The pros and cons of apprenticeships for creative agencies

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    • 29th July 2019

    Creative apprenticeships are a great way for agencies to bring in new talent.

    However, they can have a significant impact on the way you work—for better or worse—and if you’re thinking of hiring an apprentice, there are several ways to add a fresh perspective to your workforce.

    In this article, we’ll help you work out if creative apprenticeships are right for you by examining the benefits (and the pitfalls) of pursuing them. We’ll also touch upon some of the other options, and show how we help creative agencies find the perfect candidates.

    What are creative apprenticeships?

    An apprenticeship is a program of both work and study, with the aim of gaining skills and knowledge in a specific job. Apprenticeships are open to both new and existing employees. In the creative sector design, graphic design and media apprenticeships are the most common choices, but there’s plenty of other ones to choose from.

    The government places some additional conditions on apprenticeships. An apprentice must work with experienced staff, learn job-specific skills, and study during the working week (at a college or training organisation, for example).

    apprentice doing a storyboard
    A new perspective in the office

    Pros of apprenticeships

    As you might expect creative apprenticeships come with many benefits, both to the people offering them and the people taking them.

    1. Today’s apprentice is tomorrow’s CEO

    Young people in apprenticeships have boundless potential, and apprenticeships give you the chance to mould them into a talented part of your business. They’re also an opportunity to create a bespoke workforce; you can shape an employee’s work habits as soon as possible, and align them with your company’s culture.

    Don’t buy into the bad press surrounding younger generations; what you’ll actually find are a band of highly motivated people, with a powerful career drive. And who knows? Some of them could be perfect management material a few years down the line.

    2. Dedicated funding is available

    Creative apprenticeships don’t have to leave you out of pocket! Any creative agency in England can apply for dedicated funding from the government. This funding can be used to cover the running costs of your apprenticeship.

    The amount of funding available depends on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy. You’ll pay this if your pay bill is more than £3 million per year. If you don’t pay the levy, you’ll pay 10% towards an apprentice’s training and assessment costs, with the government covering the rest. This payment goes directly to the training provider, once you’ve agreed a payment schedule with them.

    You can read about the different steps involved in hiring an apprentice on the government’s website.

    3. A guarantee of one year’s employment

    Every apprenticeship—regardless of trade—lasts a minimum of one year, and a maximum of four years. This means that by the end you’ll have a ready-to-learn employee who can take on more responsibility, with first-hand experience of your working environment.

    Apprenticeships will also get to know the wider industry, as well as your agency’s specific style of working. It’s here that your earlier training efforts will really come into their own.

    4. A two-way exchange

    Your colleagues can also benefit from having an apprentice around. Any apprentice in your business will need mentoring; this, in turn, is a great opportunity to give your team more responsibilities. You might also want to offer them a broader job role that’s in line with their existing development plans.

    You can flip this around and consider what an apprentice can teach your workforce. Adding a new perspective from a different generation can bring in fresh thinking, and shake up your status quo in the process.

    5. Contributes to the agency’s overall image

    In creative fields people judge you not just on what you do, but who you are and how you make people feel. Research plays a part in a client’s choice, of course, but that gut feeling and sense of trust is what closes the deal.

    A great way to improve your image is highlighting your support for the next generation. By taking on graphic designers or other creative apprentices, you’re demonstrating your dedication to both your team and your industry.


    Cons of apprenticeships

    Of course, creative apprenticeships aren’t completely smooth sailing; there are several things you must consider carefully beforehand.

    1. Overall time

    A company doesn’t just pay for an apprenticeship in money. Remember that an apprentice needs to work with experienced staff, and staff members must set time aside to plan regular tasks that enhance their learning.

    Eventually an apprentice will be able to take on key tasks by themselves (that’s a key goal, after all) but there’s a learning curve before that, which will take time to overcome. Make sure you and your colleagues are prepared to commit that time before you start the apprenticeship.

    apprentice learning from creative agency team member
    Learning doesn’t stand still

    2. Potential for disruption

    Apprentices will need to work with a dedicated team member throughout their apprenticeship. This team member will oversee their training, and also work with external institutions as needed. However, these new responsibilities will impact you and your team member in several ways.

    A team member missing from a meeting will reduce the number of ideas bouncing around. This, in turn, can change that meeting’s outcome. A larger consequence is other team members taking on more tasks, which could upset the team’s natural balance. Try to anticipate all the impacts of changing somebody’s work schedule—not just on them, but on everybody else.

    3. Required commitment

    Remember what we said earlier; creative apprenticeships are guaranteed to last for at least one year. It’s not something either party can dip into for a few months before changing their mind later. Weigh up whether the potential benefits of an apprenticeship is worth what you need to give up for it—whether this is time, funding or other resources.

    4. No guarantee for the long term

    Young apprentices are something of a double-edged sword. They’re coming into your business without too many preconceptions, so they can quickly learn the ins and outs of your business. But their thirst for knowledge may mean they want to take a wider view of the industry.

    Basically, this means there’s no guarantee an apprentice will stay with you once the apprenticeship is over. If you get a good fit between apprentice and business, you can look forward to good work during your time together. Beyond that, though, there are no guarantees.

    5. No guarantee of the right fit

    It’s important to remember that when you’re looking to hire an apprentice you’ll be working with an apprenticeship provider, rather than the apprentice themselves. You’ll also have committed to the apprenticeship before you’ve met the candidates. This means you can’t gauge whether someone is a good fit in your agency beforehand; in apprenticeships, as in a lot of things, there’s a hefty element of chance.


    With the right person—and partnership—creative apprenticeships put rocket boots under an agency. They send powerful signals to your clients and give you a brand new perspective on your work. But they’re not to be taken lightly—you’ll need to make a number of significant commitments, and you won’t always get a good return on your investment.

    If you like the idea of creative apprenticeships, but not the commitment, there are other options you can think about. Consider more short-term options such as internships or paid graduate schemes; these are a great way to scout for young talent, without worrying about long, costly commitments in the process.

    We at Gloss are proud to share our knowledge of the creative recruitment sector. Since our launch in 2006, we’ve developed a deep understanding of what creative agencies need to thrive. We also have a knack for matching a candidate’s creative ambitions with the culture of a specific agency.

    creative agency break room
    Your dynamic team

    We work to build a close professional relationship with each of our clients, listening to their requirements and advising them on the best course of action. We’ll find the perfect match between client and candidate to ensure long-term success, and we’re so sure of our abilities we guarantee all permanent placements.

    Visit our Clients page to learn more about our recruitment process. If you’re ready to send us a vacancy now, you can do so by submitting a vacancy on our dedicated page. It’s easy, fast, and comes with a commitment to finding you the best possible candidate. If you’d like to revitalise your team with some fresh talent, or discuss your creative recruitment plans, you can give us a call on 0870 3219788.