When does an apprentice become a productive team member?

When you’re hiring for entry levels roles, whether that’s apprentices, graduates or those making a career change, it’s natural for the first few weeks and months to be a steep learning curve. As part of your investment, you’ll need to plan your capacity to allow new hires to adjust and get up to speed.

In our experience, the first 3 months of an apprenticeship is almost all learning. By month 6, we’d expect the apprentice to be a contributing member of the team at around 80% capacity – leaving 20% of their contracted hours for off-the-job training. Having said that, just because the first 3-6 months are predominantly learning, that doesn’t make it a total write off. Below are some practical things you can do to ensure your apprentice is adding value in their first few weeks.

Identify entry points

Have some tasks ready that your apprentice can get stuck into. Anything with a clear framework that is fairly self-explanatory works well. Even if the same task would take you half the time, spending half an hour explaining something instead of 2 hours doing it frees up your time to work on other things.

Some good examples of tasks to get your apprentice started on are:

  • Requirements gathering
  • Software testing
  • Keyword research
  • Copywriting

Train as a whole team

Get into the habit of training as a whole team, with individuals leading on their own specialisms. This encourages a growth mindset, based on the idea that everyone is constantly learning. It also means team members can train each other, taking the onus off you to deliver 1:1 training for your apprentice.

Get them involved

The best way to learn is by doing. The second best way to learn is by observing. Get your apprentice involved in conversations, invite them to sit in on meetings, BCC them in emails. Even if they’re not actively participating, being in the room goes a long way. If you’re in a larger organisation, sending your apprentice to shadow another department for the day can be a great way to broaden their knowledge.

See it as an investment

Growing your own talent is a long-term investment, but it comes with big benefits. Scientific research has shown it’s easier to learn new behaviours than it is to unlearn old ones. This gives you the opportunity to shape new recruits to the needs of your organisation without competing with years of preconceptions.