Hiring an apprentice: A start-up guide

feature-apprentice-thumbApprentices are no longer exclusive to big businesses in traditional industries. On the contrary, an apprentice can be a valuable asset to any business, particularly if you’re a start-up.


“Apprentices in the start-up context bring a lot of things to the business,” says Ned Dwyer, whose business Tweaky.com recently launched a program dubbed the Founders Apprentice.


“They bring a lot of energy and a willingness to do a lot of varied roles.


“They’re looking for experience and learning across multiple disciplines, which, in a start-up environment, is critical with our limited resources.”


That’s not to say big companies no longer see the value in apprenticeships. Last month, Bakers Delight announced a plan to offer 1,000 apprenticeships in 2013.


“Apprentices help build depth to our existing talent pool of skilled technicians. They also bring fresh eyes and energy to the business,” group development manager Gabby Kelly says.


Meanwhile, small businesses in the building and construction industries have been encouraged to take advantage of the federal government’s Kickstart program.


This initiative, launched late last year, rewards employers with an additional $3,350 for taking on a new apprentice.


Offering an apprenticeship could be one of the most rewarding things you do, not only from a business perspective but from a personal perspective as well.


However, it’s important to ensure the apprentice you hire is the right one, so StartupSmart has outlined everything you need to know.


What should you be looking for in an apprentice?


When Dwyer announced he was looking for a founder’s apprentice, it didn’t take long for him to select Ivan Lim, founder of Vinspi and a graduate of the 2012 AngelCube program.


Dwyer says he has a very clear idea of what he wants in an apprentice.


“As a start-up, we’re looking for someone with great potential,” he says.


“The signs we’re looking for are someone with a clear idea of the direction they’re going in. For instance, they know that in a few years’ time they want to be running a start-up of their own or working as a web developer.


“They’ve also taken steps to get there on their own, including building up their professional networks, working on projects in their own time and… writing about their experience online.”


Kelly believes commitment and punctuality, in addition to a great attitude, are also important.


“Creative flair and manual dexterity can also be beneficial,” she says.


Why not just hire an intern?


“I’m personally not in favour of traditional internships,” Dwyer says.


“I think that it’s too easy to provide an intern with low-value work because there is no cost to the employer.


“An apprenticeship, however, puts some of the onus on the employer and creates a financial incentive for them to make the most out of the relationship.


“The simple fact of an apprentice taking a wage will ensure the individual is more attentive to the needs of the organisation.”


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