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The Line Manager's Guide to Apprenticeships: Engagement, Preparation and Continued Support

By Euan Blair

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  1. Win your Line Manager over with the perfect apprenticeship structure
  2. Step 1. Engage your Line Manager with your awesome apprenticeship plan
  3. Step 2. Be ready for the apprenticeship FAQs
  4. Step 3. Help your apprenticeship structure succeed

Whether you’re hoping to boost diversity or increase team productivity, you already know an apprenticeship scheme is the way to go.

Unfortunately, your Line Manager isn’t convinced.

Sound familiar? We thought so.

Lucky for you, you’re not alone—we’re here to help overcome your Line Managers’ objections and get them invested in making apprenticeships a reality for your team.

So, sit back and prepare to wow your managers as you discover setting up an apprenticeship programme is really not that hard.

Win your Line Manager over with the perfect apprenticeship structure

Step 1: Engage your Line Manager with your awesome apprenticeship plan

Step 2: Be ready for the apprenticeship FAQs

  • What does an apprenticeship look like? Here’s what every line manager should know.
  • How old will our apprentices be?
  • How much extra paperwork will there be?
  • Does the Line Manager have to employ the apprentice at the end of the apprenticeship?

Step 3: Help your apprenticeship structure succeed

Step 1. Engage your Line Manager with your awesome apprenticeship plan

It’s not easy to change people’s minds—but when it comes to winning internal buy-in, persuasion is all part of the fun.

Whether the objections you face are around lack of time, funding or employee power, it’s important to know the real reason companies avoid taking up apprenticeships is a lack of understanding(opens new window).

In other words, the first step to getting your LM on board is to help them understand why your ideas for an apprenticeship structure are worth investing in.

Here are some key pointers to get you started:

Remember the Levy

Since the launch of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, only 22% of employers(opens new window) have actually taken advantage of the scheme.

That means over 75% of employers are losing a sizable lump of cash each year—for nothing.

Crazy, right?

What’s even crazier is that any unspent dollah goes into a pot that can be used by your competitors. Not ideal.

Remind your Line Manager that if they don’t use it, they lose it.

Avoid employee churn

Losing vital team members is every manager’s nightmare—one which fast becomes a reality when they stop investing in professional development.

And once you realise 87% of millennials(opens new window) prioritise professional development in a job, the case for your apprenticeship scheme starts to feel foolproof.

Explain to your Line Manager that offering relevant, simple and consistent opportunities to employees is a surefire way to attract the best applicants and boost staff retention for good.

Boost company diversity

It’s no secret diverse teams are more productive(opens new window).

From driving innovation to increasing team morale, diversity can do wonders for company culture, productivity and even revenue(opens new window).

Apprenticeships allow companies to introduce diversity from the ground up, building it into their foundations as individuals progress.

Once your Line Manager discovers the true benefits of bringing in new blood, there’ll be no looking back.

Bonus tip: Be prepared

Your LM will have questions. Fact.

The best thing you can do to ensure success is prepare yourself for some of their objections.

Here are a few hints at what might come up. Take some time to think about what your answers would be:

  • How will an apprenticeship scheme benefit the company?
  • When would they start?
  • How long will they be around?
  • How much management time will they take?
  • How will we recruit them?

With a prepared pitch, you’re positioning yourself as the in-house authority on apprenticeships and helping cement trust with your Line Managers.

Step 2. Be ready for the apprenticeship FAQs

Now you’ve got the tools to overcome any objections to your apprenticeship scheme, there are some key things you need to know before pushing ahead.

This next section is an in-depth FAQ to help you understand everything you need for a super successful programme. Read it. Then read it again. (And again…)

What does an apprenticeship look like? Here’s what every Line Manager should know.

Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few core elements that never change:

  1. You’re not alone:Apprenticeships are a lot like dating. You must work with a provider who will put their self-interest to the side and help you find the best match for your company.
  2. Apprentices gotta learn: At least 20% of the role must be off the job training. That means they will be developing new skills throughout their apprenticeship, without putting additional strain on your Line Managers. It’s a true win-win! 🎉
  3. Apprenticeships are paid: The UK’s current minimum wage is £3.40 but remember, that is a minimum. You’re asking this person to help boost your company's productivity, so think about how much that’s worth to you.
  4. And deserve company rewards: Apprentices must be allowed holiday and other company benefits—we all need time to relax once in a while. ⛱️
  5. There are time guidelines: Apprenticeships must be a minimum of 30 hours a week for at least a year (including off the job training). The exception is when apprentices need to work part time because of a disability.

How old will our apprentices be?

Age might be just a number for some, but when it comes to your apprentices there are some key differences in the rules you need to follow.

You can hire an apprentice from age 16, as long as they’ve completed their final GCSE year at school—but for under 18s, remember these three rules:

  • There must be at least 12 hours between each shift.
  • They can’t work for longer than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week.
  • If their shift is over 4.5 hours, they must be given at least 30 mins to rest.

How much extra paperwork will there be?

There’s no denying apprenticeship schemes involve paperwork. But it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the many benefits a rockstar apprentice can deliver.

The best way to sidestep a Line Manager’s paperwork-dread is to familiarise yourself with what’s needed before you begin. Once you know what’s involved, you’ll realise it’s really not that much.

Here are some examples of the docs you’ll need to get in place:

  • Contracts and agreements
  • Workplace health and safety checks
  • Public liability insurance

Does the Line Manager have to employ the apprentice at the end of the apprenticeship?

There’s no legal obligation to offer a job at the end of an apprenticeship—but often they’ll start to feel like an integral part of the team.

After all, if you’ve got a new supernova on your team, why would you ever let them go?

Employment post-apprenticeship is encouraged and if you choose your apprentices well, it’ll probably be a no-brainer. But if not, that’s fine too. Just make sure to manage expectations early on so there are no nasty surprises on either end.

Step 3. Help your apprenticeship structure succeed

Okay, so you’ve finally convinced your Line Manager apprenticeships are the next big thing for your company and your apprentice is on their way—but what next?

It’s simple: create a supportive, encouraging environment to make sure everything runs smoothly. That means ensuring the apprentice and the rest of the team are happy.

From boosting employee morale with an arm-over-the-shoulder buddy scheme to ensuring your leadership skills are A++, there’s plenty you can do to help your apprenticeship scheme hit the ground running from day one.

Remember, patience is a virtue

Think back to your first day at work. How nervous were you?

Well, that’s exactly what your apprentices will experience, too.

This might even be their very first workplace experience—so encourage your line managers to be patient, kind and help their apprentices find their feet so they can start acing everything they do.

A little extra love up front will pay back tenfold in productivity and loyalty.

Create a buddy system

Whoever first said “A friend in need is a friend indeed” had probably been an apprentice.

In the terrifying first few weeks, teaming your apprentice with a buddy can help them feel like there’s someone who really has their back.

From showing them around the office to offering informal guidance, a buddy system will help apprentices feel supported and involved—so they can go from scared to successful in the blink of an eye.

Set up a stellar performance management process

We all know it’s important to help employees track their performance—for them and for the company.

If you want to get the most out of your apprentices, make sure you have a stellar performance management process in place. It’s a must.

  • Start by working with the apprentice to outline achievable goals for their time in the role.Set regular dates to review their progress against these goals (we recommend at least once a month).
  • Offer them the opportunity to ask for extra 1:1s if they need to.
  • Give yourself time to think about what constructive feedback you can give.
  • Work with them to change goals as time goes on, if necessary.
  • Make time for an annual appraisal and work with the apprentice to write an appraisal report.

Your performance management process will help you identify underperformance as well. Make sure you work with the apprentice to identify areas they might struggle with and build in extra support or training to help them.

For the perfect apprenticeship structure, don’t forget #1

It takes time and skill to manage apprentices—so don’t forget to factor in the support you’ll need.

Ask colleagues, your Line Manager or even the apprentice for feedback on your management skills to help you be the best you can. If you come across anything that’s difficult to hear, try and look at the comments objectively and seek advice if you need to.

Remember to give yourself a break and be kind to yourself. Talking always helps and if you need to, seek external support.

Doing anything new is always scary. But almost always worth it. If your Line Managers have doubts about how to structure and manage apprenticeships, that's completely understandable. But with a little extra prep and support, you can work together to become true partners in a futureproof talent strategy that works for everyone.

Euan Blair

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