ICPA Analysis: The Apprenticeship is back
Do you need help at work? What about taking on an apprentice, because it is much easier to do than you think! Graham Hambly investigates
Apprenticeships have undoubtedly become more popular as university fees rise and employers and young people look for more practical ways to get into the job market.
Over one million 18-24 year olds are now ‘looking for work’, but as an accounting practice how can you find someone who wants to become your apprentice?
Well, it is much easier than you think to find information about what you are letting yourself in for.
First off, yes, there are accounting apprenticeships! Apprenticeships are designed by the Sector Skills Councils, while the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) helps to fund the training. An apprenticeship can take anything between one and four years to complete and is a package of on-the-job training and qualifications.
There are three levels of accounting Apprenticeship available:
• Intermediate Level Apprenticeship: accounts assistant, accounts clerk, cashier, credit control clerk, finance assistant, purchase ledger clerk and sales ledger clerk.
• Advanced Level Apprenticeship: trainee AAT, assistant accountant.
• Higher Apprenticeship: accounts manager, AAT.
As apprenticeships are a work-based training programme most of the training is ‘on the job’ – at your premises. The rest can be provided by a local college or by a specialist-learning provider. As the employer you will have to give your apprentice an induction into their role and provide that on-the-job training. You are also responsible for paying your apprentices’ wages. Employment must be for at least 30 hours a week, except in the minority of circumstances where the learner cannot complete the full 30 hours. In these cases employment must be for more than 16 hours per week.
A learning provider will provide an employer representative who will be able to support and guide you. They will ensure you choose the right apprenticeship for the business. They will also explain how the apprenticeship might work and if funding is available.
Then you need to agree a training plan for the apprentice; the college will help recruit an apprentice or support an existing staff member into an apprenticeship. The learning provider also helps manage the training and evaluation and ensures that national quality standards are met.
So what do you do if you want to know more? Well, it’s time to contact a National Apprenticeship Service representative to talk about your specific needs. You can either fill in the online enquiry form found at www.apprenticeships.org.uk or you can call the employer helpline on 0800 150 600 (England only).
The representative will help you identify a suitable training provider. You confirm the number of current employees and new recruits you want to start apprenticeships. Then you start the recruitment process. Vacancies are advertised on Apprenticeship vacancies, where suitable applicants can apply. Finally, you choose your ideal candidate and then your apprentice starts.
If you are worried about the cost then you might need to contact one of the Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs). They are specifically designed to support employers who wish to take on an apprentice but feel unable to do so in the current climate.
The current Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage is £2.60 per hour. The website (see above) has a really useful ‘return on investment’ (ROI) calculator to help employers understand the average costs of employing and training an apprentice against the gains that come when their ‘additional productivity’ impacts on the business.
Advice from the AAT
The AAT stresses that there is far more to apprenticeships than simply teaching people a trade. It explains that the advantage to AAT training providers is significant as “funding is available across all three levels of the qualification”.
The government is committed to apprenticeships and has pledged to recruit 75,000 new apprentices by 2014. Full funding should be available for all 16 to 18 year olds, says the AAT, so you only need to pay their salary. The AAT explains that £95 a week is the National Minimum Wage for apprentices, although many employers choose to pay more than this and, according to the NAS, the average salary is around £170 per week. The AAT also stresses that as an employer you won’t be bombarded with forms and paperwork. “Your training provider will do most of the admin for you, including a health and safety check,” said an AAT spokesman.
Another thing you need to know is that you will need to provide the apprentice a mentor and regular quarterly review meetings with the trainee, line manager and training provider, to help ensure your apprentice’s training complements the tasks they are doing at work. These normally take place in the workplace, ensuring minimal interruption to your working day.
So that’s it. It seems that the apprentice route could really be the answer for the firm looking to expand without taking too many risks financially. Isn’t it time you got an accounting apprentice?
• Graham Hambly is the editor of PQ magazine, the UK’s leading publication for student accountants. For more information or to subscribe see www.pqmagazine.co.uk
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Skills Funding Agency
National Apprenticeship Service
0800 150 600
This article is taken from “Accounting Practice” the ICPA quarterly magazine. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the needs of the general practitioner. You can find us at www.icpa.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org or by ‘phone on 0800-074-2896