Hiring an apprentice today is likely very different from when you were learning your trade.
For example, you’ll rarely find a 15-year-old who can find their way around a toolbox; rather, getting a new apprentice up to speed might involve teaching basics that you may believe are common knowledge.
Today, prospective apprentices will nearly always have a year 12 education and be at least 18 years old. They might even be ‘mature’ age. Then there’s the fact they will very likely be more tech-savvy than you. And they often have expectations of rapid career growth.
These characteristics, particularly when combined, can present a number of challenges for employers when hiring apprentices in the 21st century.
So what can you do to ensure the best possible chance of a healthy, win-win relationship?
Here are 10 things you should know when hiring an apprentice.*
1. Define what you want and need.
Take the time to assess your current and future needs and to define what you and your apprentice want to achieve. For example, you need to make money while they need to learn as much as possible.
Do you want someone full-time or part-time, and do you have enough ongoing work to ensure they’ll be well trained and looked after, and valuable to your company?
Also, make sure you consider how they’ll fit into the organisation culturally.
2. Stand out from the crowd.
It’s a competitive world, and just as you want prospective candidates to put their best foot forward for a role in your company, you need to do the same to attract the cream of the crop.
According to LinkedIn, the top 10 companies in Australia in 2018 have one thing in common – a highly compelling Employee Value Proposition. In other words, what you expect your team to deliver to your customers is what you need to deliver to your employees.
3. Find the right candidate.
Hiring staff can be a tricky process (it’s a world away from being on the tools), especially when you’re dealing with an apprentice who’s new to your world.
Too many employees look for someone like themselves, or off the back of a recommendation from one of the regulars at the pub, which is not necessarily the best way to go about it. The best thing to do is advertise the position. This can be done in a number of ways such as:
- Contacting your local group training provider.
- Listing the role on a job search
- Speaking to your local TAFE or RTO about highly regarded students.
4. The formal stuff.
If you’ve found an apprentice through a Group Training Organisation, they’ll manage the admin side of things!
If not, once you’ve found an apprentice, you’ll need to:
- agree on a qualification that will meet the apprentice’s career goals and suits your business
- complete a training contract
- agree on a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to deliver the training
- develop a training plan with the RTO and your apprentice.
From here you’ll need to register your apprentice to make it all compliant. It may sound boring, but these steps will ensure everybody is on the same page, legally.
5. Set realistic boundaries.
To ensure you get the best out of your new apprentice, and to avoid any hard or awkward conversations down the line, you need to discuss and agree a clear set of expectations about workplace behaviours. For example:
– Mobile phone policy
– Use of work vehicles
Make sure these are documented and included with your apprentice’s induction paperwork.
Don’t crush your new apprentice’s excitement with a mountain of orientation checklists or by throwing them in the deep-end with zero preparation. The real work begins before they’ve arrived on their first day.
In fact, the best time to review your workplace policies and procedures is when you are considering hiring a new apprentice. All existing employees need to understand their role in helping the new apprentice too.
7. Initiation rites or ‘hazing’.
It was once common practice to ‘initiate’ an apprentice into the job by having them perform some menial or degrading activity. By not complaining and laughing it off as a joke they were ‘accepted’ into the group, having ‘passed’ the ‘initiation’.
You definitely can’t do this anymore.
8. Ongoing support and mentorship.
Being an apprentice can be daunting. It’s a little like starting at a new school. Keeping up with studies, learning and applying new skills at the workplace, trying to fit in with other, more experienced employees, as well as dealing with personal life issues all come into play.
You will likely become a mentor-like figure to your new hire. Make sure you support them as they learn and they will reward you with years of loyalty.
9. If at first you don’t succeed…
Some times, it simply isn’t meant to be.
If you’ve had a bad experience with hiring an apprentice in the past, or you’ve been told negative stories by your mates, don’t be put off the idea. You may just need to rethink what it is you’re looking for.
A lot of time, money and effort are required to get an apprentice up-to-speed. So the return on your investment doesn’t typically kick in until the third or fourth year. On top of that, there’s the very real risk of them leaving you as soon as their apprenticeship is served. And then you’re back to square one.
Good apprentices should be protected at all costs. Like any relationship, you need to have regular catch ups and conversations to discuss the future. Most of all, ask them how they’re going and if you can do anything to make their experience better.
Employing apprentices is vital to our industry. While the wants and aspirations of today’s apprentices might be changing, by applying some of the points above you can still score a good, hard working apprentice who will become a strong asset for your company.
Welcome to ‘Spotlight On’.
This is the first piece in our ‘Spotlight On’ series. From explaining new regulations to addressing bullying in the workplace, each month we’ll highlight and explore issues that matter to small businesses throughout Australia. Stay tuned for our next article.
*We endeavour to provide accurate material for Australian businesses consistent with Australian laws; however, this material is for reference only and is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded as professional advice.