The launch of the Apprenticeship Levy signals a raft of changes in the way apprenticeship-based training is run and assessed.
And while the removal of eligibility requirements means it’s easier than ever to sign your existing employees up, there’s also a range of incentives for taking on apprentices from the 16-18 and 19-24 age brackets.
Hiring a young employee can sometimes be intimidating for those who’ve never done it before, so to help those considering taking on their first young apprentice - we’ve tapped into our decades’ of experience to offer some top tips on finding, employing and nurturing young apprentices.
Why take on a young apprentice?
The government’s myriad changes to apprenticeships aim to address growing productivity and skills gaps in the UK’s workforce by making this type of training more useful and valuable to employers.
Previously, 16 to 18-year-olds made up the core Apprenticeship demographic, however, the decision to remove all eligibility criteria
means that apprenticeship-based training can now be used for existing employees - regardless of their prior qualifications or age.
While the decision to take on new staff via apprenticeships or use the training for current staff is completely dependent on your workforce development needs, the government has offered a few sweeteners to make the prospect of taking on young apprentices more appealing.
Both employers and training providers will get an additional £1,000 when taking on 16 to 18-year-olds and as a transitional measure, providers are also eligible for an ‘uplift’ payment, equivalent to 20 per cent of the cost of the apprenticeship.
This enhanced funding is also available when taking on 19 to 24-year-olds who have previously been in the care of the local authority or have been subject to an education and health care plan.
Similarly, an extra £60 million has been put aside to support providers training apprentices from the country’s most deprived areas, ranging from £600 to £200.
Beyond financial considerations, employing a young apprentice also offers companies the opportunity to train them into a specific role and since course content can be tailored to an organisation’s specific needs - mould them into the ideal employee.
In our experience, many employers find apprenticeships refreshing. They come without any bad habits or negative expectations about the limits of their work and as such, are a lot more willing to give new activities a try.
Interviewing your first apprentice
Interviewing young apprentices is a slightly different proposition to someone who has a history of prior employment. In some cases, you might be dealing with a young person who has no work experience whatsoever - which can make staple questions in this area somewhat redundant.
We’d therefore advise attempting to assess their potential, rather than relevant qualifications and experience. In this regard, informal techniques that look to gauge their enthusiasm for the role and whether they’d be a good fit for company culture are advised. Some good examples of potential questions include:
What appealed to you about the role?
What do you know about the company?
What can you bring to the job?
What’s your career plan?
What are your biggest strengths?
One favoured approach is to hold group assessments, where potential candidates are observed by prospective managers while working through exercises designed to test their skills or potential aptitude.
While employing a young apprentice isn’t all that different from taking on a regular employee, it’s important to go in with the right mentality. They obviously won’t have much in the way of experience in full-time employment, so you’ll need to be explicit about what their role entails, what’s expected of them and the support that you’ll provide.
Giving them a full induction can set the right tone and help new apprentices better-understand how their role contributes to the running of the business as a whole. You shouldn’t take it as a given that they’ll understand the basics, so be sure they’ve got to grips with issues like:
- Appropriate dress
- Your organisation’s workplace policies and procedures
- Interacting with colleagues and customers
It’s also important to brief the rest of your team, making sure they’re aware of how their workloads and performance might be affected, as well as what tasks your new employee will be able to take on and which they’ll need support with.
Rights and regulations
It’s important to bear in mind that an apprentice is an employee and as such, is entitled to the same rights and protections as your other staff. However, under-18s are subject to a few additional regulations that are worth highlighting.
Holidays: Employees under the age of 18 are entitled to paid holidays equivalent to one and a half days for every month that they work (including bank holidays). They also have the right to at least 48 hours free from work each week, which decreases to 48 hours within two weeks after they reach the age of 18.
Wages: Apprentices will be entitled to at least £3.50 an hour if they’re under the age of 18, while those who are 19 and over are entitled to full national minimum wage after they’ve completed a year of their Apprenticeship.
Companies can opt to pay their apprentices more, but this must continue
for the entirety of the training or until such a time as they become entitled to be paid national minimum wage.
Rights: Apprentices must be treated fairly during the course of their work and not be discriminated against. They’re entitled to full health and safety training (where necessary), fair working hours and the right to regular rest breaks.
However, just like regular employees, they’re not immune from being sacked should they not be meeting the demands of the role. Fair grounds for dismissal are required though and employers must be able to prove they have acted reasonably throughout the process.
While not without its challenges, taking on a young apprentice can be a great option for companies looking to bolster their workforce. The imminent launch of the Apprenticeship Levy and its funding overhaul has also made the prospect a lot more financially appealing for companies of all shapes and sizes.
We also offer a full training programme for employers engaging with Apprenticeships for the first time, so if you’re looking for hands-on support, be sure to get in touch with our Levy team today: