Congratulations — business is going well. Almost too well!

All those late nights and missed social events are finally paying off. Your client list is growing and your bank account is getting fatter, but you still can’t find the right work/life balance. You’re still working late into the night, and let’s be honest, your social life is pretty much a distant memory at this point.

 

So you’ve started to think that it might just be time to hire an apprentice

Taking on an apprentice could well be the answer but, as much as you want to hire one, you have questions. How do you know it is the right time? How do you attract a good one? What are the benefits of having one? We’ve got answers for you.

 

How to know if it’s the right time to hire an apprentice

Ask yourself…

Are you regularly turning down work because your schedule is jam-packed?

For some entrepreneurs, that’s not necessarily a problem. If you’re happy with the amount of work you’re taking on and you prefer to fly solo, that’s fine. However, if you feel a real pang of regret every time you have to turn away business, an apprentice might be the way forward.

Are complaints on the rise?

Every business will get the odd complaint but if you’re receiving far more complaints than usual, you need to figure out why. If you’re taking on more business than you can manage, it’s inevitable that the quality of your work will suffer. Again, if you don’t want to turn away business, something is going to have to give. Taking on additional help is one solution to this problem.

Do you want to scale your business?

If you’ve always had grand plans for business growth, or recent successes have opened your eyes to new possibilities, it might be time to take on an apprentice. There is only so much one person can do and, if you barely have time to get through your everyday task list, it is going to be tricky to find the time to plan or implement business growth strategies.

 

The benefits of hiring an apprentice

They bring a fresh perspective.

Granted, an apprentice may not yet have the experience of a skilled worker, but they could breathe new life into your business in other ways.

For example, young people are often very adept at using new technology and navigating social media, which could help you improve your admin procedures, your customer service, or your marketing efforts. You might even find their talents allow you to introduce new ways of serving your customers with a new product or service package.

It can also be handy to simply have a fresh pair of eyes. You can be so close to your own business that you miss opportunities that will be obvious to an outsider.

 

They help you build a loyal workforce.

An ambitious, enthusiastic apprentice will work hard to climb the career ladder and many remain loyal to the business that helped them scale the first few rungs. If you want to grow your business to one day have multiple employees or branches, you will need a large, loyal workforce. Training an apprentice and helping them develop the skills they need to succeed in your industry, is a great starting point for them and for you.

 

They can help bridge the skills gap.

Businesses in some sectors are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit skilled workers to replace staff who move on. As a solopreneur, this might not be relevant now but, if you look to the future, you want to make sure that there are well-trained, skilled workers in your field.

When you employ an apprentice, you must go through an approved apprenticeship standard or framework. This means that you are responsible for ensuring that they undertake a relevant course of study and that you support them as they learn job-specific skills during their time with you.

The upside of this is that, at the end of the apprenticeship period, you already have a qualified, skilled worker as part of your team.

 

They pay for themselves.

Employing an apprentice can be a highly cost-effective way to grow your business. You will have to look at it as an investment in terms of both time and money; however, once they’ve had the chance to grow their skill set, apprentices pay for themselves by allowing you to bring in the additional work you need to scale your business.

You will also likely be eligible for government funding to help you meet the costs of hiring an apprentice.

If you have a pay bill of less than £3m per year, you will only have to pay 10% of the cost of your apprentice’s training and assessment fees while the government covers the remaining 90%. If your pay bill is over the £3m threshold you will still be entitled to a 10% contribution from the government.

(It’s worth noting that apprenticeships schemes are a devolved issue so if your business is based in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you might want to check with your apprenticeship authority. More info here.)

 

How do you find a great apprentice?

The benefits are hard to ignore but, clearly, they only apply if you find the right person. If you want to attract talent, you must set clear expectations of what you are looking for, and have a clear understanding of what they are looking for too.

Take your time.

When you’re rushed off your feet and you’ve made the decision to take on extra help, it’s tempting to sign up the first semi-decent person that comes along.

Don’t!

You might be saving time now but you might end up regretting it further down the line. Take the time to consider what you need your apprentice to do. Think about the tasks you will need them to complete and the skills and talents they will need to do so.

Commit to helping them grow.

An apprentice who is ambitious, who will work hard and be an asset to your business isn’t going to be satisfied by a good day’s work and some money in their back pocket. They will want to know that they’re working towards something bigger. Talented people need challenge; they need to know that you have considered their future and are committed to helping them grow and develop.

Sell yourself.

Your prospective apprentice is not the only one who has to prove their worth. If you want to attract the best talent, you have to sell yourself too. Other than being committed to helping their professional development, what else do you have to offer an apprentice?

Are you a pioneer in your industry? Can you offer flexible working patterns or a relaxed, non-traditional company culture? Is your business socially responsible, or are you helping the community in some way? Show candidates exactly what they have to gain by joining your team. Offer them something they are excited to be part of.

Hiring an apprentice really could be the answer to finding that elusive work/life balance. The extra pair of hands will give you the breathing space you need to work on growing your business and you will know that you are doing your bit to foster young talent.

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Posted by Darren Taylor

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