides finding candidates, you’ll also need to make a service account. This will let you start setting up your apprenticeship scheme in relation to what you can offer applicants.

Through here, you can pick a course suited to your business, allowing apprentices to learn the essential skills needed.

These levels cover the following areas:

  • Intermediate – Level 2 qualifications
  • Advanced – Level 3 qualifications
  • Higher – Level 4 and above qualifications
  • Degree – Level 6 or above qualifications

Choosing a training provider

After settling on a course, you need to find an institution or organisation for your apprentice’s off-the-job training. There is plenty of theory they need to learn as well as physical skills.

Your apprentice will also need to follow the guidance provided by said trainer. They will regularly meet with them and feedback on what they have been up to working with you.

Don’t worry, this won’t require any additional work from you!

Engineer Teaching Apprentice To Use Milling Machine

Finding candidates

With an understanding of the requirements in hand and an apprenticeship level set, it’s time to find the right applicants.

Naturally, you can manage the recruitment process yourself. Or you can rely on your training provider to find a candidate on your behalf.

You could:

  • Arrange visits to schools, colleges, and universities
  • Take part in career events
  • Apply to various trainers/apprentice scheme bodies

Sorting the essential paperwork

Finally, as with any employment process, there is paperwork involved. The main document you’ll have to create is an apprenticeship agreement between you and your trainee when they apply.

This document needs to cover all of the following areas:

  • The trade or occupation the apprentice is being trained for
  • The name of the apprenticeship
  • The start and end dates of the apprenticeship
  • The amount of training you’ll be providing them

If you’re unsure how to make this form, there’s a template on the UK government website that you can use.

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Employer requirements for hiring an apprentice

Now, while we’ve looked at how to hire an apprentice, it’s also important to look at your related work obligations. New apprentices want to know that they’re protected while working.

It’s why you need to meet all of the following areas when hiring an apprentice:

  • You must make sure that apprentices are covered by a risk assessment (see what workplace risks you need to look for)
  • You must make sure that your apprentice understands the importance of working safely and have had the necessary training
  • Make sure you consider any additional, circumstantial or language needs
  • Be sure to check whether or not your apprentice has any occupational qualifications or skills needed for the job in question
  • Make sure you agree on any arrangements for providing and maintaining personal protective equipment, display screen equipment, eyesight tests, and any other necessary health surveillance steps needed for your apprentice’s safety
  • You must agree on arrangements for reporting relevant accidents to the enforcing authority, usually HSE or your local authority before your apprentice starts work

This is obviously a lot to take in. So, if you’d like to find out more about health and safety best practices, visit the government advice page.

Apprentice legal rights

Like any employee, there are also numerous legal rights you’ll need to meet for your apprentice’s safety. Below are the core ones you need to be aware of:

  • The minimum duration an apprentice can work is 30 hours a week, including off-the-job training
  • Apprentices should not work longer than 40 hours a week when additional work is required
  • You must pay apprentices the National Minimum Wage at a minimum
  • You must provide your apprentice with a contract of employment that is at least long enough for them to complete successfully
  • You must allow your apprentice to combine workplace learning with off-the-job training
  • The training of an apprentice should make up at least 20% of their working hours
  • An apprenticeship must last for at least a year

How much does it cost to hire an apprentice?

As we’ve already stated, the costs associated with hiring an apprentice are fairly low. However, that does not mean it is entirely free to do.

Fortunately, there are funding options you can apply for to help keep these expenses to a minimum.

What apprenticeship funding is available to businesses?

Recently, the funding process for apprenticeships was changed with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. This levy requires firms with annual payroll costs of over £3 million to pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill into a collective fund.

In return, this levy allows large firms to use the fund to cover the costs associated with apprentices.

However, if you don’t pay into the levy, then the approach you take to funding will depend on the size of your company.

Funding examples to consider

For example, firms that don’t pay the levy but have more than 50 employees pay 5% of an apprentice’s cost. The government will cover the rest of the costs associated with training and assessment.

On the other hand, if you’re an employer with less than 50 employees, you don’t pay the 5%. This is provided they’re aged between:

  • 16-18 years old
  • 19-24 years old and have previously been in care, or have an Education, Health, and Care plan provided by their local authority

In these circumstances, the government will pay 100% of the training costs, up to the funding band maximum. What’s more, employers who take on apprentices that fit the above criteria receive £1,000 at the start of the process.

Who pays an apprentice’s wage?

While the funding for an apprenticeship is mostly subsidised, employers are responsible for paying apprentices, just like any other employee.

All apprentices must be paid at least £6.40 an hour*. This must then rise up to the current rate for their age once they have completed the first year.

For example, an apprentice aged 23 who has completed their first year is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £11.44*. However, someone the same age who has yet to complete this part of their apprenticeship is still only entitled to £6.40*.

There is no direct funding for wages. However, employers can inquire towards government financial incentives relating to the cost of paying their apprentices.

(*Figures coming into effect 1 April 2024).

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See how a Checkatrade member found hiring an apprentice

We talked a lot about just how beneficial hiring an apprentice can be. But we wouldn’t want you to just take our word for it.

Which is why we spoke to Checkatrade member, Danny Tickner, of Samsian Ltd, to hear about his experience with apprentices.

How do you feel about apprenticeships in general?

“I think they are important, and they offer you the foundation for working in the industry.”

Would you take on another apprentice or recommend taking on an apprentice to anybody else?

“I’d certainly recommend to other businesses that they take on an apprentice. I was fortunate that my current apprentice is my son. And I knew he had longevity at the company, and it’s all about future growth.”

Do you feel that taking on an apprentice is in some ways more beneficial than hiring somebody fully trained?

“It depends on the workload and what’s required. If you are planning long-term for the future, then yes, it would be a fantastic investment to hire an apprentice.”

Keep your apprentice busy with Checkatrade

Now you know how to hire an apprentice, you might be concerned about giving them enough work to get started. And that’s exactly where Checkatrade can help!

  • We help your business reach more customers
  • You’ll receive access to incredible member benefits and discounts

All of which will come in handy when looking to purchase a new van, tools, workwear and more.

Keep your apprentices busy by getting in touch and joining the UK’s #1 trade directory today!

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apprenticeships in business

Apprentice hiring FAQs

What are business higher apprenticeships?

Business higher apprenticeships give young people the opportunity to obtain a level 4 qualification or higher. These are a great alternative to university.

And those completing a business higher apprenticeship often end up with an HND, NVQ level 4, or a foundation degree.

Can a sole trader recruit an apprentice?

Definitely, and it’s a great way to grow your workforce. You can either employ an apprentice yourself or take on one through an apprenticeship training agency.

The second option is great for having an extra pair of hands without committing to full employment.

However, if you’ve no previous experience with having employees, you’ll need to register with HMRC. This will make sure you pay National Insurance and income tax for your apprentice.

How long do apprenticeships last?

All apprenticeships must run for at least one year but can last as long as five years. It all depends on the skills that are being taught.

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Content disclaimer: This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer here.

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