Managing people

Are you ready to hire an apprentice?

Hiring an apprentice can be a great opportunity. Aside from being an effective way to help meet the demands of your business, it also gives you the chance to mentor and guide the next generation of specialists in your field. 

Of course, hiring an apprentice also comes with its fair share of responsibilities. With that in mind, here are some of the key considerations to make before bringing one into your team.

What does it mean to have an apprentice?

An apprentice is someone who combines training with working in a paid job. The goal of an apprenticeship is to achieve a qualification in a skilled trade, such as plumbing, electrical work, hairdressing, and so on. Anyone old enough to work can start an apprenticeship, including students in years 10-12, without having any professional prerequisites.

Unlike a standard job, apprenticeships are based on a formal training agreement between you and your apprentice. The agreement outlines the qualification your apprentice is working towards and the training you'll provide to help them achieve it. 

Since an apprenticeship is often a long-term investment, it's a good idea to assess your business needs over the next three to four years to see if a trainee is the right choice for you. For example, if you've identified a key skill gap in your business or industry, hiring an apprentice could be an effective way to train and develop motivated workers who can meet your current or future skill requirements.

Also, by training staff 'your way', you can increase your business's efficiency and productivity and ensure your practical knowledge and skills are passed onto future generations. This is especially beneficial in industries where on-the-job training is valued over having a degree.

Can any business hire an apprentice?

The short answer is: yes. Apprenticeships exist in most sectors and cover a range of qualifications. However, apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete, and it's your responsibility as the business owner to provide sufficient training to your apprentice during that time.

Keep in mind that there are different types of apprenticeships:

  • Full-time apprentices work 38 hours per week (or 36 hours in some industries), plus reasonable additional hours.
  • Part-time apprentices work less than 38 hours per week, in a regular pattern of hours.
  • Adult apprentices are over 21 years of age and may be paid at a higher rate depending on the award for your industry.
  • School-based apprentices are high school students who combine work, training and school education. Some awards have different pay rates for school-based apprentices.

Apprentices can't be hired on a casual basis. If you need an employee who can work irregular hours based on changing demands, an apprenticeship may not be the best fit for your business.

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What makes a successful apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a mutually beneficial agreement. As such, it's vital to provide a meaningful work environment designed to equip your apprentice for a future in your industry.

As an apprentice employer, you should:

  • Understand your apprentice's goals: Get to know your apprentice's broader career goals and consider how you can help them meet those goals.
  • Have a structured training plan: Ensure on-the-job training is well planned, comprehensive and doesn't just rely on completing ad hoc day-to-day tasks.
  • Be a mentor: Be prepared to coach and guide your apprentice rather than just telling them what to do. Develop a relationship of trust, listen and give constructive feedback.
  • Recognise a job well done: Take the time to recognise apprentices for great work. This could be as simple as offering positive reinforcement or saying thanks by buying them lunch.
  • Make safety a priority: If safety hazards are part of your business, provide thorough training on workplace health and safety practices. 

Where to find an apprentice

There are several ways to find an apprentice who is right for you. Like any other job hiring, you can recruit someone you already know or advertise the apprenticeship online.

There are also government initiatives that help employers get apprenticeship-ready. Platforms like Apprenticeship Support Australia help businesses connect with suitable candidates and provide in-depth advice on training and funding.

Another option is to get in touch with a Group Training Organisation (GTO), such as Apprenticeship Careers Australia. A GTO acts as the employer of the apprentice and places them with a host employer, who they work for while receiving on-the-job training. Because GTOs manage matters like wages, hiring and super, they can be a good alternative for businesses that have little capacity to handle admin.

What's next?

Once you've decided that hiring an apprentice is right for your business, make sure you understand the employment standards and conditions that go with hiring an apprentice. This includes things like pay rates, annual leave, sick leave, and allowances.

You could also have a look at your industry's award to find out what kind of legalities apply to your business.

Hiring an apprentice is a long-term commitment, but if you're ready to see it through, it can be a very rewarding experience for you, your staff and your business.

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