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Apprenticeships – The Basics

Whether you are already experienced with apprenticeships or are new to the process, we are here to provide you with the necessary advice and guidance to help you support your apprentices towards success.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a type of work-based training programme that combines practical on-the-job learning with formal face-to-face or online training. 

During an apprenticeship, apprentices work alongside experienced colleagues to gain hands-on experience and develop practical skills. They also attend off-the-job training sessions to learn the theoretical aspects of their role and industry. At the end of an apprenticeship, apprentices receive a nationally recognised qualification, which demonstrates that they have gained the knowledge, behaviours and skills required to perform their job effectively.

Just like formal education, there are different grades and levels to achieve in apprenticeships.

  • Level 2 apprenticeship is equivalent to 5 GCSE passes (9-4)
  • Level 3 apprenticeship is equivalent to 2 A-levels passes
  • Level 4 apprenticeship is equivalent to a Foundation Degree
  • Level 5 apprenticeship is equivalent to a Foundation Degree or above
  • Level 6 apprenticeship is equivalent to a BA Hons Degree
  • Level 7 apprenticeship is equivalent to a Masters Degree (MBA)

What’s involved in an apprenticeship?

Each apprenticeship is made up of the following components:

On-the-job training: This part of the apprenticeships helps an apprentice develop the specific skills for the workplace where they will need to be supported by a workplace mentor.

Off-the-job training: This training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard and can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work – as long as it’s not part of their normal working duties. It can cover practical training such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attending workshops or competitions.

You can find further details about off-the-job training including best practice examples in the apprenticeship funding rules and, the apprenticeships: off-the-job training guidance on GOV.UK.

Functional Skills: All Apprenticeship programmes require minimum levels of English and maths, some programmes also require a test of IT skills. By the time an apprentice completes their apprenticeship, they should be able to demonstrate that they can perform tasks confidently and to the standard set by the industry.

End-Point Assessment (EPA): The End Point Assessment is the final stage of an apprenticeship. It is an impartial assessment of whether your apprentice has developed the skills, knowledge and behaviours outlined in the apprenticeship standard. It is an opportunity for your apprentice to demonstrate they are genuinely competent in their job role at the end of their training.

Who can do an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are available to all current employees or new entrants with a contract of employment who are aged 16 and over, as long as they are living in England, not in full-time education and will be learning new skills as part of their role. They are set at a level of entry to suit your interest and need. During the application process, we will complete eligibility checks to ensure you can complete the apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeships can be used to upskill and retrain employees of any age, not only those first entering the industry. There are courses suitable for all ages and career stages, right the way up to degree-level managers and leaders. This includes older workers or existing staff as long as the apprenticeship is giving them new skills in order to achieve competence in their chosen role.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

The length of an apprenticeship can vary depending on the level and type of apprenticeship. 

Generally, apprenticeships must last for at least 12 months but can last anywhere from 1 to 4 years. For example, a Level 2 apprenticeship may take around 12 months to complete, while a Level 6 or 7 apprenticeship may take up to 4 years. The exact length of an apprenticeship will depend on the specific apprenticeship standard or framework, as well as the individual’s learning pace and performance.

How are apprenticeships funded?

Apprenticeships are funded through a combination of government funding and employer contributions. The funding model varies depending on the type of apprenticeship, the age of the apprentice, and the size of the employer.

For larger businesses – The Apprenticeship Levy

All employers with a payroll bill in excess of £3 million per annum have to pay an Apprenticeship Levy of 0.5% on the amount that the pay bill exceeds £3m pa, paid monthly through PAYE.

For small businesses who don’t pay the apprenticeship levy – co-investment.

Smaller companies who don’t pay the apprenticeship levy, have access to the government’s co-investment fund to support with the cost of apprenticeship training.

The Government will fully fund apprenticeships in small businesses by paying the full cost of training for anyone up to the age of 21.

Employers with less than 50 employees are not required to make any financial contribution towards the cost of an apprenticeship for an employee aged between 16 and 18, or someone who is under 24 and has left care or has a local authority health and education place.

Levy Transfers to fund 100% of your apprenticeship costs 

You can now search the government portal for apprenticeship funding opportunities via a levy transfer. As a business of any size, you can use this service to apply for funding from large businesses that want to fund 100% of your apprenticeship training and assessment costs by transferring some of their apprenticeship levy.

What other financial incentives are available?

  • If you employ a 16-18 year old apprentice, or someone who is under 24 and has left care or has a local authority health and education place, the employer will receive a bonus payment of £1,000 subject to the apprentice staying on programme for 365 days.
  • You are no longer required to pay Class 1 (employer) National Insurance Contributions (NIC) on earnings up to £50,270 for an apprentice you employ aged under 25. That’s a 13.8% saving on everything your apprentice earns over £9,100 a year for the employers of apprentices.

What do I need to do to start an apprenticeship programme in my business?

If you want to offer apprenticeships in your business in England, you will need to register for an apprenticeship service account. The apprenticeship service is a digital platform that enables employers to manage their apprenticeship programmes, including finding apprenticeship training providers, choosing apprenticeship standards, selecting an apprenticeship training programme, advertising apprenticeship vacancies, and paying for apprenticeship training.

The apprenticeship service is free to use, and you can register for an account online. Once you have registered, you can access a range of tools and resources to help you manage your apprenticeship programme, including information on government funding, apprenticeship standards, and training providers.

Here is the link to set-up your account and short video showing you how to do this.

The benefits of apprenticeships speak for themselves

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to train and develop your employees while giving them the opportunity to gain practical experience and nationally recognised qualifications. By offering an apprenticeship program, you can attract and retain talented individuals who are committed to growing with your company.

There are several benefits of apprenticeships for employers, including:

Developing a skilled workforce: Apprenticeships provide a structured training programme that helps employers develop a highly skilled workforce that can meet the specific needs of their business.

Cost-effective training: Apprenticeships offer a cost-effective way of training staff as they are partially funded by the government, reducing the overall cost of training for the employer.

Improved productivity: Apprenticeships help to improve the productivity of businesses by providing a skilled and motivated workforce that can contribute to the growth of the company.

Tailored training: Apprenticeships can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a business, ensuring that the training is relevant and beneficial to the employer.

Loyalty and retention: Apprenticeships can help to increase staff loyalty and retention, as apprentices are more likely to stay with a company that has invested in their training and development.

Meeting skills gaps: Apprenticeships can help employers address skills gaps in their workforce, ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment.

Overall, apprenticeships offer significant benefits to employers, helping them to develop a skilled and motivated workforce that can contribute to the long-term success of their business.

The role of a training provider is…

To provide off-the-job training, knowledge sessions and practical skills while assessing apprentices’ progress towards achieving their qualifications.

The training provider will support the employer by ensuring that each apprentice receives:

  • An induction programme on commencement.
  • A detailed training plan (including on and off-the-job training).
  • Regular progress reviews.
  • Opportunities to put into practice off-the-job learning in line with your business and apprenticeship requirements.
  • Mentoring and general support throughout the apprenticeship.

This will be set out in an Apprenticeship Agreement, a commitment statement signed by the training provider, the apprentice and the employer.

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