Low cost apprenticeships pay dividends for IT firm

Nick West, Director at Brace IT, based in Flackwell Heath near High Wycombe, signed up to attend a ‘Talent Tuesday’ event run by Buckinghamshire Business First and Opps in Bucks that brought together business owners and young people thinking of beginning an apprenticeship.

“The Talent Tuesday events are great because they educate and create opportunities for young people,” says Nick. “From my perspective, not only can I find an apprentice for the business, but I can impart advice to young people to guide them in the next phase of their lives.”

When Nick arrived at the event, he was pleasantly surprised to see that one young man had arrived early and was attending the event specifically to see him: “I got to talk to many young people to see if they would be a good fit for us, but to see that one young man be so clear about what he wanted was an encouraging sign that the event would not just be a one way street, and that the young people were serious about being there.”

"Ensure they feel like part of the team"

Brace IT has a small team that currently includes three apprentices, meaning they rely a good deal on training their apprentices to perform to a high standard. “When you have multiple apprentices on a small team, they can learn together as a group and develop a healthy rivalry to push each other on,” says Nick. “At a small business like ours they really have to step up and perform as there is no place to hide, unlike in a large business where they can sometimes get lost. We don’t let them hide either. They don't do the old fashioned apprentice jobs like making the tea and filing papers away, they do the same things full-time employees do. We respect them, treat them as equals, and ensure they feel like part of the team.”

Small businesses can not always make a commitment to hire full time staff because of financial restraints, and with this in mind Nick sees the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and the new method of paying for apprenticeship training as a boost for businesses. The Levy, introduced in April 2017, means that companies with a payroll above £3million will pay 0.5% of their payroll into a pot to pay for training apprentices. Those who don’t pay the Levy – that is, most employers - will pay just 10% of the total cost of an apprenticeship, with the government paying the other 90%.

Financial support for apprenticeships "very welcome"

“The government has provided great incentives to businesses to hire young people as apprentices, like paying for the vast majority of the training itself and offering grants for those taking on 16-18 year olds,” explains Nick. “We have to work to a budget so the fact that we can receive financial support to take on an apprentice is very welcome.”

What’s more, employers with fewer than 50 employees will have 100% of the training and assessment costs covered by the government when they train a 16-18 year old, further reducing the financial impact of taking on a particularly young apprentice.

Because of this financial support, Nick says he has “found apprenticeships to be a low cost way of adding strength to our team and we have incorporated them into our growth strategy. In some respects an apprenticeship is like an extended year long job interview where you can see how the person matures, learns and respects you, before you make the commitment to take them on full-time.”