What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a genuine job with a skills development programme which is assessed. It includes learning in the workplace and formal off-the-job training. Apprenticeships benefit both employers and individuals.
There are over 750 different apprenticeship standards, which provide a framework for the learning outcomes gained. These have been produced by groups of employers called ‘trailblazers’ and respond to identified industry skill needs.
Apprenticeships also offer an alternative route to gain recognised qualifications such as higher education degrees and chartered status qualifications.
The training is funded by the employer and/or government subsidies. An apprentice’s salary is paid by the employer.
What benefits can apprenticeships offer my business?
An apprenticeship allows a business to recruit new talent, retain and develop existing staff and equip a business to respond to emerging and future needs.
Research produced in 2021 found that on average apprenticeships (across all apprenticeship levels) generate a net benefit to business of approximately £2,496, in some cases significantly more. See the report produced by The St Martin’s Group in collaboration with City & Guilds and NCFE.
See apprenticeship benefits identified by the Governments apprenticeship service.
How long do apprenticeships last?
Apprenticeships last for at least 12 months, with some programmes such as degree apprenticeships lasting between two to five years. Apprenticeships are not a quick fix to address isolated skills needs. They offer a business a comprehensive training solution, designed by employers, to support long term workforce skill needs.
What are the key steps?
1) Identify skills gaps. You might consider what training is needed, what is already provided and how these elements might be combined within an apprenticeship.
2) Review apprenticeship standards and levels. All of these can be found in the Government’s register of apprenticeship standards.
3) Get advice from the Government’s apprenticeship service, West Yorkshire Combined Authority or an experienced apprenticeship provider.
4) Look for a training provider. See our list of West Yorkshire higher and degree apprenticeship providers or the Government’s register of providers. Agree how the 20% minimum off-the-job-training will be delivered.
5) Providers will support or manage the recruitment process (if needed). Think about whether recruitment approaches are inclusive and attractive to a wide pool of candidates. The Sutton Trust provide employer guidance. The University of Bradford has collaborated with partners to develop an inclusive employer toolkit.
6) A contract of employment is a mandatory requirement.
7) Work with the provider to develop the apprentice’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP). This is agreed between the provider, employer and apprentice. The provider will conduct an initial assessment with the apprentice.
8) Agree an end point assessment organisation to assess the apprentice’s learning. The apprenticeship provider can offer advice, but employers have the final say for this decision.
9) The apprenticeship commences. Supervision and mentoring should be provided by the employer.
10) Work with the provider to determine when the apprentice is ready for their end point assessment.
Who can undertake an apprenticeship?
Apprentices must be at least 16 years old. There is no upper age limit. Apprentices can be new or existing staff and might be graduates or non-graduates. They must be individuals with the right to work in the UK.
How do apprenticeships compare to other Higher Level qualifications?
Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to gain qualifications including: NVQs, HNCs (Higher National Certificate), HNDs, Degrees and Masters’ Degrees, Chartered or Professional Status and specific industry qualifications.
Higher level or degree apprenticeships are the equivalent to the following qualification levels: Higher levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 – the equivalent to Foundation degrees and above and a Degree Apprenticeship is at level 6 and 7 – the equivalent to a Bachelor’s or master’s degree. See our summary of education qualifications
How do I contact providers to discuss apprenticeships?
What should I ask providers?
It is useful to ask providers about:
- Previous experience and achievements with apprenticeship provision, including their trainers’ experience
- Their understanding of your business, the sector and the roles you want to develop
- How training would be delivered and what sort of learner experience would be offered
- The hard and soft skills apprentices will gain through training
- The cost (including VAT and exam fees where applicable) and time period for invoicing for any employer contribution
- Additional training offered to the apprentice (over and above the standard) or appropriate for other staff members.
Do providers offer bespoke apprenticeship programmes?
Some providers will offer bespoke apprenticeships. Discuss your skills needs in detail with the provider, including all the qualifications you would like your apprentice(s) to achieve. This will enable the provider to develop a programme that responds to your needs.
How does the 20% off the job training work?
Training may be delivered as block release, online, completed at the place of work or a blend of these approaches.
Within some models, referred to as ‘front loaded apprenticeships’, the off-the-job-training may be delivered in bulk at the start of the apprenticeship.
What is expected from employers?
Employers are expected to:
- Pay the apprentice’s salary, at least minimum wage. Ideally this should be aligned to sector salaries for similar roles.
- Pay the apprentice’s training costs. In most cases, the employer will pay 5% of total training costs with government subsidies covering remaining costs. You will be invoiced for your 5% contribution by your training provider. The apprentice must not be asked to contribute towards the training cost.
- Commit to support the apprentice for the full apprenticeship term
- Work in partnership with the training provider
- Allow the apprentice to spend at least 20% of their paid time in off-the-job training
- Provide a mentor and line manager to the apprentice
What is the cost to businesses?
Businesses with an annual wage bill of over £3 million will pay the apprenticeship levy. This is used for training and upskilling staff. Businesses who do not pay an apprenticeship levy and have over 50 employees can get 95% of the apprenticeship costs funded by the government. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can get 100% of the apprenticeship costs for 16-18 year olds funded by the government and 95% funded for 19+ year olds. Maximum funding levels vary from £3,000 to £27,000 depending on the complexity of the training.
The apprentice must not be asked to contribute towards the training cost.
The employer and the main provider can receive extra funding if the apprentice is either aged 16-18, or are 19-24 with either an Education & Health Care Plan (to support a disability) or has been in the care of the local authority. Eligible apprentices will be entitled to a £1,000 payment to both the employer and main provider.
Government apprenticeship funding rules.
What funding is available to apprentices?
Apprentices receive payment from their employer at national minimum wage or above.
Student Finance, used within the traditional degree route, is not available to apprentices.
An apprentice who is under 25 and has been in local authority care can access a government bursary of £1000. This is claimed by the training provider and then transferred to the apprentice in full.
Learning Support Funding is available to make reasonable adjustments to support a disabled learner. This is provided by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. This is paid to the training provider.
Government funding rules.
What is the Apprenticeship Levy and who pays this?
Larger businesses (with an annual turnover of over £3 million) pay an Apprenticeship Levy. This was implemented by the Government to encourage large businesses to employ and train staff using apprenticeships. The levy also generates funds to subsidise the cost of apprenticeship training for smaller businesses.
Levy-paying organisations are able to transfer up to 25% of their unspent levy funds to other businesses. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority offer levy transfer support to businesses wishing to transfer their levy or smaller businesses who would like to benefit from a levy transfer.
Who advertises the apprenticeship opportunity?
The employer is responsible for recruiting the apprentice. Providers will generally support or manage the recruitment process (where needed). Think about whether recruitment approaches are inclusive and attractive to a wide pool of candidates.
For further support see the Sutton Trust’s employer’s guide to Social Mobility in the Workplace. The University of Bradford has also collaborated with partners to develop an inclusive employer toolkit.
When do apprenticeships typically start?
Apprenticeships usually start in September/October or January/February, but some providers offer rolling programmes and alternative start dates. It is best to start discussing the opportunity as early as possible so you have enough time to complete the process and recruit the right candidate.
Can current employees complete an apprentice?
An apprenticeship can be used to upskill existing staff of any age, as long as the apprenticeship will develop new skills for their chosen occupation. Someone with an existing degree can complete degree apprenticeship which provides them with new or significantly different skills.
Can I train my own apprentices?
An employer can apply to become a training provider themselves, see Government guidance. Typically, this is employers with at least 1000 staff, a HR department and the staff and budget to invest in this approach. As a provider you will be subject to inspections by Government agencies to check the quality of delivery. Working with an existing provider is a good first step in building your confidence with the apprenticeship approach.
How can I learn from the experience of other employers?
See our case studies, which includes employers who have already benefited from the apprenticeship experience.
How can I share my apprenticeship success with others?
Contact GHWY to find out how to share a case study celebrating your apprenticeship success.