Chris Pendrey looks at how employers can train a health and safety apprentice to improve workplace productivity and boost staff morale.
Reading time: 4m 30s.
With UK businesses losing an estimated £4.8bn per year in lost productivity due to workplace injuries, employing a dedicated health and safety specialist is a wise investment. Last year, the Institute for Apprenticeships launched a new health and safety course, aimed at teaching the essentials for preventing workplace incidents.
Choosing a scheme
There are extra things to consider when hiring an apprentice. On top of their daily duties in the workplace, they’re expected to spend 20% of their time completing ‘off-the-job training’, which involves activities like shadowing a senior employee or studying theory.
This means employers must choose an authorised apprenticeship scheme and register with a proper training provider who can assess the candidate for the certification part of the course.
Keen to increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships in the UK, the government offers an apprenticeship tool which makes it easy to find a relevant scheme and then suggests training providers who can manage the assessment.
Defined from the start
An apprenticeship is a mutually beneficial relationship. Candidates get their foot in the door of a new career, and businesses get the opportunity to train a blank canvas in both industry and company best practice, with the possibility of offering them a full-time role in the future.
The best way to get the most out of the scheme for both parties is to draw out a clear plan for the full course of the apprenticeship. This way you ensure the candidate will be working towards their certification and you can plan their training around the company’s schedule so they’re always adding value.
The best way to get the most out of the scheme for both parties is to draw out a clear plan for the full course of the apprenticeship.
For example, health and safety apprenticeships teach key risk awareness and incident prevention skills, like how to conduct a workplace assessment and identifying dangerous working practices. These are skills which can be applied to any working environment and provide practical application of learned theory.
For businesses they also perform a critical role in keeping staff safe and making processes more efficient.
As the apprentice begins to take on more responsibility, it’s important to maintain clarity with expectations. Although they may enjoy more autonomy with daily tasks, it’s your duty to ensure they know why they’re performing each job and give them a view of what they’ll be learning in the coming months.
This also allows businesses to align company projects with apprentice progression, to make the most of their growing knowledge and skill set.
A hand in hiring
When businesses find the right candidate, it can not only plug a potential skills gap but can also boost morale, with a young apprentice bringing a fresh excitement to develop and learn.
So, what should employers be looking for? A successful health and safety apprentice will be a strong communicator – it’s a must for someone who needs to deliver vital safety messages and deliver documents like fire safety plans.
The right candidate will also be proactive and punctual, able to react to sudden risks efficiently to minimise danger to staff and damage to the workplace. The role requires a talented candidate and, with the government recently introducing the apprenticeship levy which provides funding for smaller businesses, the competition for the brightest individuals will only become stronger.
Employers looking to stand out from the crowd and attract the strongest talent will benefit from thorough planning. They should already have outlined where the apprentice fits into their business, plus what benefits they can offer the candidate, like dedicated one-to-one training.
This attention to detail will put employers in pole position to attract individuals looking to advance in a health and safety career. Nurturing their career will stand them in good stead to retain the apprentice as a full-time employee once they’ve completed the scheme.
Those who are ready to hire can begin by searching the government’s online tool which partners aspiring apprentices with companies offering a relevant role. There are plenty of other places to advertise the position too, including school leaver websites targeting those looking for an alternative to university.
Once you’ve found the perfect candidate it’s time to consider how you can facilitate their progression. Feedback is crucial with an apprentice, as they’ll have to demonstrate their knowledge at the end of the scheme. So, ensure you’re providing actionable advice and constructive feedback to help them learn.
As apprentices are required to spend a fifth of their time on off-the-job training, find out how you can maximise this opportunity for them. How do they prefer to learn? If they’re practical learners, use the time to teach them how to use new machinery, however, if they like independent learning consider giving them an afternoon off per week to study.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, too. Your apprentice is arguably the best placed to know where their learning should be targeted. Ask if there are any areas they feel they need more training and get general feedback about your scheme.
Strive to constantly improve your apprenticeship scheme, whether it’s the number of dedicated contact hours you provide or amount of training resources like theory books. This will help you attract and retain the best staff for your business.
About the author
Chris Pendrey is SHEQ Manager at Actavo Direct