Apprentices – Not Just Cheap Labour

It seems that in recent years more small businesses are taking on apprentices. Infact, since 2011 over 2.4 million apprenticeship courses were started every year – an increase of over 63% from the years prior.

House of Commons: Apprenticeship Statistics (Nov 2016) House of Commons: Apprenticeship Statistics (Nov 2016)

But why has this sharp rise happened so quickly?…

Take a look at the current UK economy: in 2008 the great recession hit and, since then, it has slowly fought to get back on it’s feet.

In recent years the UK has continued to struggle through fierce cuts with its tired, struggling feet firmly stuck in the mud because of Brexit and it’s impending implications.

Over that time, many small business owners have looked into the cloudy, hazy future and decided against investing unnecessarily into their business.

But what counts as unnecessary investment?… Hiring staff? Perhaps, due to the massive risk factor involved in it.

A small business like ours at DH Business Support could expect to see staff wages account for over 50% of our monthly outgoings. That means for every member of staff you hire, you have to be sure that you’ll continue to recoup their wage – or risk going out of pocket.

Not a risk worth taking for most.

So instead, many small businesses have turned to hiring staff from this influx of apprentices – after all the average apprentice earns just £3.50 an hour.

What Can An Apprentice Bring To The Table?

Regardless of the economy your business is operating in: apprenticeships aren’t, and never should be, JUST cheap labour. 

Apprenticeships are designed to better and further a persons development in the workplace. On a moral level by bringing someone in to work full time hours, with no intent on training them up in a specific skill, or integrating them into the workplace, just isn’t the way to go about things…

This is the stage where most small businesses fail. An apprentices naivety usually leads to exploitation.

As most apprentices have never been in full-time work before, they are fresh from leaving school and unsure of how the workplace operates.

Apprentices don’t have any preconceptions about workflow either. That’s why any tasks that you pass onto them should be given with clear instructions for how YOU want the role to function.

Apprentices are free of bad habits and can be easily trained the way you want them to be. That’s a fantastic opportunity for your business!

Handing Over Ownership

Many apprentices are given high workloads, of the worst jobs, and paid the least. Before long their motivation quickly diminishes and they develop into workers who hate the workplace and have bad habits, taking shortcuts on jobs that matter very little to them.

Whereas, if given responsibility and guided through their tasks by their overseer, helping hone their skills, noticing what they do well and developing an efficient way of working – they will thrive and grow, fast!

The ultimate aim is to give the apprentice ‘ownership’ of the role.

A recent example of this is our latest Admin apprentice. His main role is processing and clearing through the internal admin of the business. He ensures all of our compliance data for clients is up to date and accurate – a key task, but one that the rest of us don’t have time to do it excellently.

Since coming into this role, his manager has sat him through the systems and taught him how they work, meticulously making sure tasks were completed in the most efficient and excellent way possible.

We have given him lots of room to suggest his own methods of how to best carrying out this role so it becomes excellent. What is he struggling with at face value? What works well? What could make it better?

Some of the process and systems suggested by him have been fantastic and really increased out productivity. Myself and others in our business just wouldn’t have thought of these ideas due to ‘having our own way’ of how these things should be done. He brought fresh ideas to a system that became routine and stuck in it’s ways.

Not only does this give him ownership of his role, but also allows him to be intuitive. He’s constantly learning and refining those skills which are invaluable to the business.

Playing The Long Game

The only downside to this method is you have to input lots of time and energy into training a new apprentice effectively.

Odds are, you’ll have hired this apprentice to relieve your workload – and so spending time showing them how to do things, in the way you want them done, will take time and effort on top of your already busy schedule.

But, if you’re in it for the long haul – it’ll be more than worth your time.

After two or three months your apprentice should be well equipped and starting to offer their own advice on how to make their task more efficient.

Over time you’ll build a strong long-term working relationship and if an apprentice truly feels valued and invested in by – they will stick with you for the long-term. Why would they want to leave?

This transforms an apprentice into a member of staff that knows the way your business works and actively wants to help improve it.

Want To Be An Apprentice With Us?

We’re currently looking to hire an apprentice for our Sheffield office in the accounts department:

If you know anyone who might be interested – send them the link above!