How to get an apprentice or intern to help boost your business

I was chatting to an old client yesterday. He was complaining that many of his competitors can undercut his prices because they rely on unpaid interns and placements. Ironically, this limits how much he can pay his staff, because he is committed to paying them all at least £10 per hour, even when they’re just training.

Why not get an intern?

In fact, I said, “Why not get a free intern? They get paid by the nice people at the government, you get some additional hands on deck, and then if they’re any good you can offer them a proper job at the end of it.”

He got very excited about all of this and wanted the details, which I’m going to share with you now, as you might also want to get a free or subsidised intern or apprentice. They might be your first member of staff, or you might have a bunch of people working for you already, but you want a few more. Or you might be thinking of training up some new people, but don’t want the expense of paying them lots of money while they’re learning. Some of these links are specific to Brighton because those are the ones I’ve come across through the Brighton Chamber but if you’re in London or beyond, you’ll probably be able to easily find the local equivalent.


This could be someone who comes to work for you for a limited period of time, for a specific project, or could be someone you’re training up or checking out to see if you want to offer them a proper job. We probably used to say ‘trainee’ before we got taken over by America, but ‘intern’ seems to be the word now.

Here are some tips for getting a free intern

Sussex Uni ran a programme last year for a funded internship programme and several of my clients took one on. They recommend a bunch of keen graduates for you to interview, you pick one (or they pick you) and they come and work for you for 10 weeks.

You have to take them on as an employee, but the university pays you back all the money you’ve spent on doing this. The most you’d have to pay is any materials, travel, or training you pay for, plus the cost of paying someone else to do payroll for you.   Applications close on 31st March for people starting in June, but if you’re reading this after that, get in touch with them to find out about the next batch.  Apply here…

Both Sussex and Brighton Unis are running the part funded Santander internship scheme. You need to pay a graduate intern at least £1,000 per month, and then you’ll get £500 per month back. They’ll also help you find an intern by pre-interviewing graduates for you, so you don’t have to spend hours recruiting. Santander internship scheme.


We usually think of an apprentice as someone who is learning a trade, like a plumber or electrician, but you can get an apprentice for any kind of business. It just means a trainee who goes to college for, say, one day a week. If you take on one of these, and they’re aged 16-24, you can get a grant or £1500 to cover part of the cost of employing them. In Brighton, City College is probably your first port of call.

Unemployed people

If you want to do your bit for society and take someone on who has been unemployed for more than 6 months, or you just happen to have recruited someone who has been signing on for a while, you can get up to £2,275 in a grant from the Jobcentre. A couple of caveats here – you only get the grant if they stay employed for 6 months, and you can’t get this plus the AGE apprenticeship grant above.

This might sound like I’m being prejudiced against people who are signing on (I’m really not) but sometimes if someone has been on the dole for a while it can take a bit of adjustment to working again, so you need to make doubly sure that they really want to work for you and will stay working for you for a while.

Give it a go

I spend a lot of time encouraging and supporting people to scale up their business, and often taking people on, or taking on another person is exactly what you need to do to get going. If you’d like some help to check your business model, work out if you’re at the right stage for being a grown up business, think about getting some business advice.

Photo credit – Hashoo Foundation, from Flickr on a creative commons licence