What's Stopping You?

Reasons for not taking on an apprentice – and why you should ignore them!

There are many benefits to taking on an apprentice but you might be put off by the thought of how much time it’s going to take, or whether they would be able to deliver the service you need. Plus, it can be difficult to know where to start and where to go for more information.

That’s why we’ve put together a myth-busting campaign to help overcome some of the perceived challenges. We’re not suggesting it’s the easiest route to take but the vast majority of employers see a positive impact.

We haven’t got time to train an apprentice

It’s true, you will need to invest some time in training an apprentice but it’s the same for any new employee who needs an induction and supervision. While you will need to show them the ropes, particularly at the beginning, they should soon be able to work on certain projects independently, freeing up more of your time to concentrate on other things.

There are some practical steps you can take to make training as efficient and effective as possible, such as:

  • Sharing the responsibility of training among the team, so it doesn’t always fall to one person. Plus, it gives the apprentice experience of all aspects of the practice.
  • Getting organised – plan in advance so you can give clear instructions and help to promote independent working.
  • Have a bank of tasks which need minimum training so that there is always something for your apprentice to do if you are caught up with other things.
  • Think about those projects which always fall to the bottom of the pile because you don’t have time to focus on them. Is there something that could save you time in the long run, if someone was able to set it up? Is that something they can help with?
  • Don’t forget to make the most of their knowledge. Your apprentice may well be a whizz with technology or have previous experience of working with the public.

“Our recent apprentice quickly took on some proactive projects. We’ve seen a huge improvement in engagement with patients and the take up of health checks as a result. We simply wouldn’t have had the time to focus on these without her.”

Tim Morris, Practice Manager, Waterside Medical Centre.

It's too much hassle to sort out

It’s actually relatively straightforward to take on an apprentice; it’s no harder than recruiting for a standard position. Plus there are many organisations which can help with the recruitment and employment of apprentices on your behalf, taking on the HR and performance management responsibilities.

While you will need to cover the apprentice’s salary, there is funding available from the government to help cover training costs. The National Skills Academy for Health is currently working with Health Education England to enable primary care employers to access training and gain qualifications for support staff in their organisation through the use of apprenticeship qualifications. Plus, Health Education England – West Midlands is currently paying £500 for every apprenticeship start.  You could also claim a government Apprenticeships Grant for up to £1500, if you haven’t previously taken on an apprentice in the last 12 months. From April 2016, employers will no longer have to pay national insurance contributions for any apprentice under the age of 25.

It's a waste if they leave

Apprenticeships last between 1-4 years, so they are with you for a good length of time. Plus, over 70% of apprentices stay with the same employer at the end of the scheme and make fantastically loyal employees. Although you are not under any obligation to offer your apprentice a permanent position, many practices experience such positive outcomes with growing their own talent, they are keen to keep hold of their apprentices if they have a position available.

“Rother House has now employed seven apprentices over the last two years.  We have managed to offer permanent positions to most people that have been through the scheme.  For those that have moved on we have been able to provide support and guidance into their next jobs. It is truly delightful to see these young unconfident people start and develop so quickly to become confident, important and valued members of the team. I would highly recommend the process as it adds so much to our team and practice.”

Tom Ganner, Practice Manager, Rother House Medical Centre

They'll lack motivation and skills

Most employers find that apprentices are keen to learn and to work, bringing energy and enthusiasm to their role. They might not know much about your practice when they arrive but that’s the same for any new employee. As long as you give them clear guidance about what to do and what you expect of them, they should soon fit in with the rest of your team.

As well as bringing their existing skills, they will receive formal training with a provider alongside work-based training, so they will be able bring the latest in academic ideas and research to your practice and combine it with practical knowledge. Employers often find that apprentices bring a fresh perspective and offer valuable challenge to the way they do things.

“Recruiting via the apprenticeship scheme has revolutionised our staff culture. These staff are initially working for very low wages but they come into work with enthusiasm, energy and are reliable. They have completely changed the front facing relationship with patients to a positive, helpful and engaging one. Our commitment to them is that if they do well, work hard and complete the apprenticeship study, we aim to offer permanent employment. We also aggressively increase their wages quarterly to incentivise and reward them for their progress.”

Tom Ganner, Practice Manager, Rother House Medical Centre

For an initial discussion about appointing an apprentice as an SWGP member, including advice on funding and grants, please email: admin@southwarwickshiregps.nhs.uk or call: 01926 458368.

You can also find out more about taking on an apprentice in primary care by visiting: http://www.nsahealth.org.uk/apprenticeships-information-for-employers