NEWS / Blog / The SME guide to apprenticeships


31 JAN 2020


This #NAW2020, Kimberly Murphy of TAC explores the opportunities for smaller companies.


oday marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week 2020. Now is the perfect opportunity for SMEs to explore how an apprenticeship might work for their business.

With this in mind Kimberly Murphy, Apprenticeship Manager for the Technical Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC), shares her thoughts.

TAC exists to bring together engineering consultancy firms to enable them to meet their business needs through the recruitment and training of apprentices and in my day-to-day role I support employers, universities/colleges, and the Professional Institutions, on their apprenticeship journey. To date, TAC has supported the delivery of eight approved apprenticeship standards in Building Services, Civil Engineering, Environmental, Rail and Transport.

I update our members with funding opportunities, provide apprentice updates and support them throughout their apprenticeship process. A great part of my role as an intermediary between providers and employers is that I am among the first to hear of brilliant and amazing success stories of all ages smashing it out of the park! It’s a wonderful part of the job and great that we’ve been able to help make that happen.

While apprentices with the larger companies in our sector tend to get take the limelight, there are plenty of apprentices who choose to work with SMEs. Companies are attracted to that fact that apprentices bring fresh ideas and approaches, as well as a positive attitude to the workplace. Many like the fact that they are more loyal, easier to retrain and are often more engaged than other members of staff.

However, it is important to remember that the company will need to ensure they mentor and support the trainee through their apprenticeship, working closely with the training organisation.

An apprentice can improve company productivity, moral and build your future workforce and with the right support an apprentice will grow and flourish alongside your business.
So, you’ve decided to find out more about apprentices… How do you get started?

Companies are attracted to that fact that apprentices bring fresh ideas and approaches, as well as a positive attitude to the workplace. Kimberley Murphy

What exactly is an apprentice?
An apprentice, 16 years or over, must be employed and work with experienced staff, learn job-specific skills, study during their working week – for example, at a college/university or training organisation. They must earn at least the minimum wage and employed as an apprentice for at least a year. I found that in engineering wages tend to be higher than for apprenticeships in other industries.

How is it funded?
For larger employers, apprenticeships are paid for by the Apprenticeship Levy which is raised directly from their payroll.

If you are a SME (with fewer than 50 employees) there will be no cost to you for training an apprentice aged 16-18 (or aged 19-24 with an Education Health and Care Plan or care leaver).

If your small or medium business has more than 50 employees you will be expected to contribute 5% of training and assessment costs, however there are schemes which cover this cost and are paid by the share of funds from larger employers.

All employers are entitled to an incentive payment of £1,000 if the employer is taking on an apprentice aged 16-18 (or aged 19-24 with an ECHP or care leaver).

How are apprenticeships managed?
Small and medium sized businesses now use the new Digital Apprentices Service (DAS) to register apprenticeships and manage their ongoing development and training. This is run by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

This online service allows employers to access a suite of quality training providers and will also provide them with the tools to manage the training decisions which is only going to be beneficial for businesses and employers.

What should we be thinking about before taking the leap to hiring an apprentice?
The National Apprenticeship Service has a lot more on this. But these are the main points which should be considered.

1. Choose an apprenticeships standard for an apprenticeship in your industry and at a suitable level.
2. Find an organisation that offers training for the apprenticeship framework or standard you’ve chosen.
3. Check what funding is available.
4. Advertise your apprenticeship. Your training organisation will do this for you through the online Find an Apprenticeship service.
5. Select your apprentice and co-sign an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement with them.

Where can I find out more?
There are a number of online websites which can help.

Find an Apprentice
ESFA YouTube Channel
Technical Apprenticeship Consortium

Kimberly Murphy is Apprenticeship Manager for the Technical Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC). She has also recently been appointed an intermediary Apprenticeship Ambassador for the National Apprenticeship Service and Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Search the ACE website for more on #NAW2020.

Kimberly Murphy

Kimberly Murphy

Apprenticeship and Skills Manager

Manages the TAC programme and relationships with employers and training providers.