Employing the right candidate for a job is paramount, particularly for smaller businesses. Every employer is looking for a candidate to hit the ground running, which is not always possible for young people.

In order to fill this gap between school and university leavers and the working world, SMEs are turning to methods that used to be seen as unconventional. One of these methods is introducing industry apprenticeships to sectors which may not have been previously assumed. The new apprenticeship levy will introduce new standards in 43 industry areas in the academic year 2017-2018.

These include jobs in the media industry, such as a post-production runner, web designer or a camera assistant. Higher level apprenticeships also include training to be online community managers or junior interactive product designers. All of these roles are crucial in the workplace. It benefits your business to train someone up as you go, both from a cost saving point of view as well as making sure that they learn the skills to make them as good a worker as possible.

Another sector where apprenticeships are often overlooked is in accounting. Apprentices taking the first step in their career can choose to be an accounts assistant, credit control clerk or finance assistant, to name a few. Along with basic schemes which often include the assistant roles, the higher apprenticeship levels also include roles such as accounting technicians and accounts managers. Accounting is a highly skilled profession, with a number of different levels, so it can be very effective training a potential employee on the job as they then have a broad knowledge of the industry in which they will be working.

By the end of 2018, degree apprenticeships are set to rise to more than 7,600 in Britain. Could you take on an apprentice in your business to get your productivity gap filled? Can an apprentice give you the boost that you need? Read on to find out more.

Mike Davis, Head of SME at AXA PPP healthcare, comments: “Since the government introduced the new scheme, it is great to see so many SMEs taking advantage of the opportunities that it can bring. With more than 90% of apprentices staying in employment after their apprenticeship ends, it is a great ‘first step’ on the ladder not only for young people, but for small businesses looking to have a skilled team member on board.”

“As of May this year, businesses with a wage bill of less than £3m can claim 90%of their apprentice training costs back, so small businesses shouldn’t be worried about losing money by hiring and training over-18s at a lower level than what they are used to. In fact, they should be welcoming these ‘unskilled’ workers, as they are more than likely to be naturally skilled in other areas crucial to any business. These skills include social media familiarity and a natural savviness to modern technology.”

To help employers to get on board with this way of thinking, AXA PPP healthcare has put together the below tips:

Sign up to a recognised apprenticeship scheme for your sector.

  • Historically not many SMEs have used apprenticeships, this could simply be due to a lack of understanding of what’s available. Take a look at the Department for Education’s apprenticeship funding page to work out if there is a scheme for your sector. You can also find out how to calculate the potential  funding which might be available to you.


Identify which area(s) of your workforce requires additional people-power and will benefit from an apprentice.

  • ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ – this age old saying is key when deciding if hiring an apprentice is right for you. Don’t just simply hire one because you feel that you want to. Look at which areas of your workforce need support, and can offer dedicated time to training a new member of staff on the job.


Look at degree-level apprenticeships if you feel that the skills required are complex, or require more funding to offer ‘on-job-training’.

  • With higher skill levels, such as technology and software knowledge often desired at entry level jobs, a degree apprentice may be more worthwhile to your business. These apprentices can come in having had some training already, so only industry-specific skills need to be taught. Crucial if your business has a limited amount of time.


Broaden your expectations of candidate’s qualifications

  • If the candidate doesn’t have the qualifications required for the apprenticeship at first glance of the CV, don’t despair. Broaden your expectations of the candidate and what they can bring to your workplace. If they have work experience elsewhere, then take a look at what skills they have picked up – even if these are as straight forward as making phone calls, or working in a team, these are both assets that can be transferred to many workplaces.





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.