Taking on an apprentice? Here’s what to consider first

So you want to grow your team, but you’re unsure whether bringing in an apprentice is the way to go? Let’s go over the pros and cons before taking the plunge, writes Kellie Byrnes.

As a tradie, it’s common to get to the point where you can’t take on any more work or grow your business without first hiring some staff to help you.

While it’s appealing to bring in someone who’s already experienced, and this may be the right route for you, it’s also worth considering hiring an apprentice.

Yet, training up someone new has its own challenges, so there are numerous pros and cons to weigh up before you make your decision.

Here’s what you need to know today to help you work out what’s right for your tradie business.


Pros


There are many benefits to be enjoyed from hiring an apprentice.

One of the biggest that convinces many established tradies to go down this path is the fact that apprentices are less costly to employ than standard workers.

Since they lack experience, apprentices work for lower wages.

This means you can have an extra pair of hands around without the stress of needing to find the resources for a typical annual salary.

Plus, once you have an apprentice on board, you have someone there to delegate tasks to, particularly those junior, menial jobs you don’t like to do and that aren’t the best use of your time anymore.

Another benefit is that apprentices are often much more enthusiastic about the industry and the work than people who have been doing it for a while.

Apprentices might be new and green, but they also usually won’t be jaded, bored, or have a bunch of bad habits you need to train out of them.

Hiring an apprentice also gives you access to new ideas.

Young staff members see things with fresh, unclouded eyes, which means they can come up with interesting new ways of doing things.

They might also spot problems and come up with solutions you’d have otherwise missed.

Keep in mind, too, that personal rewards come with hiring an apprentice.

When you train someone up, you get to see them learning and growing, and gaining experience in the field they’re interested in.

This feels good, and can also remind you of why you got into the industry yourself in the first place.


Cons


Of course, there are some potential downsides to consider, too.

For example, when you hire an experienced employee, they can hit the ground running.

They should be able to straight away handle any jobs you ask them to do, and you can leave them unsupervised to complete these tasks.

The same cannot be said of apprentices. Junior workers need supervision at all times.

You’ll need to commit significant time to training, even in the simplest things at first.

This training continues for the duration of the apprenticeship, too.

Plus, note that you have to give your apprentices time off from work so they can complete their studies.

This adds up to many weeks all up, which not only may be an issue scheduling-wise but may also cost you more if you need to hire other workers to help you out during these periods.

Also, you still have to pay apprentices a wage during the time off they must take to study.

Another factor to weigh up is that once you’ve invested your time into training an apprentice, they’re not guaranteed to stay working for you.

They could complete their training and then move away or go work for someone else.

This is a risk, but in reality, many apprentices are grateful for the opportunity given to them by tradespeople and are happy to stay working for them for at least a few years.

One other thing to consider, too, is that once you’ve committed to hiring an apprentice, you must keep them on for a minimum period. Therefore, be sure about your decision before you start the process.


Tips for choosing an apprentice


If you decide to bring on an apprentice, it’s vital to choose the right person.

Always conduct interviews with potential candidates for the role, so you get a feel for who they are.

People who do or don’t portray themselves well on paper may come across very differently in person.

Ask a lot of questions, and search for someone who seems to have a clear direction about where they would like to go in their career.

Be on the lookout for a person who has shown to take the initiative and be a hard worker in the past, too.

Plus, you want someone who seems practical, fit, and healthy, as well as a logical problem solver who won’t throw their hands up at the first sign of a challenge.

Choose an apprentice who communicates well, too, as this will help to make the working relationship easier, more productive, and more comfortable.

Furthermore, select an apprentice who seems likely to follow instructions and work safely. You don’t want them putting themselves, you, or anyone else in the team at risk.

Hiring an apprentice may be daunting right now, but if you take the necessary steps to plan out your business needs and select the right person, the outcomes should be worth the effort.

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