Businesses are becoming increasingly reluctant to take on apprentices, according to the most recent government statistics.

Figures from the Department for Education showed apprenticeship starts were down 25% for the 7 months to February 2018, compared with the previous year.

That prompted business groups, such as the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce, to label the current system as "flawed" and urge the government to "sort things out".

Despite the negative press, hiring an apprentice enables you to provide a lower starting salary compared to bringing in an experienced employee who can hit the ground running.

This spare cash can be redirected elsewhere to help your business grow, but before you start spending that surplus you need to consider a few things first.

Is taking on an apprentice a good fit for your business?

Government research claims small businesses were responsible for 44% of all apprenticeships in the UK, with another 41% supplied by large companies with more than 250 employees.

There's no doubt taking on apprentices suits certain professions more than others.

For instance, it's usually more suitable to take on an apprentice if your business operates in an industry which follows a mixture of theory and in-house training.

This could include industries such as financial services, IT, accountancy, legal, construction or manufacturing.

How much cash will I need to set aside?

The apprenticeship system is a devolved policy and differs within the UK, so what you are expected to do may vary depending on where you live and which authority operates the service.

So if your business is in a position to set aside some cash for an apprentice, you can expect this pot of cash to cover the following costs:

  • any college training not covered by grants
  • giving the apprentice a day off each week to study
  • paying the apprentice a wage
  • providing relevant on-the-job training.

What paperwork is involved?

A major deterrent has been the amount of bureaucracy involved with hiring an apprentice.

Employers who took on apprentices before 1 May 2017 needed to fill out paperwork to enrol apprentices on any college course, and any applications for grants if the apprentice is over 18.

Applying for apprenticeship funding after 1 May 2017 is predominantly done online and therefore simpler, in theory at least.

What support is available?

It's possible for business owners who pay the apprenticeship levy to access £15,000 for each trainee on their books, although this is more suitable for companies with bigger wage bills.

The complex piece of legislation, which has been in place since 6 April 2017, requires businesses with an annual wage bill of more than £3 million to pay the levy at 0.5%.

Levy-paying firms can apply for the £15,000 by registering online to use the apprenticeship service.

The payment serves 2 purposes as it can be used to offset the levy payment and to contribute towards the costs of providing apprenticeships.

Smaller businesses may be able to get support with any paperwork from the educational institution that is enrolling your apprentice and potentially assist with any funding application.

Of course, we're happy to discuss your staffing needs and all of your funding options when it comes to taking on apprentice.

Get in touch to discuss hiring an apprentice.