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In partnership with Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce


For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Hiring an apprentice

There are many advantages to hiring an apprentice - not least the fact that you can test out an employee for a small investment and help them develop into a valuable member of your team

However, many small firms are unsure about apprentices because of the time and money it costs and the red tape involved.

Should you hire an apprentice?

Apprentices are usually keen to learn and want to prove themselves. Because they know you are investing in them, they often reward employers with loyalty and enthusiasm. Small firms often find that new apprentices bring fresh ideas and can help keep a business up-to-date and relevant, especially when it comes to digital skills.

Hiring an apprentice is an affordable way of recruiting and can be the best way to fill a skills gap; you can ensure their training is tailor-made for your business needs.

Financially, employers benefit because they can pay a more affordable apprentice rate of minimum wage. Also, employers do not have to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions on earnings up to £967 per week (for 2021/22) for apprentices aged under 25 completing a statutory apprenticeship. It's a win-win for the apprentice too as they are getting paid while they learn.

Apprenticeship funding is available from the government. Eligible employers need to pay 5% of the costs of training and assessment and the government will pay the remaining 95% up to the funding band maximum. Find out if you could be eligible on the GOV.UK website.

Where do you start?

The Government provides information on apprenticeships. You can register your interest in employing an apprentice online or phone the National Apprenticeship Service on 0800 015 0600.

How do you find an apprentice?

Registered training organisations can help put you in touch with apprentices. You can also advertise an apprenticeship when you register as an employer.

How much do you pay apprentices?

The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £4.30 per hour from 1 April 2021 for apprentices aged under 19, or aged 19 or over but in the first year of their apprenticeship. All other apprentices should be paid the rate of NMW applicable to their age. To do this, you must draw up an apprenticeship agreement signed by both parties - otherwise you will not be able to pay the apprentice rate of pay and will have to pay the National Minimum Wage applicable to the apprentice's age.

What are the rules governing apprenticeships?

An apprentice must be over 16 and not in full-time education. Apprentices must study for a work-based qualification at a college or training provider - typically one day a week.

Apprentices usually work for at least 30 paid hours a week and must work for at least 16 hours a week. You must pay your apprentice for time spent training or studying for a relevant qualification, whether at work or college.

You must also offer apprentices the same conditions as other employees working in similar roles, including paid holidays, sick pay, and any other benefits or support you offer.

Apprenticeships take one to four years to complete depending on their level - they range from the equivalent of five GCSEs right up to degree-level.

What about tax and national insurance?

Apprentices are treated like employees for tax purposes. This means they have to pay income tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in the same way as other employees. However, employers of apprentices under the age of 25 have not been required to pay secondary Class 1 (employer) National Insurance contributions (NICs) on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit (UEL), for those employees since April 2016.

Is there any other red tape?

If you already employ staff then you will already comply with health and safety regulations and employment law.

How can I get the most out of an apprentice?

Make sure they have a mentor within your business, establish an in-house training plan and schedule regular reviews. Your apprentice must be taught job-specific skills. It's worth agreeing goals and performance indicators in advance.

You will need to ensure there's a term in your contract so that you can dismiss an apprentice for poor performance if necessary. However, in most situations you can't make an apprentice redundant.

Will I have to pay the apprenticeship levy?

The Government introduced an apprentice levy on large employers on 6 April 2017 to fund apprenticeships. The definition of "large" is a company with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million or is connected to other companies or charities for Employment Allowance which in total have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million.