7 myths about apprenticeships unravelled
Our director of apprenticeships considers some of the myths around recruiting young apprentices in business.
To recruit or not to recruit is the question. It’s a tricky decision for most businesses but if that question is whether to recruit an apprentice it becomes scarier. Speaking as someone who is a parent of a 16-year-old would be apprentice, an employer and mentor of an apprentice, as well as a tutor for 250 finance apprentices all studying AAT or Chartered Accountancy I do have some thoughts on the subject.
From an employer’s perspective there is the incentive of lower wages. The minimum wage for apprentices is still £3.90 per hour. Before you start to say you get what you pay for and go make yourself a cup of tea, remember this doesn’t mean you need to pay such a small amount. Wage rates are set by local market forces. In the finance industry apprentices are paid well in excess of that. Starting salaries of £10-£15k for a finance apprentice are common.
However there are savings. The government pay a cash reward of £1,000 for each apprentice employed when they are under 19 to help with support costs. This will help with the wage bill and don’t forget employers of young people also pay less employers’ NIC.
An apprentice is expected to work towards a job related qualification and this means that a finance apprentice must have some finance element to their role. Many of my apprentices work in professional practices but about 40% are in industry. Their roles vary from vat returns, audit to working in the shared service centre of a PLC. My own business is a smaller organisation and my apprentice has a very diverse role from processing invoices and analysing information from a management accounts perspective. However, she divides her time between the accounting function and other business activities such as preparing brochures, helping with marketing campaigns or dealing with student queries.
You will be expected to allow your apprentice time off to study and also to support them in learning relevant skills and behaviours to complete the apprenticeship. Our programme includes a series of business skills workshops to fast track those soft skills such as communication and teamwork. You get the benefit of a qualified accountant who has also been mentored to develop business awareness and commercial skills which are relevant to the workplace.
Young people are notoriously unreliable
In my experience young people are no more unreliable than any other group of individuals. However they are more impressionable. If you set a good example and provide clear guidelines your employee is likely to stick to them. It is no coincidence that employers who have good policies and support from their apprentices seem to have few problems.
One of the big pluses in my team is the presence of a young person with a fresh perspective on life. In a training business like mine our customer base is often young people and our apprentice brings an element of diversity which is an asset to our business. Some days it’s refreshing to hear from someone who has enthusiasm and optimism about the future.
The best candidates go to Uni
This is absolutely not the case. A large proportion of our apprentices have outstanding GCSE’s and A levels. They are often really keen to get into the workplace and start their career or perhaps were put off by the threat of student debts.
Putting something back
I have left this tired old phrase until last but it is still an important point. Many employers feel that aside from looking at the benefits an apprentice brings to the business they prefer to employ young people to contribute to the development of the next generation. Putting my parent’s head on now I have always been sceptical of this sort of statement. Isn’t it really a euphemism for “getting cheap labour”. However after spending more time around young people there is something really satisfying about watching them mature from a shy school leaver into an accomplished young person. It is almost as satisfying as watching your own teenager leave the nest – but a whole lot easier!
Overall I have found my experiences with young apprentices very satisfying. If you are thinking about recruiting from this group I can highly recommend it. We very much hope that our apprentice stays with us once she finishes her training in the summer.
Jo Dyson is director of apprenticeships at FI Southampton and would be happy to help with any questions you may have. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.