It's no great wonder job seekers love apprenticeships.

After all, most students leave university with an estimated £50,800 in debt. For many young people, the ROI on a university education is shaky to say the least.

But employers are also starting to question the value of grades in the workplace. Companies like Google, Penguin Random House and IBM (to name a few) have dropped degree requirements for key positions, opting to train and develop their own talent through apprenticeships instead.

"Some very smart individuals choose not to go to university and we don’t want to miss out on this excellent talent pool,” says Katherine Bond, Student Recruitment Manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

When you’re looking to hire the right apprentice for your business, you need to be clear why you’re doing it. And, like any good recruitment process, it has to be a two-way street. Because a stellar apprenticeship isn't just about what an apprentice can offer you—it's also about what you can offer them.

So whatever you do, make sure you're not hiring an apprentice for any of the following reasons.

1. Because you want stuff done for free

For starters, apprentices are entitled to a minimum wage, which is £3.70 per hour. They also have 20 days holiday and paid time to attend training or study for a qualification relevant to their apprenticeship.

But that's the minimum. If you want to attract the best of the best apprentices, you need to provide a competitive package. For example, the starting salary for a Digital Technology Apprenticeship at Santander is £17,000 and a London-based BBC Production Apprentice can expect up to £18,800 per year.

At WhiteHat, we believe setting the right wages is crucial to make the apprenticeship a true win-win. That's why the average salary for our apprentices is £16,784.

2. Because you need someone to run your errands

If you limit your apprentices to performing menial tasks like photocopying or restocking toilet roll, you're wasting good talent.

According to a 2017 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, 61% of businesses reported a concern about the lack of skilled people entering the workforce. Done right, hiring apprentices can be a great way to help you plug the skills gaps in your business.

In fact, 86% of companies that employ apprentices said their apprenticeships had successfully developed important skills relevant to their organisations. So hire apprentices to do work that matters. After all, you can always make your own cuppa.

3. Because you’re short-staffed

Let's be clear: an apprentice is not a temp.

Apprenticeship schemes can vary from 12 months to 5 years (unless you work for global powerhouse Siemens, where apprenticeships last an impressive 26 years).

The real magic in an apprenticeship has nothing to do with filling short-term gaps. It's about skilling-up and mentoring bright, passionate and engaging talent to help take your business to the next level.

4. Because you need to tick the diversity box

If you approach apprenticeship recruitment as nothing more than tick-boxing exercise, you risk missing the entire point.

Apprenticeships have the power to increase diversity in the workplace which can reduce employee turnover rates and open up your organisation to new revenue-generating opportunities you never even knew were there.

And if you want to win with the burgeoning millennial workforce, it's an absolute must. Millennials are the most diverse generation and 90% of them say they research a company's culture before taking a job.

5. Because everyone else is doing it

It's great to look to others for inspiration, but a truly stellar apprenticeship scheme is something you can never copy/paste.

If you want the best apprentices, you need to provide them with a standout offer. Will they get a better salary with you? Improved learning and development programmes? More opportunities to connect with peers?

When you can confidently communicate your scheme's unique benefits, you'll be amazed at how your apprentices respond in kind. In fact, according to the National Apprenticeship Service, 74% of employers said apprentices improved product or service quality and 78% said they improved productivity.

6. Because it looks good on Instagram

With 67% of employers saying apprentices improved their image in the sector, the pressure to keep up with the joneses is real.

But if you focus too much on your external message and neglect your apprentices by not paying or training them properly, your scheme will be far from #instaworthy. Instead, focus on creating an apprenticeship programme that meets both your business's needs and your apprentices' needs—and then tweet about it.

At the end of the day, the process of hiring an apprentice should mirror the process of hiring a permanent employee. The best way to get the best apprentices, is to approach the hiring process like you’re investing not just in a person, but in a future leader who may one day hold the key to your organisation's success.

Ready to take the first steps? Contact sales@whitehat.org.uk for more information.