How to…choose the right apprenticeship programme for YOUR business

The 10 key questions to ask any training provider

Once you’ve decided on the type of apprenticeship your business needs, you’ll need to choose a training provider to train your apprentice. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all approach, and apprenticeships now range up to degree or Masters-level programmes so it’s worth spending a bit of time finding the right fit.

Where to start?

Getting impartial advice is a really important first step. The National Apprenticeship Service can connect you with a list of relevant providers. They have a database you can search by keyword, role or postcode, and you can get in touch with someone there to ask for more guidance. 

There are also regional apprenticeship services such as the West of England Apprenticeship Service, the West Midlands Apprenticeship Service, and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. It’s worth finding out if your area has a local service as they can provide plenty of impartial advice about local providers, funding assistance and can help lay out the next steps. 

 It’s also worth asking your network for recommendations. Pop a quick post on LinkedIn asking for recommendations for apprenticeship programmes in accounting, digital marketing, business administration, customer service or whatever it is you’re looking to boost your capacity in.

Apprenticeship Masterclass

Types of training providers

Just like when you’re hiring someone for a building or renovation project, it’s important to talk to more than one apprenticeship provider. Though the cost will be the same, different providers will have very different approaches to the programme delivery. 

Providers tend to fall into one of three categories: local colleges, big providers who deliver multiple types of apprenticeships, and specialist providers who are focused on delivering a top-shelf programme in one area. 

These specialist providers often group together to save on red-tape and overheads so there’s more funding available for high-quality programme delivery. In the Southwest we have SWATPro, of which we are a member, which is an amalgamation of niche providers who are, in most cases, specialists in just one apprenticeship. You will potentially get a more bespoke, personal service from a niche provider than you would a bigger provider. If you’re looking to have multiple apprentices doing different programmes, you may prefer to deal with one training provider for all of them.

The 10 key questions

  • 1. Can I speak to some of the businesses you work with, or see some reviews?

  • 2. Can I speak to a current or past apprentice?

  • 3. Is there an opportunity to tailor the programme to my business needs?

  • 4. Who are the trainers that will be delivering the course? Check their CVs for their level of industry experience, and ideally, they should still be working in that sector.

  • 5. What training materials do you use? Is it bespoke or based on the City & Guilds course?

  • 6. What support will my apprentice have? How often will they speak with a real person?

    Apprentices may be the only person in their small business doing a specific role so it’s important the programme provides opportunities for them to bounce ideas of other people working in their field.

  • 7. Will other apprentices be doing the programme alongside them? We’re big advocates of peer-to-peer learning because working in a group tends to be much more effective than learning in isolation. 

  • 8. What success rate do you have for apprentices finishing the programme?

  • 9. How long does it take the apprentices to finish the programme? 

Most importantly, the training provider should ask YOU what success looks like for your business. Too often the training provider is just focused on delivery of the apprenticeship, but you’re doing the apprenticeship to achieve something for your business. You should work together to define what success will look like at the end of the programme, and have a clear structure of how you will report against those business goals as you go along.

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