Responsible Apprenticeships: 5 steps for creating a high quality, accessible and inclusive programme

Today marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week; a time for us to highlight the value of apprenticeships for businesses as well as their positive impact on society. Despite the Apprenticeship Levy coming into effect next month, a recent survey from City & Guilds found that a third (33%) of UK employers who will be eligible to pay the new levy are not aware of its existence. With the potential for thousands more opportunities for young people to be created, it’s vital that responsible businesses take the lead in implementing this expansion - so here are our 5 steps for creating “responsible apprenticeships”:

1. Identifying a tangible business need

Before embarking on creating an apprenticeship programme, you need to assess whether hiring an apprentice is responding to a tangible need within your business. Apprenticeships need to be more than just a way to claw back the levy. This means mapping out future pathways through your business for your new apprentices. By ensuring your apprenticeships address current and future skills gaps in your workforce, you can create quality jobs that offer genuine progression for young people.

2. Setting the right standard

Once you’ve identified your tangible business need, you need to find the right apprenticeship standard that offers the training to match it. These nationally agreed standards for different types of apprenticeships will ensure that the training received as part of the apprenticeship develops the skills needed in your organisation. Selecting the right standard will result in apprentices that can progress in your organisation. If the existing standards do not suit your needs, you should consider developing a new standard with a group of employers, this is called a trailblazer.

3. Assessing what resources are available

Employers should also consider whether they have the resources to support an apprentice for the full course of their training. If you are interested in hiring an apprentice but can only commit to this on a short term basis, you should consider using apprenticeship training agencies (ATAs) who administer an apprentices’ wages and training and can find other suitable placements with different employers if you are only able to commit on a temporary basis.

Apprentices’ wages should also be factored into your assessment of available resources. Currently, the minimum wage for apprenticeships stands at £3.30 an hour, although it is also your responsibility to ensure that the rate you’re paying is financially viable to support a young person. Many employers also offer more competitive rates in order to attract the best talent.

4. Making your apprenticeships accessible

Creating the apprenticeship is only half the battle - it’s also key for businesses to make sure that these routes are accessible and visible to a wide and diverse talent pool. This means thinking about how you recruit. From unnecessary work experience requirements to unclear application processes and job descriptions, there can be some significant barriers in entry level recruitment practices. Apprenticeships open up opportunities but poor recruitment practices can close them down. From exploring new selection methods such as behaviour based recruitment to simplifying application processes, there’s are lots of small changes you can make to ensure your apprenticeships are accessible to all young talent.

5. Providing the appropriate management and support

Despite the government’s current emphasis on targets, it’s important that apprenticeships are more than just a numbers game and offer genuine opportunities for progression within an industry. To ensure this businesses need to assess whether they have the wider management infrastructure needed to support an apprentice. It’s important for companies to consider who will line manage a new apprentice and whether they have the capacity or if they need to upskill their existing workforce. It is vital that apprentices are provided with the best standard of support and you should make sure their direct line managers are appropriately trained to deal with new starters. Youth friendly line-management can include a comprehensive induction, good communication, a structured workload, and the continued support of apprentices through mentoring, one-to-ones and feedback.

These are just some of the steps you can take to ensure that any new apprenticeship schemes you start are responsible, sustainable, and provide real benefits for your business. You can find more detailed information about creating apprenticeships here.