At the Science Council we value apprenticeships as an alternative route to employment for young people. Through our Technical Education Committee, our Employer Champion programme and our support for the Trailblazer programme we have been involved in ensuring high level apprenticeship standards in the science sector, as well as encouraging employers to take on apprentices and promoting apprenticeships.
As a membership organisation, the Science Council doesn’t recruit science apprentices. However, we still wanted to practice what we preach by hiring our own apprentice, albeit one not doing science! So at the start of 2017 we successfully hired a Business Administration apprentice, who is making an excellent contribution to our team each day.
If your professional body has a pay bill of over £3 million a year, then the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy on 6 April 2017 will affect you. National Apprenticeship Week is a useful reminder of how important it is to start thinking about your own apprenticeship programmes, if you haven’t already.
Here’s how we introduced an apprenticeship role at our organisation, which may be useful when considering how you can too.
Identify where an apprentice could add value
For some time there had been an organisational need to hire a new member of staff to take on administration work. We could have simply hired an administrator through our standard recruitment process, but we wanted to provide a young person with the opportunity to gain experience working in an office environment. So we decided to turn this potential role into an apprenticeship instead.
Shape the role
There were a number of things we had to do internally before we could even go out to promote the role and find an apprentice.
- Decide what type of apprenticeship you want to offer. We first had to find out what different types of apprenticeships exist so that we could define the type of apprenticeship ours would be. We found the National Apprenticeship Service to be very useful in helping us with our research. We knew we wanted it to be administration focused and eventually we decided on the Business Administration apprenticeship.
- Decide on what level the apprenticeship will be. This will depend on the level of education and skill you want the apprentice to already have. We wanted someone who could hit the ground running in a complex environment so we were looking to hire an apprentice who already had some basic administrative experience and had gained A-levels. This meant setting the apprenticeship at Level 3. Have a look at the apprenticeship standards to help you decide.
- Identify a training provider for your apprenticeship. In our case we were looking for a college that can offer a diploma for Business Administration. Because we had set our apprenticeship at Level 3 the course we chose was a Level 3 Diploma in Business Administration. Most courses last for one year so that is how long our apprenticeship will be, but this can vary depending on the type of apprenticeship you are offering. Help is available to find apprenticeship training.
- Write the job description. For the apprentice role you will need to make sure the language you use is accessible to young people reading it by not using too much jargon. It needs to be easy for them to understand what you require and what they’ll be doing in the role. It’s a good idea to run this past someone who doesn’t work with you, to help spot any terminology that may not make sense outside of the sector.
- Set the salary. As we had not hired an apprentice before we sought advice from our HR consultants on how much an apprentice should be paid. The college we chose was also able to give us guidance on this so whichever training provider you choose should be able to do the same. We are pleased to say that we were able to offer our apprentice a salary that is above minimum wage and which includes London weighting.
- Draw up an apprentice-specific contract. An apprenticeship contract differs to contracts you may draw up for other members of staff because it includes details of what you agree to do for the apprentice, such as the training you’ll give them, the qualification they are working towards and the duration of the apprenticeship. We also included provisions such as the learning materials we will provide, time off to study and a working pattern of 4 days a week and 1 day to study at college. There is guidance for this on the UK website.
“You’re hired.” The search for our apprentice
Our chosen training provider, the City of Westminster College, was able to advertise our apprenticeship on our behalf. They also shortlisted candidates and conducted the first round of interviews which was convenient for us as we didn’t have to spend so much time on the recruitment process. The Science Council conducted the second round of interviews so by then we already had an excellent pool of candidates to choose from. We also included a short situational judgement test as part of the interview.
We are so pleased to have our Business Administration apprentice, Kheira, as part of the team. Day-to-day she supports our administration and finance work, runs her own project and facilitates other projects, provides customer service and monitors social media.
If there are any other tips you’d like to share with fellow PARN blog readers, leave a comment below.