Insights for Organisations Apprenticeship

How to manage your apprentices & support their success

Apprenticeship Team
05.01.24

Embarking on an apprenticeship journey is a transformative experience for both individuals and organisations. As businesses increasingly recognise the value of apprenticeships, the role of a manager in shaping this experience becomes paramount. We delve into the intricacies of managing apprentices and fostering an environment that nurtures their success. From understanding the distinctive qualities of a good apprentice manager to navigating the dynamics between managing young and experienced apprentices, we explore strategies that go beyond traditional approaches, including effective onboarding, goal setting, and mental health support. Read on to find out our top advice on how to manage apprentices and support their success…

What’s in this article?

Executive summary

If you’re looking to hire an apprentice, there’s a lot you need to know beforehand to ensure you are providing them with the appropriate support and management. From appointing the right manager and mentors to tailoring management styles for each individual, organisations must take the right steps to supporting apprentices’ success. At the same time, they must get the onboarding process nailed down, taking into account pre-onboarding preparation, the first critical weeks, and ongoing support. Additionally, goal setting, progress tracking, and mental health support, can all help apprentices prosper in your organisation.

What qualities make a good manager for apprentices?

Effectively managing apprentices requires a unique set of qualities that blend leadership, mentorship, and a commitment to fostering professional growth. Some of the most important qualities for a manager to an apprentice  include the following:

How to manage young apprentices vs more experienced apprentices

Unlike common misconception, not all apprentices are young, school-leavers. An apprentice can be any age! So, in cultivating a workforce that spans a spectrum of experience levels, navigating the nuances of managing both young and experienced apprentices requires a thoughtful and adaptable approach. The distinct needs of these two groups necessitate tailored strategies that acknowledge their unique perspectives and stages of professional development.

Navigating the early stages of a career can be a formidable challenge for young apprentices. Clear communication is crucial, providing explicit instructions and expectations to facilitate a foundational understanding of tasks and goals. Implementing structured training programmes offers these apprentices a supportive learning environment, helping them grasp essential concepts as they find their footing in the professional realm.

On the other hand, managing experienced apprentices involves recognising and leveraging their existing skills. These individuals often bring a wealth of industry insights and expertise. Acknowledging their capabilities and providing opportunities for challenging tasks and autonomy keeps them engaged and invested in their professional journey. Open dialogues about career goals provide an avenue for understanding the aspirations of experienced apprentices.

That being said, overall, recognising the uniqueness of each apprentice, regardless of experience, fosters an inclusive and supportive environment. Each and every person is different and you should tailor your management and support to reflect this.

How to onboard an apprentice

Onboarding an apprentice is a critical process that sets the tone for their entire experience within the organisation. A well-structured onboarding programme not only helps apprentices acclimate to their new roles but also contributes to their long-term success. Let’s take a closer look at the onboarding process for apprentices…

1. Pre-onboarding preparation

  1. Send apprentices a welcome package – prepare a welcome package that includes all essential documents, company policies, an overview of your organisation’s culture and values, and a team hierarchy breakdown so they can get to understand team dynamics ahead of time.
  2. Assign a mentor – assign a mentor to your apprentice before they begin so there is someone available to lend a hand from the moment they arrive – it’s always nice to see a familiar face on your first day! You can also give the apprentice the contract details of their mentor so they can get in touch with any specific questions they may have beforehand.
  3. Set up their workspace – ensure that the apprentice’s workspace is ready before their first day, including providing necessary equipment, access to software, and any tools they may need. Having a dedicated workspace from day-one can help them settle in better.

2. First day

  1. Team introductions – arrange a team introduction, allowing the apprentice to meet their colleagues. This can be a casual meet-and-greet session or a welcome email introducing them to the team.
  2. Company overview – provide a comprehensive overview of the company, including its history, mission, and organisational structure. This provides context for the apprentice’s role within the larger picture.
  3. IT and security briefing – conduct an IT and security briefing to ensure the apprentice understands technology usage, security protocols, and how to navigate the company’s network. This is especially important if they will be carrying out any work from home, as remote working poses increased cyber risks.

3. First weeks

  1. Provide role-specific training – you should initiate role-specific training sessions from the first week, covering technical aspects of the role or how to use key software. Depending on their role, this could take a few weeks.
  2. Set up shadowing sessions – arrange shadowing opportunities for the apprentice to observe experienced employees in action. This provides practical insights into their role and the organisation’s workflow.
  3. Outline performance expectations – clearly communicate performance expectations and goals for the apprenticeship period. Discuss how their progress will be assessed and provide feedback mechanisms.

4. Ongoing support

  1. Continuous learning opportunities – highlight continuous learning opportunities available to the apprentice. This can include workshops, training sessions, or access to online courses that align with their career development. The more you invest in the development of your apprentice, the more value they will bring to your organisation.
  2. Regular check-ins and feedback – schedule regular check-ins and establish a feedback loop where both the apprentice and their mentor provide regular feedback to address any challenges and ensure ongoing improvement.
  3. Networking opportunities – encourage participation in networking opportunities within the organisation. This could involve attending team events, social gatherings, or industry-related functions.
  4. Celebrating milestones – celebrate milestones in the apprentice’s journey. Acknowledge achievements, both big and small, to boost morale and motivation.

Apprentice employment rights

In the UK, apprentices are afforded specific employment rights to ensure fair treatment and protection in the workplace. It is imperative that leadership and managers familiarise themselves with these rights to ensure apprentices receive the appropriate treatment and are aware of their rights, and your organisation does not violate employment laws. Factors to consider include:

We recommend seeking guidance from relevant UK employment authorities or legal professionals who can provide further clarity on specific rights and obligations, as well as how this differs for flexi-job apprenticeships.

8 Top tips to manage and support apprentices

  1. Get the induction phase right
  2. Set up mentorship programmes
  3. Goal setting and progress tracking
  4. Make study time easy for them
  5. Manage team expectations
  6. Look after their mental health
  7. Find the balance between giving autonomy and support
  8. Make new-comers feel part of the team

1. Get the induction phase right

You want your apprentice’s onboarding to go as smoothly as possible, so make sure to get this process down to a tee. And remember, there will be many aspects of your day-to-day working life that come as second nature to you, but an apprentice may not know how to do, such as book a meeting room or use the coffee machine! Make sure that the induction phase covers all bases, encompassing both professional and non-professional aspects of work life.

2. Set up mentorship programmes

Establishing mentorship programmes for apprentices is a strategic initiative that can significantly enhance their professional development and integration into the workforce. It’s important to identify experienced and knowledgeable employees within the organisation who can serve as mentors. Look for individuals with a track record of success, effective communication skills, and a genuine interest in supporting the growth of others. Consider providing training sessions for mentors. Equip them with the necessary skills to guide, coach, and effectively communicate with apprentices.

3. Goal setting and progress tracking

Establish clear and measurable goals for apprentices. Although important for all team members, you should collaboratively set objectives that align with their learning and career development. Regularly track and review their progress, providing constructive feedback. This not only keeps apprentices motivated but also ensures they are on the right path towards achieving their apprenticeship objectives.

4. Make study time easy for them

Recognise that apprentices may have study commitments alongside their work. Create a supportive environment that accommodates their study needs. Allow flexible schedules when possible, provide access to necessary resources, and encourage a culture that values continuous learning.

5. Manage team expectations

Communicate with the broader team about the role of apprentices and what they bring to the organisation. Managing expectations ensures that the team understands the learning curve of apprentices and encourages a supportive atmosphere. This transparency helps integrate apprentices seamlessly into the team.

6. Look after their mental health

Apprenticeships can be demanding, and balancing work and study may be challenging, as well as other external factors coming into play. Encourage open conversations, provide resources for mental wellbeing, and create a supportive culture that prioritises mental health. Consider offering employee resource groups (ERGs) for additional support or employing Mental Health First Aiders.

7. Find the balance between giving autonomy and support

Strike a balance between allowing apprentices to take initiative and providing the necessary support. Offering autonomy fosters independence and confidence, while providing support ensures they have the guidance they need. Assess their readiness for increased responsibility and adjust accordingly. In many cases, apprentices have a lot to teach your organisation, providing a unique perspective and creative ideas,

8. Make new-comers feel part of the team

Integrate apprentices into the workplace culture. Encourage team bonding activities, involve them in team meetings, and celebrate team achievements together. Creating a sense of belonging contributes to their overall job satisfaction and motivates them to actively participate in the team’s success. A good starting point is to introduce a buddy system. Unlike a mentor, a buddy is a friendly face, or even a friend, they can rely on throughout the day, giving them someone to have lunch with, talk to on break, and feel included.

Hiring an FDM apprentice

The FDM Apprenticeship Programme helps aspiring tech talent start their career, combining expert training and on-site experience. We partner with organisations from across sectors, providing them with top apprentices who have undergone this extensive training, while also taking care of any additional learning and development and wellbeing support. We are also named on the government’s flexi-job apprentice agency register, which means our clients can make the most of short-term apprenticeship contracts too. Get in touch with us to learn more.