Is your business growing and you’re finding it a bit difficult to keep up? Maybe it’s time for you to take on an apprentice.
Hiring an apprentice can be a challenge at first, but it’s a challenge that can also have many rewards. An extra pair of hands might free you up to get other things done; you can mentor and cultivate a loyal workforce; and you can plan for future growth or for your succession. There’s also financial incentives that can make it easier to bear the cost of an apprentice who needs time to become as productive as you might like. However, with these incentives come responsibilities.
- Recruitment – You can train your apprentices in the skills you need for your business. Some fully qualified tradies may not have the particular skillset you are looking for.
- Retention – The length of time an apprenticeship takes means you are more likely to keep properly trained staff on your books. A sense of loyalty can often develop for the business that helped the former apprentice get their qualification. Hiring those who are discriminated against based on their age, such as young school leavers or more mature apprentices, brings benefits to the community, the apprentice, and can further increase staff loyalty to your business.
- New systems and techniques - As apprentices are in formal learning while also on the job, they are exposed to the latest, most up-to-date systems and techniques, and can transfer that knowledge to the business.
- A new perspective – Apprentices are not bogged down by ingrained processes and systems. They can have a fresh perspective that leads to innovation.
- Insurance discounts – WorkCover Queensland are offering a discount on insurance premiums for businesses who directly employ apprentices - not through group training organisations (GTOs).
- Wage subsidies – By employing young apprentices, mature apprentices and Indigenous apprentices you may be eligible for wage subsidies to cover the cost of training your apprentice.
- Work out a training contract – Within 14 days of commencing an apprenticeship, you and your apprentice need to work out and sign a training contract.
- Stick to the training plan – You need to stick to the training and the range of work set out in the training plan and provide adequate, qualified supervision.
- Provide off-the-job training – You need to release the apprentice and pay the appropriate wage for their off-the-job training.
- Obey employment law – An apprentice doesn’t mean you can underpay them or provide an unsafe working environment. Standards of the past aren’t the standards of today. Everyone deserves a fair pay packet and to go home to their families in one piece at the end of each day. Your apprentice (and everyone else) is also entitled to a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and bullying. You work hard for your employees, they work hard for you, everyone gets treated with respect.
- Communicate with the AASN – You need to contact the Australian Apprentices Support Network (AASN) if the circumstances of the business, your apprentice’s employment or their education change.
- Check out this handy rundown of employer responsibilities from the Queensland Government.
Process – As set out by the Australian Government
- Identify what the job entails and what skills the job needs. These should align with your business needs. Also, do you want a full-timer or a part-timer? Do you have enough business and the right qualified staff to hire the apprentice directly (and be looked after by you directly)? Or are you going to source an apprentice through a GTO because you don’t have the resources to take on a full-time apprentice?
- Recruit your apprentice. There are a number of options for this: put an ad in the paper, send feelers out through the grapevine, get in touch with a job agency or contact a GTO.
- Choose a training organisation. Together, you and your apprentice should choose a reputable training organisation. If you’re bringing on an apprentice through a GTO, this step is already taken care of.
- Sign and lodge a training contract and plan. Work with your training organisation to organise a contract and plan, which will set out the when and how of important training milestones, as well as the assessments of your apprentice’s skills.
- Get in touch with the AASN. You will need to contact your local AASN provider to lodge the signed contract. They will then lodge it with the relevant State/Territory training authority. The AASN will be your first point of contact during the lifecycle of the training contract. Remember: if your business circumstances, apprentice’s circumstances or your/their training needs to change, you must contact the AASN to discuss changes to the training contract.
- Complete the probationary period. Usually 90-120 days. This will let you and the apprentice work out if you are a good fit for each other, the company and the job. Once it is over, you will be contracted to each other for the length set out in the contract.