SME Apprenticeship Recruitment

There are still many small businesses across England that are new to the world of apprenticeships. With the training 95% or 100% funded by the government, apprenticeship training offers SMEs a great opportunity to grow through introducing new talent, filling skills gaps and improving staff commitment and retention. In this article, we take you through the steps of how to find a training provider, choose an apprenticeship and recruit a new apprentice, including some best practice tips and advice.

Find a Training Provider

There are hundreds of training providers offering apprenticeship standards. Most specialise in particular industries or sectors, so the first step is to find out which providers offer apprenticeships in the general area you’re considering. For example, here at Damar Training, we focus on the business and professional sector. You will also need to make sure that they deliver in your geographical area.

If you’ve not used a training provider before, its important that you do some research to ensure that you are going to get the quality you need. You might want to:

  • Ask other employers which provider(s) they’ve used and what their experience was
  • Speak to local business or networking groups such as the Chamber of Commerce
  • Read the government website for their tips and advice
  • Look at the training provider’s website and social media, including LinkedIn
  • Read their Ofsted report and look at their success and satisfaction ratings
  • Ask for relevant references or case studies

Once you’ve made a shortlist or chosen your preferred provider, meet with them, online or in-person. A good training provider will want to get to know you and your business. They will ask questions about your business goals and how the apprentice can most effectively help you achieve them.

Choose an Apprenticeship

Your training provider will also want to know everything about the apprentice role itself. If you haven’t got an existing job description, we can share examples of similar roles and help you adapt these to suit the specific needs of your business. Once the role is agreed, we will discuss which apprenticeship standard is most suitable. We need to make sure that the standard is going to give the apprentice the knowledge, skills and behaviours that will be required in the role, taking into consideration the type and level of apprenticeship.

Find an Apprentice

There are various ways to find a suitable candidate for your role. Firstly, it may be that you already have someone within the business for the role, who you want to promote or upskill. There are no age restrictions on apprenticeship eligibility and, in most cases, it doesn’t matter what prior qualifications the individual has.  

Secondly, you may have already done some recruitment activity yourself, with candidates that you’ve already interviewed. Sometimes small businesses we work with also have apprenticeships to school leavers who they have had in the company for work experience placements.

Thirdly, your training provider can help you. Here are Damar Training, we regularly advertise roles on the Find an Apprenticeship website and other job boards such as Indeed and Get My First Job. We can screen applicants, matching any prior skills and experience they have to the job role and ensure that they are eligible for funding. We also assess their key skills in English, maths and IT. You then have the opportunity to peruse CVs and choose who you want to interview, before appointing the successful candidate.

Best Practice

Having worked with thousands of small businesses over the last 30 years, we have a good idea of how to make sure you get the right candidate and maximise the effectiveness of the apprenticeship training.

Make the role attractive: Look at what other companies are paying apprentices in similar roles and make sure that you are offering a competitive salary. We always recommend to our employers that they offer more than the minimum apprenticeship wage in order to attract high calibre candidates. But there are also many other benefits you can offer beyond the wage such as experience in a range of different teams and departments, additional qualifications, and progression opportunities.

Be realistic: The whole point of an apprenticeship is to help the individual develop into the role. Particularly for entry level positions, the people who are applying are not necessarily going to have a lot of experience or qualifications. Look for people who are committed, enthusiastic and genuinely  interested in the role, who have the potential to be an asset to your company for years to come.

Be invested: Apprenticeships work best when all parties – the training provider, apprentice and employer – are invested in the process. Make sure you have an appropriate supervisor who is going to be able to support and mentor the apprentice along their journey.

Consider your business objectives: Apprenticeships should not be seen as a means to cheap labour. Think about how the apprentice is going to bring value to your business and to other members of staff and about how your business can bring value to the apprentice.

Have a contract: An apprentice is a normal employee and must have a contract of employment. We encourage our employers to offer a permanent contract but this isn’t always viable. In any case, the contract of employment must cover the duration of the apprenticeship training.

Be prepared: Apprenticeships must include 20% off-the-job training and so you need to be prepared for the fact that there will be a proportion of the working week when the apprentice is unable to carry out their normal day-to-day activities. Planning in how the off-the-job element is going to work for the apprentice allows you to minimize any potential impact this has on the business.

Next Steps

Get in touch to find out how we can support your small business, just like we have with thousands of other SMEs across the country – call us on 0161 480 8171 or email us at You can also read more information on our Apprenticeships for SMEs, Employer FAQ and About Apprenticeship pages.