As part of the 10th annual National Apprenticeship Week (March 6-10). Jill Whittaker looks at what pubs should consider when setting up a scheme.

Pubs are facing difficult times with reports of the number of establishments in town centres dwindling over recent years. Establishments enjoying buoyancy are those which have secured regular, loyal customers as well as attracting new footfall through the door – and a large part of this is around bringing excellent service to the fore.

This is where investing in staff through training programmes comes into its own. Training helps to keep skills current and to plug any potential gaps that may open up across your business. The emphasis needs to be on high-quality and relevant training, suitable for the needs of a business as well as the ability of the employee.

So what sort of training should you be offering? One of the most effective routes is to set up an apprenticeship programme with a trusted provider. Apprenticeships are an extremely effective way of training new staff and can also play an integral role in the training and education of existing staff within the publican sector – from school leavers to senior management.

 

HIT has developed a Chef Scholorship course for apprentices with St Austell brewery

 

From April, apprenticeships are undergoing a huge change in the way that they are administered and funded, with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. If you don't have a programme in place, now is the time to look at it in more detail as your business could benefit.

Essentially, the Levy applies to all businesses with an annual pay bill over £3million – each of which will automatically contribute 0.5 per cent of this into an online account that they can use to pay for apprenticeships.

An estimated 98 per cent of UK businesses fall below the £3million threshold and will not need to pay the Levy but they can still access funding, with up to 90 per cent (and in some cases 100 per cent) of costs being met by the Government.

Setting up a programme can be a little daunting, especially for smaller or independent pub operators or those that have never had an apprenticeship scheme in place. To help with this, we've put together a few tips to help you get started.

 

1. Know the basics

Apprenticeships take the format of on-the-job training and the apprentice will work with a mentor within your business to study role-specific skills. Typically, most businesses will partner with an external training provider who can create the apprenticeship programme for them. The training provider will set out the course structure, training required and also assess and quality assure the apprentices' development and prepare them for the end point assessment – acting as a support network for both the employer and the apprentice. Intermediate, advanced and higher-level training courses are available – with degree-level qualification coming in the near future – for all positions and ability levels.

 

2. Work out what you want to achieve

Before embarking on an apprenticeship scheme, it's imperative that you are aware of the benefits both to the apprentice and to your business. For example, do you want to plug a skills gap or train existing members of staff to move up the management structure?

 

3. Choose the right partner

Finding the right training partner to suit the individual needs of your business is fundamental to the success of your apprenticeship programme and there are a number of criteria to consider before making your final choice.

• Look at a training provider's completion rates for the sector and the subject that suits your business. Information can be found by searching all registered training providers on the government website 

• All training providers with government contracts are subject to regular Ofsted inspections, providing an independent opinion on the effectiveness of leadership and management within the training provider and the quality of their teaching, learning and assessment. These reports are available online at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted.

• It's imperative to make sure your training provider is financially secure to minimise the risk of the company going out of business part-way through an apprenticeship. All training providers go through an accreditation process to join the approved register of apprenticeship providers and this includes a financial check.

• If your business has outlets across the country, finding a training provider with the ability to deliver apprenticeships in each of these locations will help to deliver a consistent quality of training across your business."

For more information on apprenticeships in hospitality and the upcoming Apprenticeship Levy, please visit www.hittraining.co.uk or call 0800 093 5892.