Risks and rewards of employing apprentices and trainees
Taking on an apprentice or trainee can be a cost-effective, rewarding way to increase and modernise your workforce. But it can also be a risk, committing to a young worker who is uncertain about their future.
Here is a summary of the main benefits and risks of taking on apprentices or trainees so that you can estimate a ‘return on investment’ for your workplace.
Because apprentices and trainees are still gaining experience and learning on the job, they are paid significantly less than qualified workers. However, research shows that apprentice wages are more or less equal to their productivity.
Supporting young people to learn and simultaneously building up your industry workforce is a rewarding process.
By getting your apprentices or trainees to do more of the routine and unskilled tasks, you can free up your more experienced staff to carry out specialised, complex tasks.
Apprentices usually bring more recent training, techniques and ideas with them. This can help your business find easier, faster and cheaper ways of doing things.
The highest cost to employers is supervision, as apprentice and trainee wages are more or less equal to their productivity. The amount of required supervision peaks in the first year and tapers off towards the final years, reflecting the apprentice’s or trainee's growth in experience, skill and maturity (if young at the outset).
The main way to offset the high cost of supervision in the early years is for your apprentice or trainee to complete their training with you. Your initial investment (supervision and training) will yield returns (less supervision and more production) towards the end of the apprenticeship or traineeship. Therefore, the higher the quality of your supervision and mentoring, as well as workplace culture, the more likely you will retain your apprentice or trainee until completion.
Apprentices and trainees need workplace training as well as formal, off-the-job training. You are not obliged to pay for formal training, even though many employers do, but you are required to pay for the time spent attending this training. The costs of training can be reduced through government incentives and subsidies.
Once you commit to having an apprentice you must keep them on for a minimum period and for a minimum number of working hours.
Because apprentices and trainees are often young, immature and inexperienced, they are more vulnerable to workplace injuries than their older, experienced colleagues. Employers can reduce these risks through quality work place induction, supervision, site familiarisation and use of protective equipment.