The following blogs are our own experience of looking at the apprenticeship program and are the viewpoints of 1600 Systems directors. This whole process was looked at from a Micro Business who have never taken on an apprentice before but wanted to find out what information is available and to encourage other like-minded business owners to invest in people and the apprenticeship program.
How do you start the journey towards the apprenticeship route?
Ask yourself the following questions first!
Why do you think apprenticeships are right for your business?
What are my expectations and requirements from a new apprentice and member of staff?
What commitment should I expect to give to the apprentice and how does it differ from a new full-time member of staff?
Are there any differences in contract of employment, insurances, training?
What support do I need to make the apprenticeship a success?
We started on a journey and we tried to map out how we get from concept to acceptance of an apprenticeship program.
From the outset I had extra experience, contacts, and passion for apprenticeships, but I still wanted to outline what we went through. To document issues, stumbling blocks and things that we had to do to take on our first apprentice.
We contacted the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network. My contact as Area Leader for the Federation of Small Businesses has meant that I have met some interesting people along the way. Alan supported us and talked through the issues we would face. We were able to ask those awkward questions and gather some information before we talked to the training providers.
To give a full and open background we already found someone that we wanted to bring on, so we had no real recruitment issues to find a candidate. Harry is the nephew of Mark Coleman director of the company. So that was the easy part. Recruitment of the right candidate is essential for the role in a micro business as Harry would be 33% of our staffing. A big percentage of the workforce and you need to think in that mindset. Harry is a member of our staff and we will treat him with the same commitment as any employment opportunity within the company.
Our first steps were to ask our contacts that I trust in the business community and world of apprenticeships. What should we expect, what questions do we need to have answered and what pitfalls to watch out for? I knew we would need a training provider to support Harry with training, qualifications, paperwork, enrolment into the apprenticeship program, but we wanted someone that would fit with our business and ethics.
Here is a list of questions we used to start the conversation:
- How flexible is your programme?
- What we need as a business out of the apprenticeship program?
- What does the provider want from the relationship?
- What support is provided? How often and how is it provided?
- Can we shape the content of the standard? IE Languages taught? Python?
- Do you work to the new current digital standards?
- What funding is available?
- Can we provide the candidate, and can they be from outside your normal area? (With working from home, they do not need to be local. Remote working is the new norm)
So, we looked at what was available, and we looked at the following websites:
How to find an apprenticeship provider.
Here are some answers that I found when looking at answering some of the questions.
What funding is available?
You have local funding provided by local councils or combined authority.
Apprenticeship Support Grant
Apprenticeship Support Grant is available to SME’s identified by Tees Valley Combined Authority as being in one of the above Priority Sectors: Max three per company.
Apprentices Aged 16-18 – Grant of £3,000 is available
Apprentices Aged 19+ – Grant of £2,000 is available
For any employers who do not fall into one of the above Priority Sectors, the following Grant is available:
Apprentices Aged 19+ – Grant of £500 is available
The employer and Apprentice must meet the following criteria:
- Be an SME (249 or less employees, across all sites) (Priority Sectors only)
- Be an SME (49 or less employees, across all sites) (Non-Priority Sectors)
- Business must have been trading for a minimum of 12 months (up to Apprenticeship start date)
- Apprentices workplace must be located in Tees Valley (see postcode checker available on the website)
- Employer must commit to paying the Apprentice at least the Apprentice National Minimum Wage for their age, including time for off-the-job training
- Employer must ensure the Apprenticeship is being delivered by an approved training provider (see Register of Training Providers)
- Apprentice and Employer must commit to completing a minimum of 12 months or the time it takes to complete the Apprenticeship
Apprentices must start their learning from 1st February 2020
Funding that was available was six Month wage subsidy. This was fully subscribed by end of Sept 2020. Hopefully, new announcements on incentives in early 2021.
For further information on Local grants to support apprenticeships then contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Harry is outside the Tees Valley, I questioned if the local funding was applicable and is this funding available for the business in the geographical area or does the location of the apprentice have to be with in the Tees Valley? The answer was that the apprentice needs to be working at the business location and both is expected to be in the Tees Valley to qualify for the local grant. So, because we found Harry outside of the Tees Valley we did not qualify, however national funding is available.
So, looking at the national support we started at the national apprenticeship program websites.
What national apprenticeship support is available?
- Government Age grant. £3000 16-18, £2000 19+
- 95% contribution for training with 5% contribution from business
Our software course will be costing £15,000 - 95% covered by levy contribution. Cost to business £750 plus wages, NI, ETC.
What is the draw down funding for stages in the apprenticeship funding? After 12-14 weeks the first stage payments are sent through and then the final payment upon completion of the apprenticeship program.
What are the issues from COVID-19 restrictions for apprenticeships?
What are the national minimum wages for an apprentice?
Current rate from 1 April 2020
Previous rate (April 2019 to March 2020)
25 and over
21 to 24
18 to 20
Why pay national minimum wage over Apprenticeship wage?
1600 Systems wanted to pay more than the apprenticeship wages so that it shows commitment and respect to the apprentice. Treat them as any normal employee and the long-term benefits to the business will help bring loyalty and commitment by the apprentice to the business.
Who did we choose?
We looked at several training providers and decided on (after getting the above questions answered) Baltic www.balticapprenticeships.com because:
- They used the latest digital standards compared to others that quoted 2016 standards.
- They are already set up for remote learning around the country while others still had no technologies or ability to do remote learning in place.
- They also provide an additional Microsoft qualification for the apprentice. So better value for money.
Once we decided on the right fit for a training provider, we started the paperwork. So, we asked even more questions!
What is required of the business in paperwork and systems?
- Job description. This could be one of the first things a business could do before they start on the journey.
- There are a couple of documents needed for getting the apprentice inducted onto a programme:
- Health and Safety Document
- Service Level Agreement (Standard contract for services from the training provider outlining responsibilities from both sides for the apprenticeship)
- Workplace Curriculum Document (An outline of how the role will fill the requirements of the standard) This was the hardest document to do but was a good exercise as it outlines our responsibilities to the apprentice over the next 15 months.
- A copy of your Employers Liability Insurance Policy
The candidate goes through a screening process ready for them to start the apprenticeship.
- You will need to set up a DAS account for the reserving of the training funds
This was fairly straight forward but will require the login details for HMRC for the business.
Most service providers will support the businesses to complete the setup process.
You will need to enter both the apprentice details and the training provider details.
- You will need to complete a workplace activity document (Ours was for the Software Development programme) by providing detailed examples of how the apprentice can gather evidence in the workplace to complete their assessment plans to the highest possible standard.
- Read through the Service Level Agreement document, then be signed digitally.
We then asked one of the most important questions. How can we support the apprentice to be successful in the training?
Any apprentice will need to evidence the role and training. Getting the foundations of gathering evidence from day one and documenting the process is essential to gain a higher pass mark. Start as you mean to go on and encourage the level of documentation in a structured way.
We have implemented Microsoft Teams and created a special channel that will have a structure of learning for the apprentice. This can then be shared with the learning provider and assessors going forward.
Use this as a template for the next potential apprentice or employee. Document the learnings for future members of staff. If you need to do it for the apprentice, then think how this can be used for future candidates.
Here are some useful websites to look at:
Things that could have been better?
We were disappointed in a local council website for information compared to others.
On the local website there was no information about how to start an apprentice or pages offering support to Micro businesses even using the search box gave no evidence on how to set up your first apprentice. We need to think small businesses for apprenticeships, but we need to support the micro businesses with documentation, guidance, support on how to set up a good apprenticeship program in the first place. Plan to succeed with the apprentice and your experience of the process will be a good one.
We are open to discuss with any local business the process we went through for our first apprentice. We believe that it is a journey, and you need to understand that investing in the apprentice from day one gives better commitment, prospects, and learning experiences. You are inputting into someone’s life so they deserve the best of what you can offer and do not treat them as cheap labour for just a job. Make it a career. You never know what the rewards will be for your business, for your customers and your reputation.