We understand that as an SME, you may be facing some additional challenges currently due to the devastating impact of COVID-19. We appreciate that hiring may not be at the top of your list because of the associated costs, but this is where apprenticeships could be the perfect opportunity to cost-effectively grow your business even in the current climate.

Being an SME, we understand that you may feel at a disadvantage when looking to employ an apprentice in comparison to larger companies. We want to reassure you that apprenticeships can work just as well within a smaller business.


If your business has an annual wage bill of less than £3million, you will not pay the Apprenticeship Levy. As an alternative, SME’s co-fund their apprenticeships with the government. The SME pays 5% towards training costs with the government paying the other 95%. This means employing an apprentice is a viable option for smaller businesses due to the significant reduction in training costs subsidised by the government.

Furthermore, on top of the existing scheme providing £1,000 to every employer who recruits a new apprentice aged between 16-18, the government have recently introduced additional payments for those who hire a new apprentice between 1st August 2020 and 31st January 2021. This is an attempt to incentivise apprenticeship recruitment and help get young people into employment following the devastating impact of COVID-19. Payments currently stand at £2,000 for every new apprentice recruited aged under 25 and £1,500 for those aged 25 or over.


Being an SME, we appreciate you may be concerned about how you will be able to mentor an apprentice effectively when there are already a limited number of employees within the business. However, as the apprentice will be performing a specific role within the business, it will not differ too much from employing a regular, new employee.

Alongside this, the apprentice will be undergoing off-the-job training tailored to the specific skills and knowledge needed within your business. Delivered by an external training provider, the apprentice will be learning outside of the workplace, equipping them with new expertise to put into practice each week.

Finding a training provider

The thought of finding a training provider as an SME may be a daunting prospect, however the government have set up a great tool to assist with finding training providers in your area.

When selecting a training provider, it is important to consider:

  • Do they have a good reputation?
  • Do they have a good level of experience within your businesses sector?
  • How well do they communicate with you?
  • Does their style of teaching align with your business culture and values?

It is crucial to select a training provider with a good success rate, a good level of employer and learning satisfaction, and the ability to provide knowledge and skills tailored to your business. Ultimately, you need someone you can build a good relationship with to effectively track and monitor the apprentice’s progression together.


Being an SME it is likely you will already have several relationships with other organisations and institutions within your local community. Reaching out to schools and colleges to engage with students would be a great way to attract potential apprentices to your business.

Currently, it is reported there is limited guidance for individuals who are considering an apprenticeship. This means that alongside being able to recruit, you will also be contributing to raising awareness of apprenticeships and the benefits they can provide for young people.

If you would like to find out more about employing an apprentice, visit our dedicated guide.