If you’re thinking about taking on apprentices, your first port of call is probably going to be a college or training provider. But before you get on the phone to them, you should consider how you’re going to make sure that any apprenticeships you offer will be right for your business.

Whilst it’s possible to fully outsource your apprentices’ training to a third party training provider, it’s highly unlikely that a training provider is going to be able to deliver a programme that fully meets the needs of your business. The only way that you will really be able to do this is to develop your own training programme.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that you have to deliver the training yourself. What it does mean is that you build a plan for developing your apprentices, which will identify all of the training and development activities required to support them, including:

  • Relevant hands on experience in the workplace
  • Externally delivered training (this is when you go back to the college or training provider)
  • Internal training courses or events
  • Mentoring and shadowing
By doing this you ensure that your apprentices build the skills and knowledge required for your business now, and in the future, and it can be a lot more rewarding for the apprentice as well.

It can seem like a daunting task to take on the responsibility for developing and managing your own training programme, but we’re here to tell you that it’s not as scary as you think. We’ve pulled together 5 key steps to help you create the best apprenticeship programme for your apprentices and organisation.

1. Understand the type of apprentice your business wants – and where they will end up

Believe it or not this is a step that is often not given enough thought. Businesses make the decision to take on apprentices in order to reclaim levy payments, fill identified skill gaps in their existing workforce or even for the kudos of running an apprenticeship programme. But if you do not put enough time and effort into determining exactly what your apprentice requirements are, then it will backfire in the long run. First you must really understand your business; what is the business structure and which departments have a real need for an apprentice? What is the business’s 3/5/10 year plan and how will this skilled person be utilised to support it? What behaviours and values do you need this person to exhibit to make them fit in with your organisation and workforce? Get to know your business at a strategic and operational level first and you will be able to pinpoint exactly why you need this apprentice, who they should be, where they should be positioned (both during the apprenticeship and upon successful completion) and how you are going to get them there.

2. Clearly identify your criteria for training provision

Who you choose to deliver the training for your apprenticeship programme is one of the biggest decisions you will make in this process, but before you get to this point you need to have mapped out exactly what you are looking for from your provider. The size of your organisation will determine how much time you can dedicate to the management of your programme – things like progress monitoring, course booking and additional learning support are all big draws on time and may lead you to consider a managed solution or degrees of, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t set your expectations of your provider and your involvement with the apprentice. Go to prospective providers with a clear outline of why this apprentice is needed and where they will be positioned within the business. If you are aware of the apprenticeship standards that suit your needs (view all live and in-development apprenticeship standards) then go with these in hand, otherwise the training provider should be able to provide guidance on this. Most importantly, let them know the role that you want to play in your apprentices’ development – will you be running an in-house training programme in support of theirs? What level of feedback do you expect from them to be sure your apprentice is developing at the rate you expect? Your training provider and their solution for delivering training has a massive impact on the apprentices learning and outlook so make sure you set your expectations and follow them through.

3. What is your in-house mentoring capability?

Taking on an apprentice can be a straight forward process but unless you have the right people within your organisation to pass on their knowledge in the right way over an extended period then you will not get the skilled person you were looking for. Time and again we have heard managers ask the question “have we got the right people in the workforce to train this person?” and, even if you have, they may not initially show willing to do so. The good news is there are answers for all of this. Take a close look at who within the business exhibits the skills, behaviours and values that you want passed on to the apprentice. If this doesn’t exist in one person then you can assign more than one mentor. Getting your workplace mentors trained is always valuable – they may be more than capable themselves but you need to ensure they are aware of how to pass on this knowledge. Also make sure that you make your expectations of them known at the start of the process and provide them support to achieve this throughout the programme.

4. Ongoing monitoring and support

Consistency and frequency are the keys here. For many apprentices this may be their first foray into the world of work and they may not know what to expect. Make sure that both yourself and your training provider give consistent messages of what your expectations are and the targets that the apprentice must achieve. Yearly performance appraisals are not what is needed here, instead regular meetings to review performance and monitor progress are pivotal to ensuring success and importantly being able to provide the right support structure.

5. Make sure that you celebrate success!

Apprenticeships are hard work for all involved so make sure that you celebrate success at every opportunity to remind your apprentice and your business of why you are doing it. Display work that the apprentice is proud of, make a point of congratulating them on achieving qualifications throughout and thank mentors for supporting them through packages of work or developing a new skill. Many training providers will highlight success through their provision and make a point of formalising this in their offering so involve the wider workforce and make them aware of how well the apprentice is doing. If you are taking on multiple apprentices you may wish to hold graduation ceremonies or apprentice of the year competitions, perhaps. There are many ways of celebrating success that will be individual to your business and apprenticeship programme, but make sure you communicate this success to all involved to ensure continued support.

Developing an apprenticeship programme is not just about outlining the training that your apprentice will undertake. It is also about identifying and structuring everything on the periphery that is going to make the programme a success. If the right focus is given to the structure and support given to your apprenticeship programme then you have every chance of making it a success.