Why apprentices are still a worthwhile investment

Why apprentices are still a worthwhile investment

After a rollercoaster of a year, employing an apprentice might not be the top of your priority list. But, with additional funding options available, Gemma Westlake argues that it is still a hugely worthwhile investment. Here’s how you can take the first step.

Welcome back! Hopefully, after my previous article in the May issue, there are a few people reading this that have considered employing an apprentice. In my first piece for PMM, I went over the basics of what it means to take on an apprentice, why you might want to, and what the process entails. Now would be a good time to look at how to take the first step towards taking an apprentice on board…

The most straightforward approach to this is to get in contact with your local college. If they have an automotive department (which many do), then they will most likely already have technical training for apprentices in place. There will usually be a business department with a dedicated automotive employer engagement role, who will be there to become the link between the employer, mentor, and trainers, and will be able to give support and guidance from the first step to the last.

An apprentice is considered a full employee. They must be over 16 years old and given a minimum of a 30-hour-per-week contract, which will include at least 20% off the job for training. One of the questions high on the priority list for an employer is of course financial. It is worth noting that there is a minimum wage for an apprentice, which sits at £4.15 as of April 1st 2020 for apprentices under the age of 19 years old (there are many employers who pay more than that). All the wage information can be found on the government website.

Funding is available of course. For companies that do not pay into the apprenticeship levy (if you pay less than £3million a year in wages then you won’t pay into this), they will now receive funding for 95% of their apprentices’ training and assessment cost. Not bad!

So how does it work? Most of us will have some experience of apprenticeships. It is generally accepted that one day out of the working week is spent at college and the rest within the workplace. With the new standards, it is the responsibility of the learner (and workplace mentor) to upload evidence to an online portfolio, which is signed and graded by their mentor within the workplace, as well as checked by their college mentor, and then finally checked by the Internal Quality Assurer (they will look at a sample).

The apprentice must work their way through certain tasks and assessments, to then complete two major Gateway assessments when they feel that they are ready, and if their workplace and college mentor agree. This all culminates in an end-point assessment as the qualifying final stage.

This step may seem a little daunting given the current situation, but there are a few points worth noting regarding the COVID-19 landscape: colleges are now open and running with COVID measures in place, whilst many have been set up so that apprentices will be in a specified bubble, and have access to remote teaching. In short, they are ready to go in the event of another lockdown, which means an apprentice won’t miss out on progressing with their qualification.

Maybe you have now decided to take the plunge and started looking for your own apprentice. Join me next time when we look closer into what is expected of a modern-day apprentice, what other (possibly not-so-obvious) skill sets to look out for, and where you can find them…

Gemma is a lecturer at Basingstoke College of Technology. To find out what goes on there, click here.

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