A Heating Engineer’s Guide to Taking on an Apprentice

With a large number of heating engineers expected to retire in the next 10 years, there’s never been a better time to take on an apprentice. An apprenticeship is the perfect way for a person to make their first steps in the heating industry. And as an employer, you’d be the one teaching them the trade.

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is someone above the age of 16 who wants to learn a trade. The apprentice will develop the practical skills by working at your company while also studying at an education centre. At the end of their apprenticeship, they will earn a formal qualification. The apprentice can either be a new starter or somebody already working within the company.

How to hire an apprentice

As an employer, when it comes to hiring an apprentice, you have a couple of options. THe first option is to take full responsibility for hiring an apprentice and arranging all of their training.

  • Find an apprenticeship framework or standard that’s appropriate for your industry and of a suitable level
  • Choose an organisation that provides training to match the selected apprenticeship
  • Research the available funding
  • Begin your search for an apprentice by advertising the role
  • Hire the apprentice and make the apprenticeship official with an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement

If you’d prefer, you can enlist the help of an approved apprenticeship training agency (ATA). An ATA will take care of everything from employing an apprentice to arranging their training. A list of approved apprenticeship training agencies can be found on gov.uk.

Apprenticeship funding

Apprentices must be paid at least the minimum wage. To help with the costs involved, government funding is available. Depending on the size of your company, the level of funding differs.

For employers with fewer than 50 employees, government funding up to the maximum is available if the apprentice is aged:

  • 16-18 years old
  • 19-24 years old and their local authority has provided an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan

If you meet this criteria, you will also receive £1,000 paid out in 2 £500 installments.

Employers with 50 employers or more are able to split the costs of hiring an apprentice with the government. As the employer, you will pay 5% of the training and assessment costs while the government will cover the other 95%.

If the training and assessment costs more than the funding band maximum then you will have to pay the difference.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

Typically, an apprenticeship will last between 1 and 2 years. However, the length of an apprenticeship can vary depending on the apprentices skill level and the needs of the employer. In some cases, apprenticeships can last as long as 4 to 5 years.

Why now is a good time to hire an apprentice

A shrinking workforce is a threat that could soon be facing the heating industry. A large number of heating engineers are expected to retire within the next 10 years. With data from the Gas Safe Register, published in 2017, revealing that heating engineers over 65 make up 10% of the industry. A further 29% of heating engineers were aged 55 to 64 and those in the 45 to 54 bracket make up 38% of the industry.

With the average retirement age of a heating engineer sitting at 55, an ageing workforce could soon lead to a much smaller workforce.

Taking on an apprentice could help to strengthen your workforce for many years to come. Particularly if many of your employees are approaching retirement age.

Benefits of hiring an apprentice

Bringing an apprentice into your business could prove very beneficial for a number of reasons.

Staff trained in-house

By training up your staff in house, you will have an employee who you know has all the necessary skills.

When hiring a new member of staff, you need to know that they have all the necessary skills and qualifications. By hiring an apprentice and training them yourself, you know that they have all the skills to be a competent and reliable employee for years to come.

Increase staff loyalty

Hiring an apprentice and supporting them through the first years of their career is valuable.

The value of hiring an apprentice can’t be understated with the National Apprenticeship Service finding that:

  • By hiring an apprentice, 92% of companies now have employees who are more motivated as a result
  • Employee retention has increased for 80% of businesses

Give current staff more time to focus on key parts of the job

Having an apprentice by your side allows you to allocate work and free up your time. This frees up time for you to concentrate on the more time consuming areas of work. By being able to allocate work

Inspire existing staff

Apprentices are eager to learn and take their first steps towards a long career in the industry. Seeing a new starter with such passion can soon spread to existing employees giving you a workforce that’s more motivated than ever before.

Earn a bigger reputation in the local community

Hiring an apprentice is an investment in their future and the local community. As a business that takes on apprentices, you’re taking on some social responsibility which could help to earn you future customers.

Benefits to the apprentice

As well as benefits to your business there are of course many benefits to the apprentice themselves.

Take the first steps in their desired career

An apprentice is looking for their first role in a career they want to pursue.

Earn as they learn

An apprenticeship gives someone the opportunity to earn money while they learn. It’s possible for apprentices to earn around £400 a month which is great motivation.

Develop essential skills

Where better to learn and develop the skills needed by an employer than on the job? By alongside experienced professionals, the apprentice will quickly possess the necessary skills.

Free training

An apprentice doesn’t have to pay any fees as it’s all covered by the government and the employer.

Possibility of a full-time job

Working within a company for a number of years as part of an apprenticeship can lead to a full-time job at its conclusion.

Interested in taking on an apprentice?

Getting started with hiring an apprentice can seem a bit daunting. Fortunately, there are many organisations out there to help.

One of the most popular work-based learning providers is JTL. JTL is a not-for-profit charity that offers apprenticeships in the following areas:

  • Electrical installation
  • Engineering maintenance
  • Mechanical engineering services including plumbing, heating and ventilating

They’ve connected around 7,000 apprentices with 3,500 employers across 10 regions in England and Wales. They’re currently training more apprentices in the building services sector than any other provider. This makes JTL a great place to start when looking to hire an apprentice.

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