SMEs: Invest in apprenticeships or miss out on talent

The government has pledged to fund 100,000 additional apprenticeship places by December 2015, so there is no better time for your small business to discover the benefits.

Apprenticeships are a great way to bring new talent into your company and should be seen as a long-term investment. Training an apprentice from the very beginning allows you to teach them specific skills and work habits to really suit your business needs.

A Centre for Economics and Business Research study estimated that apprentices are worth around £214 per week to a business and employers report increased productivity in the workplace.

Terry Hort, managing director of H + H Accountants in Somerset, recently hired an apprentice for the first time. Below he shares his experience of hiring an apprentice:

“Youngsters these days don’t have the support they need to get the jobs they should have. It’s not easy for them. William, my apprentice, has been brilliant, but before us he was working in a sports goods store. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he had the potential to do so much more and I have enjoyed creating the opportunity for him to pursue the career he wanted.

“Apprentices are slow-burners. One day a week in the classroom is 20% of their time, which is a huge investment on my part, plus they require extra time for exams. And while you don’t have to pay an apprentice the minimum wage, once William had shown progress I thought it was only fair that we did. For the first year, they are learning, asking questions and sometimes making mistakes. But after the second year they begin to contribute and by the third year you’re in profit. They are then better than somebody you brought in because you have trained them yourselves, within your business.”

“Hiring an apprentice has been brilliant for us. I have learned a lot from the experience, we have given William the opportunity to pursue the career he wanted – which he has done with passion and enthusiasm – and the result is a confident and capable employee who is loyal to our company and almost ready to mentor the next apprentice we recruit.”

“The apprenticeship worked for us because we did it the right way. We took a long-term view and found an ambitious youngster and we invested in his future. He’s done so well that he could easily have been head-hunted by a larger firm by now, but he’s stayed loyal because of the relationship we have built.”