Supporting Apprentices in the Workplace
If you’re considering bringing an apprentice into the workplace, you’ve got some big decisions to make!
Beyond picking the framework or candidate, you also have to plan how they will be supported in your workplace over time.
Effective support and motivation are what keeps an apprentice within your business; just like any other employee! Guiding them through the workplace and their role within it takes away the guesswork, which can be stressful for those new to the workplace.
No one likes to feel lost in the workplace, so use these tools to ensure your apprentices are being adequately supported.
What Makes Apprentices Different?
Employers should be focused on supporting every employee within their business, but apprentices can have slightly different needs. Striving to support all employees is a brilliant ideal, though the reality can vary!
For apprentices, the workplace can be perceived in a different way than other employees see it. This can be because the apprentice may be younger or less experienced than other members of staff.
Not all apprentices are young people, though they may be at an earlier stage in their professional career than you’re be accustomed to working with. They may also have switched careers, meaning that they’re not accustomed to the norms of your industry.
This can mean that they don’t have as much of a frame of reference as to what’s expected at work. Places that they may previously have worked could also have been entirely different; the environment of a retail store is entirely different to that of an office. They may even have some bad habits because of these previous workplaces that they might not recognise to be unprofessional.
The need for different support isn’t a fault within the apprentice, instead it’s a challenge for you to overcome together. With the right support, you’re effectively creating your ideal member of staff from the ground up.
How to Support Them
With these considerations in mind, you want to implement a strategy that gives the apprentice support in all facets. Each apprentice is different, so the support that you give them should also be varied. Basic concepts can give you the starting point for this plan, then you can tailor it to the needs of your apprentice.
Some apprentices will settle into the role and what’s expected of them right away, whereas others may need a bit more in the way of guidance.
To start with, you want to ensure that all your expectations as an employer are clear when taking on an apprentice. This may include timekeeping, performance and job roles. You might think that these are given responsibilities that you would expect the employee to know but by setting this out you remove any confusion.
While you may regularly supply an employee handbook, for apprentices it may be useful to run through the various elements verbally.
This also allows them to ask any questions that they may have about the working environment. More experienced staff members may make assumptions where policies aren’t totally clear; an apprentice may not be able to do this.
Assign a mentor to work closely with the apprentice through their training. They should be a person that they feel comfortable asking questions to and gaining further support. The mentor should be an experienced member of staff that understands the demands of the role and their responsibilities.
A designated mentor is a requirement of employing an apprentice, but this shouldn’t just be a box to tick. Instead, think about the best person for the job and approach them about the responsibility. They will be required to liaise with the training provider and ensure that the frameworks are being followed, so you may need to clear some time in their schedule to allow for this.
You can also set up a second point of contact for the apprentice, which gives them a way to talk about elements that they may not want to bring up with their mentor. Ideally, this should be an HR professional or responsible employee that can address concerns where they arise.
Through the Apprenticeship
During the course of the apprenticeship, you also want to be ready to give feedback to your apprentice. Keep them up to date with the highs and lows of their performance. This helps them to recognise the behaviours that are helpful in their career and those that are not.
Facilitate the behaviours that you want to see through regular chats with your apprentice. These can be formal or informal, depending on the way that you feel is most effective for the employee. Maintain records and use them to compare the apprentice’s performance over time.
This also gives the apprentice a chance to touch base with you and give input on the role. If there’s something within the role that they don’t feel comfortable with or can’t handle, then this is their opportunity to discuss it with you.
These reviews can also act as a way to chat about their future within the company. If you want to retain your apprentice, then you want to show them where they can go in the company.
This is more important as you come to the end of their training, but it’s good to have the discussion in advance. If they don’t see a place in the company at the end of the apprenticeship, then they may not complete it.
At the End of the Apprenticeship
At the end of their apprenticeship, they may be doing much the same role, but you also want to explain the opportunities beyond this. There may be opportunities for more training, a management role or further progression.
To sum up, while supporting an apprentice you want to:
- Tailor the support to the apprentice.
- Explain your expectations as an employer.
- Go through the employee handbook verbally and don’t assume they understand all the elements without clarification.
- Designate a suitable mentor and another contact point should there be any issues.
- Give regular, constructive feedback to facilitate good behaviours.
- Discuss the further opportunities that you can offer them.
The Benefits Apprentices Can Bring
If you make these considerations for your new apprentice, then you’re setting them up for success within your company. Taking these into account might seem like a hassle, but there are some excellent perks that arise from having an engaged apprentice within your business.
Over the course of their apprenticeship, these workers will bring in a totally different viewpoint to the company. The can discover new ways to improve the business and interact with staff in ways that others wouldn’t identify. Building a diverse workforce is becoming ever more important, so utilise apprentices to do just that.
You can use your levy to train these apprentices, reaping the rewards for your business. These apprentices increase productivity and go on to become assets to the company.
By investing in longer term training, you can expand your team at a much faster rate while reducing expense. Hiring these candidates externally can cost you significantly more than training them in house, especially when using the levy to cover training costs.
You can find out more about the benefits of hiring an apprentice in our blog here.
Ensuring that you’re ready to fully support the apprentice that you bring into your business will lead to improved retention. In return, you can look forward to taking on an apprentice that has the potential to become a motivated and valuable member of your team.
Our digital-first apprenticeships can allow you to train employees in HR, finance, management and other courses with full flexibility.