Has anyone taken on an apprentice web developer?

This post might only be applicable to UK based companies.

We’ve been employing a PHP developer on a part-time basis for the lest 15 minute. Sadly we parted company this week.

We’re looking to replace him, but at the moment are researching all the options.

One of the things we’re considering is taking on a full-time apprentice, and I’m just wondering if anyone has done this in web development?

The thing I’m concerned about is at the minute I’m the only developer. Taking on an apprentice won’t really provide any benefit to the business in the short term, as there’s very little he/she will be able to do unless they’ve got some prior knowledge.

It’ll take time away from me to support and train the apprentice.

On the plus side, I get to train someone up to do things my way, which I think will benefit the business longer term. You only need to pay them £2.50 an hour, and providing I can get them up to scratch with HTML/CSS then that £2.50 an hour should be very easy to cover. There’s a £1500 grant to take on an apprentice.

I suppose what I’m asking is, had anyone in a similar situation done this? How long did it take before they were earning the business money? Was it very time consuming?

My wife works in hairdressing apprenticeships, so she knows a lot about apprenticeships in general. However, in hairdressing it’s difference, apprentices can come straight in and start washing hair with very limited training, freeing up time for stylists to do their job and increasing business. In web development there is very little none-skilled duties that I can think of (unless I’m just blatently missing them).

Can anyone provide their experiences? advice? suggestions?

£2.50 an hour? Is anyone going to work for that?

Remember that programming is a skilled job and the quality of the work is entirely dependent on the quality of the developer. Ignoring the ludicrous wage (And how are you allowed to pay anyone less than minimum wage anyway?), someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing will take easily 10 times longer than someone who doesn’t.

Training programming is going to be a time consuming thing, you would have to sit down with them and teach them for many, many hours. From a business perspective, how much do you usually charge an hour? If you’re spending 4 hours a day training someone you’ve lost 4 hours you could have spent on chargeable work.

While it may work, long term, if you do train someone up to a semi-decent standard they’ll quickly leave to somewhere that is paying proper money. IIRC the average starting wage for a Junior PHP developer is around £18,000 so while you’ve spent hours of your time teaching them, you’ll get nothing back at the end of it and have to start the whole process again unless you pay them a competitive salary once they’re up to speed. Even then, why not just employ someone on a proper salary to start with and skip the training part?

By all means try it, but it doesn’t sound beneficial for either you or a potential apprentice to me.