Business NSW peak lobby group
Managing people

Apprentices: Keep them engaged and you’ll keep them in the business

Straightforward strategies to improve the likelihood of retaining apprentices.

If you employ an apprentice, it can prove costly if they leave. All the time, money and effort put into their training leaves with them. Additionally, there are costs involved in finding and retraining a replacement and the lack of productivity in the interim. However, you can implement some straightforward strategies to improve the likelihood of retaining apprentices.

Give trainees what they need

Apprenticeship Support Australia, after many years of experience working with employers, has identified key factors influencing apprentices' ability to complete their training and leave an organisation. 

These include poor relationships with their boss, supervisor, or co-workers, the apprentice's coping skills, and the initial contract between the apprentice and employer is not viewed as binding.

Further factors identified that influence an apprentice's ability to complete their training was a lack of strong personal commitment by the apprentice to the training contract, and a lack of a strong social support network including, family, partner and friends.

Further factors included:

  • placement that doesn't provide the necessary requirements to do the job;
  • lack of
    • satisfaction with prior experience in the occupational area
    • supportive supervisors, managers and culture
    • structured training
    • reliable transport
    • availability of alternative career paths
  • value placed on the qualification.

These key factors influencing apprentices' ability to complete their training are many, varied and challenging. However, they are critical considerations if you employ an apprentice or trainee.

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Aim to truly know your apprentice

Ensure your apprentices are engaged with the business – they'll be more productive, safer, more innovative, and focused.  

Build effective relationships by getting to know them and what they're good at. Allocate them some work that challenges them. Help them see the big picture and the end goals. Let them know they're not alone and how achieving milestones along the way can fit into the big picture.

Explain the way you want things done, don't assume the apprentice will know. Be fair.

On the starting day, provide an induction pack, with all the necessary paperwork and equipment - the impression created on the first day will have a big influence on engagement.

Ensure on the job training is structured and well planned. Keep communication lines open and check in regularly. 

Avoid assuming the apprentice has a poor work ethic simply because they are young. Give them time to settle in and demonstrate their value before making any judgements.

Be prepared to coach, mentor, teach, and guide, rather than simply telling them what to do. Ask how they might approach something, listen to what they have to say and give them feedback. Set goals, starting small, and reward them as each is reached.

Catalyst for change

There are more than 100 apprenticeships and 600 traineeships available, spanning almost every industry. Training courses are available to provide direct relevance to a business' needs and can assist upskilling staff in improving productivity and economic benefit. 

Australian governments support the development of a skilled workforce and provide a range of financial incentives and benefits to employers and their apprentices. 

Apprentices, those trained in a skilled trade, and trainees, those trained in a vocational area, can be an effective part of your overall recruitment strategy. Employing an apprentice or a trainee gives you the ability to train the person on the job, where their skills are required.

By having staff trained your way from the start, you can increase your business' efficiency and productivity. Having an apprentice or trainee in your organisation can be a catalyst for change, often encouraging staff to rethink and challenge existing work processes and practices. The result of this for your organisation can be efficiency and productivity improvements. 

A further benefit is that apprentices and trainees are usually keen to learn, trained to your specific business requirements and armed with nationally recognised qualifications. So keep them engaged, and you will keep them on staff.

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