Apprentices

Apprentices: managers guidance

These guidelines provide some background on why we support apprenticeships including some general background information and details of what needs to be taken into consideration when employing an apprentice.

Our support for apprenticeships

One of the aims of the our workforce strategy is to achieve a workforce which reflects the diversity of the local community and takes into account local employment issues. In order to help achieve this we aim to create opportunities for younger people to join the workforce through work placements, apprenticeships and other programmes.

Apprenticeships offer us the opportunity to grow and develop the skills and workforce it needs for the future.

Apprenticeships: definition

"An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification and a real future”

National Apprenticeship Service

Apprenticeships are work-based qualifications designed to meet the demands of employers and to provide an opportunity for the participants to develop their skills alongside their job.

There are over 240 apprenticeship frameworks available. The National Apprenticeship Service (external website) provides further details. Those relevant to us include:

  • business administration
  • customer service
  • team leading
  • accountancy.

The qualifications are structured so that candidates must complete a number of mandatory units but can also choose from a number of optional units which can be tailored to meet our needs/the job role.

There are three levels of apprenticeship:

  • intermediate (level 2)
  • advanced (level 3)
  • higher (level 4)

An apprenticeship framework typically includes a formal qualification such as a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), Diploma or Certificate; a Technical Certificate which is the theory part, Functional Skills in Math’s and English and within some frameworks ICT.

Apprentices need to be 16 years or older and employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week in a relevant job.

Length of an apprenticeship

The length of the programme depends on the course but can be anything between 12 to 24 months. A qualified assessor visits the apprentice in the workplace every 4 to 6 weeks.  Resources to support learning can be accessed online.

Apprentices are expected to work independently for approximately 4 to 6 hours per month between visits to complete pre-set work. Some apprentices attend college on a day release basis.

Sources for apprentices

Amersham and Wycombe College provide us with apprentices. The college has links with local schools and can advertise vacancies through the National Apprenticeship Service.

If you are interested in taking on an apprentice please contact HR.

Costs

We are responsible for paying an apprentice's wages and issuing a contract of employment. Apprentices receive the same rights as other employees but are exempt from the minimum wage.

Apprentice pay rates depend on their age. Wycombe DC apprentice pay rates.

We also pay a travel allowance of £20 a month to help with the cost of travelling to and from work.

Funding

Funding is available to support apprenticeship training through the Skills Funding Agency. The size of the contribution varies according to the sector and age of the apprentice. Ages 16 to 18 are fully funded but there is a registration fee of approximately £650 to £850 for ages 19 to 23. For those over 24, we may receive a contribution of up to 40 per cent of training cost.

Services are responsible for any apprentice related costs.

Apprentice suitability

Before taking on an apprentice it is important to consider if the scope of the role would fit within the apprenticeship framework. HR/Amersham and Wycombe College can help advice on this.

Contact Sarah Megan smegan@amersham.ac.uk

Apprentices also require a lot of time and support to bring them up to the required standard and managers need to ensure they have the resources to provide this support.

At the end of the apprenticeship

Ideally we would like to retain apprentices at the end of their training in order to maximise this investment and in order to permanently increase the number of young people in the workforce. Although this cannot be guaranteed managers are encouraged to give some thought to succession planning when taking on an apprentice. Succession planning can help us to identify and develop internal people to fill roles within the council, to enable us to recruit young people and develop their skills knowledge and abilities to enable them to advance and take on more challenging roles.

Managers should think about want type of role they might want to move the apprentice into at the end of their placement.

Apprentice recruitment process

As with any appointment managers should ensure they have the appropriate recruitment authority before taking on an apprentice. See SMB recruitment authority form []

The first step is to meet with the college to determine the level and content of the apprenticeship. The manager will need to draw up a job description and person specification in line with the Recruitment process detailing the purpose of the apprenticeship and the tasks and activities the apprentice needs to carry out along with any training or qualifications that they will be studying for. Please see Recruitment Process and further information on Wycopedia or contact HR for further advice.

The apprenticeship will be advertised on our jobs' website, Amersham and Wycombe College website and National Apprenticeship Service website. Amersham and Wycombe College will also ask you to complete a Vacancy Template. Remember to provide details of the vacancy to hr@wycombe.gov.uk as the vacancy also needs to be posted on our website per the normal recruitment process.

Any applicants applying through our jobs' website will be referred to the Amersham and Wycombe College website. The college will undertake initial screening of candidates and conduct a pre interview. They will check applicants are genuinely interested in the post, meet the criteria, have fully completed the form and check Maths and English levels.

The college will ask shortlisted applicants to complete the generic WDC application form at this stage. This provides additional information about the potential apprentice and equal opportunities details for monitoring purposes as well of details of any criminal convictions. The college can provide support with filling out the form if required. 

Suitable applications will then be forwarded onto the appointing manager for shortlisting.

Follow the normal recruitment process. Full details are available on Wycopedia.

It is important to recognise that younger apprentices in particular may not have the breadth of experience that older workers have so it may be necessary to look for experience outside of the workplace for example that have been gained at school or through voluntary, community or part time work. They may not have the confidence and ability to communicate their skills as much as more experienced workers so the interview may need to be slightly less formal than for older workers. If the candidate is older with more experience then you may want to ask more job relevant questions.

The National Apprenticeship Service has provided some sample questions you may want to use when interviewing an apprentice.

It is important to remember that this may be the young person’s first job interview, so they may need guidance and support through the interview. It is best if you ask no more than 8 to 10 questions. 

Sample apprenticeship interview questions

  • Tell us why you have applied for this apprenticeship
  • What do you think we are looking for in an apprentice?
  • The training for the apprenticeship includes undertaking qualifications while working full-time, and may at times be demanding. How would you organise yourself to balance your study and job, and ensure you complete your work on time?
  • How would you rate your organisational skills on a level of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest)? Can you give us an example to illustrate this?
  • Can you give an example of when you have had to work independently and use your initiative either through study or work?
  • Can you tell us how you cope under pressure and in stressful situations? Please can you give us an example of this?
  • Can you give an example of when you have had to deal with a difficult situation either in work, life or school, and how you managed it?
  • Can you tell us about something new that you have learned in the last six months and what you have gained from it?
  • What do you understand by a customer-focussed service, and how do you think it will apply to this job?
  • What do you understand by working in a team, and what are three important attributes of a good team player?
  • Where do you see yourself in three/five years' time?
  • Is there anything we haven’t asked you that you would like to tell us about yourself to support your application? 

Manager's responsibilities

The manager should ensure that the apprentice completes a full induction process in accordance with the Induction matrix. The following training may also be of interest to apprentices but is not mandatory:

See Training and development directory for full details

When carrying out the induction it is worth remembering that the process should be tailored towards a young person who has little or no experience in the workplace.

Most Apprentices will be relatively new to the world of work so the way they are managed is particularly important. As with all employees good management and supervision will help the young person develop more quickly. An Apprentice may need additional help with building their confidence in a working environment.

As with all staff managers need to make sure that they have regular one to ones with their apprentices though which they:

  • Set clear work plans
  • Review personal objectives set though the Performance management Framework
  • Identify any development needs and put in place training/support to address these 
  • Provide on-going feedback, praise and recognition
  • Provide appropriate levels of autonomy and empowerment
  • Take an interest in the individual and supports their wellbeing.
  • Help with concerns, question and problems

Apprentices need to be supported in making the transition from school or college into work. They may not know as much as other employees. Though immaturity or naivety Apprentices may not understand what are the expected standards of behaviour and may require guidance on this. Line managers should pick up issues in terms of performance, behaviour or attendance as soon as they emerge rather than waiting for them to become a problem. The Assessor is an important line of support in such cases. (See later section)

Apprentices are employees subject to the Council’s people management policies and procedures and local conditions of service. See WySpace for more details.

Apprentices' support network

The apprentice can expect support from the following people during their apprenticeship:

  • their manager
  • their buddy
  • their assessor

What's a buddy?

We recommended that the manager appoints a "buddy" to provide additional support for the apprentice and to help them work through their work programme. The buddy could, for example, take on responsibility for part of the induction process.

The buddy should be a colleague in the same team, perhaps someone who has recently completed an apprenticeship. Managers should look for someone seeking a development opportunity with a positive attitude, patience and good communication skills.

Role of the assessor

Amersham and Wycombe College will provide the apprentice with an assessor. The manager will meet with the assessor within the first few weeks. The assessor will be able to support any learning needs identified by the manager.

The assessor will visit the apprentice every four weeks for between 60 and 90 minutes, at a time that suits the needs of the service.

The assessor will talk to managers at least every 12 weeks to obtain feedback on the apprentice's progress and this information will be included within their formal progress report. This is an opportunity for the managers and assessor to discuss the apprentice’s progress and plan expected progress for the next quarter.

The Assessor is the first point of contact for the manager and if there are any questions or concerns. The college will provide full contact details

The assessor will also help the manager to understand the qualification and what elements the Apprentice is undertaking. Any requirement to attend workshops and exams will be explained.

Work time to complete assignments and other requirements

An apprenticeship is a work based qualification and benefits from designated time being given to learn new skills and knowledge/complete written work, assignments and research during the working week. The apprentice should be allowed approximately three hours at work a week to do this. Where practical this is scheduled for the same time each week.

If the apprentice is taking examinations as part of their apprenticeship they should refer to the Approved Qualification Scheme guidance on study leave/time off to attend examinations.

Health and safety considerations

There are no specific restrictions as to what young people can or can’t do in terms of health and safety however under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, an employer has a responsibility to ensure that young people employed by them are not exposed to risk due to:

  • lack of experience
  • being unaware of existing or potential risks and/or
  • lack of maturity

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that if a manager has not previously employed a young person then they should review their risk assessment and take into account the specific factors for young people, before a young person starts with them.

Remember that new staff regardless of their age are more likely to have an accident in the first six months of new employment than at any other time in their career.

For many young people the workplace will be a new environment and they will be unfamiliar with "obvious" risks and the behaviour expected of them in response. Young people might need additional support to allow them to carry out their work without putting themselves and others at risk, and this might mean more tailored training and/or closer supervision.  Regularly checking a young person’s progress will help identify where any additional adjustments may be needed.