Supporting your apprentices

Employers play a major role at every stage of an apprenticeship. Employers, especially the line manager, should be involved in developing the curriculum for the bespoke and individualised programme, supporting delivery and providing guidance and on the job training.

As employers are responsible for determining whether their apprentice is ready to proceed to gateway and begin their end point assessment, active involvement in their apprentice’s development is vital.

The following outlines the role of the employer during the apprenticeship and provides guidance for managing, supporting and reviewing apprentice performance.

Traits of a great apprentice manager

  • Involve – involve your apprentices in the work of the team
  • Empower – enable your apprentices to learn by doing and to take ownership of tasks
  • Feedback – recognise their capabilities and provide feedback, discuss areas for improvement to enable them to continuously develop
  • Listen – permit your apprentices the time and space to voice their views and concerns
  • Role model – act and demonstrate great behaviours, skills and knowledge to your apprentices
  • Support – provide support and encouragement but also know how and where to make referrals (if required) for additional support
  • Time – ensure you provide time for apprentices to learn. An apprenticeship is the first step into the workplace for some. Whilst they are employed to do a job, it’s important to remember that they’re also learning how to do the job.
  • Development – provide access to development opportunities where possible and practical

Key activities of a manager

  • Introduce the apprentice to the workplace including facilities, health and safety, location of the canteen, fire drills, workplace attire, behaviours, use of mobile phones etc.
  • Take the apprentice through company policies and procedures.
  • Introduce the apprentice to colleagues and help them understand everyone else’s role.
  • Arrange 1:1 time between apprentices and key personnel so they can better understand where and how their role fits within the wider organisation. This includes meetings and progress reviews with the training provider.
  • Put in place a buddy or mentor.
  • Develop clear objectives for the apprentice, just as for any other member of staff and make sure they cover the knowledge skills and behaviours of the standard.

Workplace mentor

An apprentice should have an identified work ‘buddy’ who can offer support. This will be more about their holistic development (e.g. settling in, questions and concerns with their role and / or career) and not just their performance. The ‘buddy’ can help them by signposting them to sources of information or additional specialist support.

The mentor’s role is to act as a guide by listening, supporting and encouraging the apprentice to manage their own learning. They should encourage the apprentice to develop their skills and maximise their potential to move forward in their career.

The mentor should be an experienced member of staff (or a more experienced apprentice) and ideally not in the line management chain for the apprentice. We recommend that the mentor tries to find at least 30 minutes each week to check in with the apprentice and liaise with the apprentice’s line manager. It’s also important for the buddy/mentor and line manager to have regular and open communication with each other.

Managing apprentice performance

Managing an apprentice’s performance is a continuous process. It involves making sure that their performance contributes to the goals of their teams, the organisation as a whole, as well as the apprenticeship standard they’re working towards.

Good performance management helps an apprentice know:

  • what the business is trying to achieve
  • their role in helping the business achieve its goals
  • the skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their role
  • the standards of performance required
  • how they can develop their performance and contribute to the development of the organisation
  • how they are doing l when there are performance problems and what to do about them
  • when they are ready for end-point assessment

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