The key to running a successful apprenticeship is the level of support you offer to your apprentice. By putting your apprentice at the heart of your programme, you can make sure that your apprentice gets the appropriate level of care and support that they need to succeed. Providing the correct, practical support and guidance to your apprentice will ensure they settle in well, develop with your organisation and help contribute to the success of the programme.
How can I help my apprentice settle in and learn the ropes?
Providing a well-thought-through induction is valuable both for employers in helping an apprentice adapt to the workplace effectively; and also as a source of support that is, generally appreciated, by the apprentice themselves. A good induction should aim to:
- Help your apprentice settle into the business and make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
- Provide a good induction to the apprentice’s role and how they fit in the wider team.
- Provide practical guidance in areas such as working time, breaks, pay, working conditions, dress codes and health and safety.
- Help the apprentice understand their duties and clearly explain the line of authority, including an introduction to the roles of the supervisors and managers.
- Provide reassurance about where they can go for help if difficulties arise.
- Give the apprentice opportunities to get to know their colleagues and to integrate effectively into the wider workplace culture.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for the apprentice to ask questions.
How do I best support my apprentice?
Remember, your apprentice is with you because they want to be. Your apprentice has made an active choice to learn on the job and a commitment to a specific career, so it is imperative to build on this commitment and give them the appropriate levels of responsibility while also providing the support they will need to succeed.
You can do this by:
- Giving your apprentice a clear outline of expectations and a safe supportive environment to learn and develop.
- Encouraging your apprentice from the start to own and drive their programme targets and to seek regular feedback to self-assess their performance.
- Up-skilling and developing line managers so they can coach their apprentice and act as a role model.
- Putting a workplace learning mentor in place to further enhance the experience, adding and creating a proactive environment that builds on their eagerness, motivation and commitment.
- If your apprentice is new to the workplace environment or has a specific learning disability, this should be factored into the programme and additional support provided, for example one-to-one coaching, learning materials adapted or listening group sessions. Best practice shows that apprentices thrive when they see a joined-up approach with all parties involved working in partnership from the start of their journey. High-performing programmes are clearly outlined from the apprentice’s perspective and adopt a holistic approach, incorporating branding, tone and measures to enhance the experience, not hinder it.
What level of responsibility would I be expected to give our apprentice?
The level of responsibility you give to your apprentice is your decision; however, you must ensure they have the workplace experience needed to develop the skills and knowledge included in their training programme. You must also ensure they are working within the relevant health and safety regulations for their job role. It will be useful to have regular reviews with your apprentices and, if they are coping well with the task they have to perform, adapt their work plan accordingly.
How closely do apprentices need to be managed?
Most apprentices, unless they are part of your workforce already, will be relatively new to the world of work, so the way they are managed is crucial. Just like your other employees, good management and supervision will help the young person to develop more quickly, but this is also about providing support to the individual, in terms of building up their confidence and demonstrating that they can play
a positive role in the world of work and become a trained professional. The apprentice’s manager should set clear work plans, provide informal coaching, ongoing feedback and evaluate tasks undertaken to aid the apprentice’s development. 5 steps to success are:
- Communicate, review progress and meet regularly.
- Provide feedback, praise and recognition.
- Provide an appropriate level of autonomy and empowerment.
- Take an interest in the individual.
- Be available to talk if an employee has a question or a problem.
- Be approachable and understanding.
What do I need to consider when appointing a mentor?
Successful apprenticeship programmes rely on using an experienced employee to act as a mentor or coach for the apprentice throughout their time with the business. A mentor can provide the apprentice with advice and further objective feedback, outside the more formal relationship with their manager. In making the selection, it is useful to consider an employee who is naturally helpful, good with people and has the desire to help a young person in their working life.
Could you introduce a buddy scheme?
A designated ‘buddy’ can help your apprentice integrate more quickly and provide support if they encounter any issues which they may not feel comfortable sharing with their line manager or mentor. Many companies use a ‘buddy’ system, where an experienced worker is nominated to assist the new recruit in all the day-to-day questions that may arise. Buddies provide another layer of informal support, which can also be helpful in preventing young people from feeling isolated.
Pastoral care and support
The transition from school or college to work can be challenging, so it is important that you support your apprentice through this transition. An apprentice, through naivety or lack of maturity, can fall foul of policies or standards of behaviour in the early days and so, it is vital that they have a support network in place to guide them through. They will not necessarily know the many things that you take for granted.
Someone like a mentor needs to be able to act as an advocate, to step in and have those difficult conversations as any issues arise and before any formal procedures are triggered. Good line managers with effective people management skills can also fill this role by picking up on any issues in terms of performance, behaviour or attendance as soon as they emerge, rather than waiting until they become a problem. Without this sort of support an apprentice can fall foul of disciplinary procedures because they lack the skills, knowledge or self-awareness to turn things around.