Apprentices have come a long way since the days of cheap labour and sending them to buy left handed hammers. They make a commitment to work and train as they earn. In return, you support them by making time for their training and mentoring them in the workplace. They generally train through registered group training organisations (GTO), like TAFE. It’s not an excuse to pay someone at a lower rate—it’s a great chance to access up-to-date training to bring new skills and ideas into your business.
Taking on an apprentice can be a commitment of up to five years. So, if you only need help for the next few months, hire a labourer or part-time worker instead—don’t commit to a program you can’t follow through on.
Your own business needs
You can’t make a decision on an apprentice if you don’t have a solid idea how your business is doing, and where you want it to go. Obviously, it has to make financial sense. If you’re just starting out, it’s probably not the best idea to commit to an apprentice.
- Has your business hired an apprentice before? What did you learn from the experience?
- Can you commit to keep them on for a four-year apprenticeship?
- Are you prepared for the training time needed—formally and informally? You need to stick to it even when you’re busy and it’s tough to have the apprentice away from the work site
- The admin—if they’re your first employee, you’ll be on a learning curve to get across payroll, tax and health & safety requirements.
Bridge tip: There are plenty of resources available in Australia for you to get financial help from, as well as incentives to hire an apprentice.
Hiring your new apprentice
Once you’ve decided to bring on an apprentice, there’s a few more processes to get across.
Before you start lining up candidates, be clear on what you need from them. Get together a job description to outline their role, and think about how you’ll run an interview process. Remember, it’s a competitive job market, so you need to sell yourself too—be prepared to talk about why they should want to join your business and what skill set they can learn.
Your local GTO might be able to give you a hand with recruitment, and have an inside track on the best candidates for the job too. Think about the balance between technical skill, attitude and a willingness to represent your brand and business in the community.
What they need from you
Hiring an apprentice is just the start of the journey. It takes time to recruit, train and manage them as well. Doing it right means you’ll keep them, and get the most from your investment in their training.
To help your new starter settle in, and want to stay, make them feel part of the team. You can:
- have a plan on how you’ll introduce your apprentice to the work, and a structured schedule for helping them learn new skills
- take the opportunity to mentor them and develop your own skills as a leader and business own—remember when you started out and what would have been a help
- keep communication open—let them know they can talk to you, ask questions, and let you know if there’s a problem.
Bridge tip: If your apprentice is having personal issues that are affecting their work, or their attendance at training, try to stay calm and take a human approach to it. You can get help on managing workplace issues if you need it.
Are you apprentice-ready?
Hiring the right person for the job can mean a real boost to your productivity, and help you grow as a leader. The tips given in this article are to be used as a rough outline only and are current as of July 2017. Of course, you should always consider your individual circumstances and the links in this article can assist with your own research.
If you’re not sure what to do next, check out the online resources for employers or get in touch with your local GTO.
Ready to hire an apprentice? Learn how to find & hire a tradie apprentice here.