Rob Dodds, apprentice co-ordinator at Sunderland-based automotive company Unipres, has over ten years’ experience in recruiting, hiring and training apprentices. Here, he gives insight into the process and what businesses need to look out for when recruiting.
“We currently have 76 apprentices working at Unipres, and we’re looking to scale that up over the next six months to around 150. They work at different levels all through the business – from mechanical to electrical and HR, production control, finance and more.
“The main reason we employ apprentices is because they bring so many new ideas to the business; they have no boundaries when they join and it’s refreshing to have that approach.
“The biggest piece of advice I’d give to other businesses when taking on apprentices is to choose the right standard and make sure you can cover all of the units within that standard. If you can’t, the apprentice won’t get the qualification and you won’t get the skills you need in your new employee.
“For a small company it can be quite daunting – the important thing to bear in mind is what the apprentice is there to do and what their role is. It’s not just someone to do a job for you, they’re there to learn and there to help your business.”
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“At Unipres, we have succession planning in place – we look at numbers that we think we’ll need in the future so we can offer apprentices a job at the end of their training, wherever possible.”
Since apprenticeship reforms, employers need to choose a ‘standard’ rather than a ‘framework’ that will form the basis for apprentices’ learning activities. Standards have been created by employers, and you can access different levels of funding dependent on the standard that you choose.
“At this stage it’s really important to look at what units there are within the standard, as you need to ensure that you can meet all of the criteria. Work with your chosen training provider to do this.”
Businesses need to work with an established apprenticeship provider to deliver the on-the-job training. These can be found on the Find Apprenticeship Training website, which lists every local and national provider so you can choose the one that fits your business the best.
Since apprenticeship reform was introduced, some businesses have to pay the apprenticeship levy – find out more here. The gov.uk website will advise you what funding you can access to deliver apprenticeships in your organisation.
Your chosen provider will usually advertise your apprenticeship for you – in fact, they will often have a ‘bank’ of people ready to apply or interview. Once the provider has advertised the role and provided a shortlist, you will need to interview the candidates and make your decision.
“At Unipres, we ask the candidates to complete a mechanical aptitude test, so we can understand their existing knowledge about general engineering tasks. Then we have a formal interview, and group interview.”
At this stage, you will need to select your apprentice and and make an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement with them. Your provider will usually help with this.