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National Apprenticeship Week: Everything you need to know about taking on an apprentice

National Apprenticeship Week: Everything you need to know about taking on an apprentice
Alison King
Alison KingMD and FounderBespoke HR

Posted: Mon 6th Feb 2023

The benefits of hiring an apprentice in a small business are endless. From filling a skills gap and increasing productivity to growing and developing a workforce and company culture from scratch, the rewards are great.

What’s more, for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, the government pays between 95% - 100% of the costs.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service, there are many benefits to the business:

  • 86% of employers say that apprentices have helped them to develop the skills needed within their organisation

  • they have been shown to reduce staff turnover and lower recruitment costs

How do apprenticeships work, and what do you need to know before hiring an apprentice?

Apprentices must spend at least 20% of their working hours completing off-the-job training.

It can be flexible and doesn’t have to mean one day out of the workplace every week.

For example, training could take place:

  • online

  • at the apprentice’s place of work

  • at a college or university or with a training provider

Or it could be a combination of these options.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone who is over the age of 16 and not in full-time education. They can also be existing employees. An apprenticeship must last however for at least 12 months.

At present, there are currently over 800 apprenticeship standards to choose from. These range from everything from cyber security experts to equine dentists! This means that employers can look at where they need expertise and train an apprentice in this specific area.

Employer obligations

There are a number of factors employers need to take into account before hiring an apprentice:

  • There must be a genuine job available and a contract that is long enough for them to complete the apprenticeship.

  • The employer is responsible for paying the apprentice’s wages.

  • The employer is also responsible for finding and working with the training provider.

  • The employer must also support the apprentice throughout the apprenticeship with access to mentoring and allow them time off the job for studying.

Pay and contracts

All apprentices must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage. From April 2023 these are:

  • aged 16 – 18 - £5.78

  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship - £5.78

  • aged 19 or over and have completed their first year – Apprenticeships will be entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage rate for their age

Employers must also check eligibility before employing an apprentice, including their right to work in the UK. They will also need a number of key documents in place:

  • Contract of employment – this will include pay, working hours and working conditions.

  • Apprenticeship agreement – this should be signed by the apprentice at the start of the apprenticeship. This will detail the skill/trade that the apprentice is being trained for, the name of the apprenticeship, the dates of the apprenticeship and the amount of off-the-job training they will receive. The Gov has a free apprenticeship agreement template.

  • Commitment statement – this is signed by the apprentice and the training provider. It details how all three parties will support the successful completion of the apprenticeship. There is also a free template. This should also include the planned content and schedule of all training, the expectations of all three parties, and details on how to address questions or complaints. See the free commitment statement template.

Funding available

Small businesses (not paying the apprenticeship levy) can access 5% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice. The government will pay the rest, up to the maximum funding band. Employers must pay the training provider directly and agree on a payment schedule.

What’s more, for businesses with less than 50 employees the government will pay 100% of the cost of the training for apprentices aged:

  • 16 to 18

  • 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan provided by their local authority or has been in the care of their local authority

Employers may not need to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions for an apprentice if the apprentice is:

  • under 25 years old

  • on an approved UK government apprenticeship standard or framework (these can differ depending on the country)

  • earns less than £967 a week (£50,270 a year)

Next steps

If you think your business could benefit from an apprentice, this is the process you will need to follow:

  • Identify the apprenticeship standard you want to offer.

  • Create an apprenticeship account on the Gov website – this allows you to access funding, advertise and recruit, approve training costs and give feedback on training. https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/employers/create-apprenticeship-service-account

  • Find a registered training provider (see the government’s list of registered providers). A total price needs to be agreed on for the cost of the training and the assessment. For an apprenticeship standard, this also has to include the cost of the end-point assessment which must be agreed upon with a provider selected from the government’s list.

  • Create and advertise your role (or this can be managed by your training provider).

  • Working with the training provider, find an endpoint assessor who will assess their training and confirm that they are professionally competent.

Relevant resources


Connect with Alison on Enterprise Nation today for more brilliant support.

Alison King
Alison KingMD and FounderBespoke HR
We offer flexible outsourced HR services, delivered onsite or remotely.   As little or as much HR as you need, when you need it. As a small business ourselves, we understand the unique challenges you face. Our services include: Appraisals, performance reviews & development. HR documentation. Disciplinaries Employment law advice Recruitment Redundancies Settlement agreements Sickness and absence management. Whether you have a one off project, would like regular assistance or just want to call us on a ad-hoc basis, we have a cost effective solution for you either on a retained or pay as you go service. Each of our clients are treated individually and our services can be adapted to suit your specific needs and requirements. We work with companies who employ just one member of staff to several hundred employees.   We also provide outsourced HR services to take away the headache of payroll calculations and deductions to make sure that your staff get paid on time. 

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