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How to Hire an Apprentice

MIGAS Mechanical Fitter Apprentice Jessica

MIGAS Mechanical Fitter Apprentice in Western Queensland, Jessica.

Apprenticeship programs can be a great way to bring fresh energy and enthusiasm into your business.

They can also serve as a recruitment tool, giving you a steady flow of tradespeople as the company grows and expands. At the same time, apprentices gain valuable experience and skills they will use throughout their careers.

But how do you go about hiring an apprentice? Read on to learn more.

A Story About Finding an Apprentice

The year is 1980. Another One Bites the Dust by Queen is on the radio. And John is looking for an apprentice for his small carpentry business. John was getting older and could feel his energy levels and strength declining. He realised he needed an apprentice to assist him with his work.

John posted a job advertisement in the local classifieds. He read through them carefully, but one stood out to him. It was from a young man named Tom, who had just graduated from school. John was impressed by Tom and invited him in for an interview.

Tom arrived punctually. John knew then that Tom had the talent, drive, and passion for carpentry, so he offered Tom the job on the spot...and they all lived happily ever after.

We wish it was this simple - but if you're looking for apprentices in THIS decade, you'll likely encounter candidate scarcity. There's an industry-wide challenge in securing high-quality apprentices. Gone are the days when you could list a solitary newspaper ad and get handfuls of incredible applicants.

But this does provide you with a chance to stand out – offer a great working environment, good support, above award pay, a psychologically safe environment and you’ll be well on your way to attracting the cream of the crop!

How to Recruit Apprentices

So, how do you get a pro apprentice without the hassle?

Step 1: Identify Your Needs

The first step in hiring an apprentice is to identify your needs. Knowing what skills and qualities you need in an apprentice will help you write an effective job ad so the best candidates apply.

Negotiable aspects when hiring an apprentice: 

  • Strengths: What kind of skills are you looking for? What strengths are you looking for?
  • Experience: Do you want experience that shows a good work ethic? Will you look for sports or extra-curricular involvements that display leadership and dedication?
  • Attitude: Are you looking for someone who is a self-starter or happily follows guidance?
  • Age: What age is ideal for the role? Are you open to a mature age apprentice?

Non-negotiable aspects when hiring an apprentice:

  • Australian citizen or permanent resident: Is your potential apprentice an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or is eligible to work in this country? To complete an Australian Apprenticeship, this is an eligibility requirement from the Government.
  • Driving distance from site: Do they live within driving distance of your location? We recommend selecting a candidate up to 60 minutes from the site. Otherwise, it becomes a safety hazard and unsustainable, leading to a higher dropout rate.
  • Driver's licence: Speaking of driving distance, do they have a valid licence? You may not require this for the job. Still, it can increase the chances of an apprentice sticking around. Public transport at 5:30 in the morning? No, thank you.
  • Qualifications: Please note that applicants cannot have completed the apprenticeship they are applying for. We understand this may seem obvious, but some candidates overlook this vital requirement.

Step 2: Find the Right Candidate

Once you know what skills and qualities you are looking for and the non-negotiable requirements, it's time to start searching for the right candidate. You might like to contact local schools, TAFE, and job centres to find suitable candidates. You can also post job ads online (on SEEK) or share them through social media.

To successfully find a top-performing apprentice, you should consider:

  • Simple application process: Make your online application process easy for digital natives. Most young people applying for your job listing were toddlers (yep, you heard that right) when the iPhone became popular. They expect an industry-leading company like yours to have a simple, intuitive application process.
  • Engage TAFE/Schools: Cultivate a network of school and TAFE connections - you may discover students who are training without an employer or place to complete their practical experience.
  • Stand-out Job Ads: You may like to write compelling job ads and list them on sites like SEEK and Indeed to get applicants. You can also post the ads on your website to benefit twice from the potential organic search traffic, or you can simply manage the applications from within tools like SEEK and Indeed.

Be sure to include information about what type of experience or qualifications are required so that interested applicants have all the necessary information at their fingertips before applying. The more accurate your job listing is, the less work you'll have to do sifting through potential candidates.

If you already feel like a nap after reading steps 1 and 2, you're in luck. MIGAS (yep, whose site you landed on here) specialises in finding trade apprentices for businesses like yours. We find high-quality candidates - then you can hire them directly, or we hire them on your behalf. Chat with us about hiring an apprentice.

Step 3: Interview Prospective Candidates

After receiving applications, it's essential to evaluate the candidates in a structured way. By thoroughly assessing applicants up front, you will improve your retention rate. MIGAS (that's us) has a cancellation rate 78% lower than the national average, based on a 2021 report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, predominantly because of our thorough recruitment process.

You may like to consider aptitude testing, interviews and pre-employment medicals when recruiting an apprentice.

  • Aptitude Testing: Since aptitude testing gives employers a complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their workforce, it has become a more and more common tool in many businesses. Companies can identify areas needing development or improvement through aptitude testing and customised training programs. Hundreds of aptitude testing applications exist, but only a few service the trade industry. Suppose you're hiring for an engineering and automotive apprenticeship. In that case, we'd recommend finding one that lets you test mechanical reasoning, at a minimum. We use a thorough process for evaluating all of the apprenticeship types we offer, from electrical to construction and everything in between.
  • Interview: Make sure that each candidate receives an interview so that you can get a better sense of their personality, goals, and attitude. During the interview process, ask questions to help determine if this person is right for your business. Ensure that all candidates receive updates throughout the process and feedback, so they know where they stand regarding being hired.
  • Pre-Employment Medicals: In many workplaces, pre-employment medicals play a significant role in hiring. A pre-employment medical can give you health details about a potential apprentice, enabling you to make educated hiring decisions and ensuring that both they and your company are protected from any health risks that could arise on the job. However, it's surprising how frequently employers fail to take this crucial step.

Step 4: Onboard Your Apprentice

Once you have chosen your apprentice, it's time to onboard them properly so that they feel supported from day one in their new role. 

  • Position Description: Take some time to explain the position and job tasks.
  • Site Tour: Give them a tour of the workshop or site and introduce them to the other tradespeople and apprentices (if you have any).
  • Induction: They need to do a site induction to ensure WHS compliance. They'll need to know how to report a safety incident, a near miss, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Workwear Uniform: Set them up with workwear - shirt, boots, pants, and helmets (depending on the industry). You may purchase this for them (as part of the uniform), or maybe they'll buy it out of their own pocket.
  • Supervisor: Then, partner them up with a supervisor for daily tasks.
  • Mentoring: It's essential to provide feedback regularly so your apprentice knows how they perform and what areas need improvement. Finally, remember to celebrate successes together!

Hiring an apprentice can be a great way to bring new talent into your business while providing valuable learning experiences for both parties involved—the company gains vital insights from the apprentice while helping them grow professionally by training them with real-world experiences. 

By following these steps when recruiting an apprentice—identifying needs, finding the right candidate, interviewing prospective candidates, and onboarding—you'll be able to ensure that everyone involved gets off on the right foot!

If you've made it through this article and realise that onboarding an apprentice is quite a big job, then you're not alone. We've worked with hundreds of small and large companies all over Australia that needed a little help with the recruitment process.

We've got apprentice and trainee employment solutions to make life easier for you. You're busy - we can streamline the process for you. Contact our team today.


Published 21/03/2023

In the spirit of reconciliation, MIGAS Apprentices & Trainees acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.