By Annie Peate, Policy and Campaigns Officer, CIPD

The number of employers taking on apprentices continues to grow year on year - and it seems they’ve no intention of stopping just yet. The latest Learning to Work survey from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, found that half of employers now offer apprenticeships; an increase of 16 percentage points on 2013. And why would they want to stop?

Apprenticeship schemes bring numerous business benefits, not only as a way to bring in bright new talent, but also to grow and nurture the skills businesses need for the future. Apprenticeships can also bring additional positive impact to an existing workforce, such as increased retention and engagement.

However, while many employers recognise the benefits of employing apprentices, sometimes the practicalities of introducing them can be a stumbling block. Our top five tips will help overcome such hurdles and ensure you’re clued-up when it comes to taking that first step.

1. Achieving a ‘good match’ is key – Finding the right young person for your business is crucial. A good match will help ensure that your relationship with your apprentice will go the distance and the apprenticeship will reap benefits for both of you, which in the long term will save you time and money.

2. Adjust your expectations and practices to the skill and experience level of a young personCIPD research has shown that the differences in what the employer and apprentice expect from each other can jeopardise the success of an employment relationship. Adopting ‘youth-friendly’ recruitment practices, such as strength-based rather than competency-based interviewing, and adjusting your expectations of your new starter can therefore help foster a successful relationship.

3. Take ownership of the recruitment and training process - Engage with the entire process of recruiting your apprentice, even if you choose to use a training provider, in order to ensure you’re involved in choosing the right candidate for your business. This includes the design of the apprenticeship role with duties adequate to the skill level of a young person, formulating an attractive job advert and selecting the best candidate for the role. Also, it’s important to consider the fairness of the pay you are offering young recruits and provide travel expenses where possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will help attract a wider pool of talented young people to your apprenticeship vacancy.

4. It’s all about timing - Many young people are looking for vacancies just before or after they leave school - over the summer or early autumn - and other peak periods, such as February. However, there can be differences in the periods when vacancies become available compared with the increases in the volumes of applicants. Aligning your recruitment campaigns with these peak periods can help maximise your chances of finding the right candidate.

5. Reach out to young people proactively – Try attending employment fairs and using online platforms to advertise your apprenticeship opportunities, and consider ways of mentoring them on employability skills. By helping young people prepare for the working world, you’re investing in your workforce of tomorrow and maximising your chances of employing talented apprentices in the future!

A successful employment relationship with an apprentice can lead to significant gains for both learner and business, but getting the basics right and ensuring adequate planning and preparation has been carried out in advance is key. It’s also important that this good practice extends to the management of apprentices by ensuring line managers are included in the recruitment process, are supported as they begin their management and pastoral duties, and have the tools they need to develop and progress the young person as they grow with your business.

Try applying our five steps to your recruitment programme, and reap the rewards an apprentice can bring to your business.