Do you have apprentices in your small business?

According to the FSB, 24% of small businesses employ apprentices and an extra 24% say they’d consider taking on an apprentice in the future.

At Breathe we've recently taken on our very first apprentice in our marketing team, and our experience has been nothing but good.

But let's start with the basics. What is an apprenticeship, and how could it benefit you as the employer?

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a vocational education that mixes hands-on training with classroom learning.

They often result in a qualification, and give learners the practical knowledge and skills they need to enter the workplace or progress into a new role.

As well as the appealing hands-on nature of apprenticeships, they’re an attractive alternative to a degree because they cost nothing to the apprentice. The small wage earned by the apprentice is an attractive benefit if they're keen to start earning.

Apprenticeships have evolved over the past few decades. As part of the government’s efforts to improve UK productivity, apprenticeships have been encouraged to up-skill the working population.

No longer the preserve of school leavers, they’re open to anyone of any age. Apprentices must dedicate 20% of their time to studying. This can be workplace-based or college-focused.


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6 reasons why you should consider an apprentice

Apprenticeships benefit both the apprentice and the business.

And, while it’s true that apprenticeships are a way of building headcount at minimal extra cost, there are many more reasons to consider employing an apprentice.

Here are 6 reasons why you should consider an apprentice in your small business:

1. They help you build a talent pipeline

Promoting from within your business is good for staff morale and more cost-effective than bringing in external talent.

90% of employers say that apprenticeships provide them with a constant flow of suitably-trained staff.

Be proactive in your approach to hiring apprentices and you can influence the way your team develops - growing your staff as you grow your business.

And that’s good for your capabilities and budget. With the cost of hiring new employees estimated at £12,000 for SMEs, developing your existing employees to take on more advanced roles in future years makes good business-sense.

2. Reduce staff turnover

Apprenticeships improve staff retention. And that’s a huge benefit when you consider statistics that claim millennials expect to change jobs every two years.

This improved staff retention is backed up by figures; Government research shows that:

  • 65% of apprentices stay working for the company that trained them when they complete their apprenticeship;
  • and 69% of employers say that employing apprentices improved overall staff retention.

3. Up-skill existing staff

Remember your existing employees can benefit from apprenticeships, too. They’re an excellent way of improving higher-level skills in your team.

With higher and degree-level apprenticeships in areas such as project management or marketing, you can up-skill your employees in an area that benefit both you and your staff.

Not only does it give your employees a chance to develop their careers, but it lets you future-proof your organisation against the changing world of work, too.

Apprenticeships also give existing employees the opportunity to take on management and development roles as they onboard and manage apprentices. This is something they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to do, and shows them you value their experience and ability.

4. Improve your company image

Many SMEs are an important part of their local communities. And taking on apprentices can enhance this further.

The National Apprenticeship Service found that 67% of employers said that employing apprentices improved their image.

By taking on apprentices in the local area and improving local youth employment, you create strong links with schools, colleges and universities and help strengthen your brand image.

5. Increase diversity

Apprenticeships open your business up to candidates who may be looking to take their education to the next level, but are be unable or unwilling to commit to the cost of a university degree.

Instead of hiring cookie-cutter employees, you’ll bring in a broader range of age, education level and social-mix into your business.

A diverse mix of employees has a broader outlook and stronger level of overall creativity - a great recipe for business performance.

What’s more, diverse teams attract further diverse candidates for future positions. It's a knock-on effect. 

6. A positive business culture

A surprising side-effect of apprenticeships is the way they contribute towards business culture and staff engagement.

One study found that 73% of employers said apprenticeships improved staff morale. The energy and motivation of apprentices who are eager to learn can help motivate other employees.

Typical of many apprentices, our marketing apprentice, Ella, has an excellent work ethic and a strong can-do attitude. Her willingness to support the team has meant she adds to our working environment in a significant and positive way.

By creating space for apprentices within your business, you’re also showing the rest of the team that you’re thinking about the future of your company, helping create a sense of security for everyone.  

How to implement an apprenticeship in your small business

Thinking of taking on an apprentice? There’s a lot of support and information for you to take advantage of.

We found the government website to be a very clear and practical source of information. You can find details here about the funding available for small businesses, what steps you need to take and where to find extra help and information.


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