In our last blog "Benefits of hiring an apprentice" we went over the different benefits of hiring an apprentice for you, the employer. Aspects such as the economic benefits, the flexibility it creates for other employees and the new skills apprentices can offer your current workforce. You’ve had a read of it and thought to yourself “that’s all well and good, but what is actually involved? What are the actual details I need to know when hiring an apprentice?”
The costs of hiring an Apprentice
Companies which are not directly affected by the Levy may still have to pay a (comparatively low) fee for an apprentices training. This will typically be 10% of the course total, meaning if a course costs £1000, you will be expected to contribute £100 of it as 90% will come from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
• If your company has less than 50 employees, and the annual wage bill is less than £3 million then you will be eligible for 100% funding for individuals aged 16-18, and 90% for individuals aged 19 or over. You will be required to contribute the remaining 10%.
• If your company has more than 50 employees, and your annual wage bill is less than £3 million, you will be eligible for 90% funding for individuals aged 16 or over. You will be required to contribute the remaining 10%.
If your company qualifies as an SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) and your apprentice is between the ages of 16 - 18, you will be entitled to a £1000 grant to aid with the cost of training. This could go towards paying for the course itself, the wages of your apprentice or to improve areas of the business that could aid in the development of your apprentice. This grant is paid in two increments - £500 being paid after 3 months, and the remaining £500 paid once the learner has completed their End-point assessment (EPA).
The minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.50 an hour (although rising to £3.70 come 1st April, 2018). Although this is not a set a wage that must be paid to all apprentices (if a job requires greater prior experience or skill, you would likely offer a higher wage), this reduced wage can help with funding the cost an apprentice (e.g. the time taken out by other employees to teach an apprentice).
The learner journey
The typical duration of a new apprenticeship will be 12 to 18 months. This may change based on the number of hours an apprentice works in a week along with if they need to complete Functional Skills (an equivalent to GCSE’s, in Maths, English or ICT).
They will likely start on a level 2 qualification, so as they can get a good grounding in their chosen field, regardless of previously attained qualifications. For example, if an apprentice had previously attained a GCSE in Business Studies (which is equivalent to a level 2), they would not necessarily go straight in to a level 3 qualification in Business Administration. This is due to the differentiation in content that each course offers, with the units covered in a Business Studies GCSE likely not similar enough to Business Administration level 2, to show enough understanding that would automatically put the apprentice in line to move on to Business Administration level 3.
During this time period of the learner gaining their qualification, they will be aided by an assessor who will not only help with teaching them the criteria for their course, but also prepare them for the EPA.
What is expected of you as an employer
Over this time period, your apprentice will need time during the working week so as they can study (whether that be by learning from a colleague how to do a certain part of their job, learning theories from a provided workbook or conducting some research online), as well as learning in their own time.
You should also allow your apprentice the opportunity to visit customers and suppliers. This, along with allowing them the chance to visit exhibitions and demonstrations, will give them the opportunity to learn more about not only their job role, but about the qualification they are studying. The more exposure an apprentice has to information outside of their direct environment and the more experience they have communicating with those who they would not see every day at work, the more knowledge that can be used to aid them with their qualification.
Along with giving an apprentice opportunity to complete their course and work with different parts of the company/industry, you should also encourage them and offer support and advice when needed. They may need a bit more positive reinforcement so as to place confidence in their work.
End-point assessment (EPA)
The EPA has been mentioned a few times throughout this post. But what is it? In short, the EPA is the final evaluation (not a test as such, more an assessment) that an apprentice is marked on in order to complete their apprenticeship.
Somebody exterior to the training provider and company associated with the apprentice will book a date said apprentice, and will assess whether they have learnt a sufficient amount of knowledge about the qualification they have been studying.