As I meet clients, the possibility of taking on an apprenticeship seems to pop up on a fairly regular basis.

To go from no business to some business must be one of the most daunting challenges in business (ie start up) but following that I would say that going from a business that supports you the owner to one that supports you and someone else must be fairly high up the list in terms of difficulty.  For a sole trader busy delivering their service to a high standard and managing the other aspects of the business, there is a considerable leap to make in order to grow the business to support a second worker.  Not only is there the problem of maintaining enough work to support two people suddenly a whole host of issues are arrive on the business owner’s lap that they have never had to deal with before.  Employment law, health and safety, managing people and tax spring to mind. On the other hand, it can be incredibly frustrating and stiffling to ignore the possibility of growth and stay at that level of having just one person involved in the business.

With this in mind the attractions of the apprenticeship scheme is obvious.  It solves two problems neatly.  Firstly the amount you pay is clearly considerably less than a fully skilled worker.  It allows you to move more gradually to a position where the business supports two people.  Secondly there is a huge attraction in training someone up to run the business in a way that meets your standards and has your values.  The alternative can be getting someone on board who thinks they know the business but resists your perspective and your ways of doing things.  Once on board, sacking people can difficult and emotionally draining, whilst the apprenticeship has a limited period and can be more easily written off as a failed experiment.

Having taken on an apprentice in  previous company I ran, I know that the right person can be an enormous resource.  There are procedures and policies that need to be in place before you can take one into the business and the problems of management do not disappear.  Making the shift from sole operator to manager is a psychological and logistical leap to make.  I would argue that from a business point of view it is a leap that brings huge rewards but I understand it is not for everyone.

I will therefore be attending the upcoming South London Apprenticeships Fair on Tuesday 25th Oct in Camberwell.  I need to remind myself of the specifics of what a business needs to put in place to bring on an apprentice.  I will blog again next week with my findings.