Apprentice Onboarding - underrated, overlooked but critical to success

11/24/20, 9:47 AM

Employing an apprentice can be an incredibly cost-effective way of building a team and introducing new talent to an organisation - as long as it’s done properly. This article explores the issues and how Boom is addressing them to ensure our clients get best value from the scheme.

Let’s face it, whilst many apprentices step up and do brilliantly in achieving their apprenticeship and become incredibly valued members of staff, drop-out rates can also be significant if things aren’t done well. And when you consider the cost in terms of time and effort invested in training an apprentice, especially during the first few months, the importance of getting a solid start becomes very apparent.

Here at Boom, we’ve done a lot of work over the last couple of years to analyse the reasons behind drop-out and come up with a strategy which we think is beginning to make a significant difference for employers. As regards the causes the key things we found were:

  1. A mismatch of expectation between the apprentice and the employer, by which we mean:
    • The candidate not having a grasp on the commitment required for full-time employment or of behaviour in the workplace
    • The employer underestimating the level of support an apprentice may need regarding employability and behaviour - especially in the first few months
  2. Insufficiently open and honest communication between the apprentice and the employer to enable concerns to be addressed before they become unresolvable
  3. Insufficient engagement between the tutor and the employer in planning and supporting the delivery of the training programme
  4. The transition from apprenticeship frameworks to apprenticeship standards. Apprenticeship standards have fewer ‘built-in’ achievement milestones as the whole programme is assessed through End Point Assessment. This makes it easier for apprentices to become disengaged as they cannot see their achievements so easily.

This last point has been addressed by redeveloping our Learning Plans to make these more granular and achievements more visible. However, we have also developed a scheme which we think makes a huge difference in addressing the first three. We call this our “Settling-in Period (SiP) procedures”. These work as follows:

As soon as an employer appoints an apprentice, we ask the employer to establish up to 10 key performance measures regarding the apprentice’s performance. These can be knowledge, skills or behaviours that are essential for the apprentice to meet in order for the employer to be confident the apprentice is the right fit for the role and will successfully achieve their apprenticeship. In practice, these are usually behaviours at this stage such as time-keeping, communication, teamwork and maintaining confidentiality although they can also include key skills such as answering the phone or operating a software package.

The next step is a meeting between the tutor, the apprentice and the line manager/mentor to explain, discuss and confirm agreement about the performance indicators so all parties have a clear understanding of the employer’s expectations. This meeting is also usually the ‘planning meeting’ where the outline Plan of Learning for the apprentice’s training programmes is discussed and agreed.

Following this meeting, the training programme begins in earnest with the tutor undertaking tutorials with the apprentice and setting assignments for him/her to complete. At the same time, the employer continues with the apprentice’s onboarding and on-the-job training in the workplace.

At eight weeks the tutor will schedule a review meeting for the employer, apprentice and tutor to meet and review the apprentice’s progress in meeting the performance indicators. This may result in further guidance, mentoring or in the worst case disciplinary action to address any issues.

A final meeting takes place at 12 weeks. This is incorporated into the first official Progress Review meeting between the tutor, apprentice and employer which is a contractual requirement of the funding scheme. The purpose of this discussion is to confirm the apprentice is meeting the performance measures set out at the beginning and that:

  • The employer is fully confident the apprentice will successfully complete their apprenticeship and make a meaningful contribution as an employee and that
  • The candidate is enjoying the role and equally confident they will still be enjoying it at the end of their apprenticeship

If there have been any concerns identified on the part of either employer or apprentice during the settling-in period, these should have been addressed and resolved by this stage. If not, there will be a meaningful discussion about the value in continuing.

It will be evident from this explanation that there is a significant time investment required on the part of the employer to participate in this process. We make no apology for this because we know with complete conviction that this investment will be rewarded in ways that have a real financial impact such as:

  • Mitigating the risk of losing staff who have cost time and effort to onboard and train
  • Mitigating against the cost of replacement staff recruitment
  • A better engaged and committed apprentice
  • A higher-performing apprentice

We would urge any employer considering employing an apprentice to give this issue serious consideration before proceeding with recruitment. If you plan to work with us, the process is already in place to help you through the onboarding phase. If you’re working with a different provider, it would be worth considering what procedures you might put in place, for example as part of a probationary period to ensure both you and your apprentice get the best possible start to the journey.

For more information about our apprenticeship training, please fill out the form on this page or email Phil Kimber for more information and advice.

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