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Everything employers need to know about Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have a long tradition in the United Kingdom, but with some of the changes that have taken place within the Apprenticeship industry over the last five years, it is understandable that employers are in need of a little guidance on the subject.

In this guide, we will explain what Apprenticeships are, how they will fit within your business, how to find a partnership with the right training provider, and the Apprenticeship process from the recruiting stage to the final End-point assessment.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An Apprenticeship is a real job with professional training. Apprentices receive on-the-job and off-the-job training and progress towards nationally recognised qualifications whilst working. Apprentices are contracted with working hours as part of your businesses Apprenticeship programme. It's an excellent way for an individual to earn whilst they learn, to gain invaluable skills and develop knowledge for specific roles within your business.

98% of employers* said Apprenticeships have a positive impact on the working environment - increasing morale and productivity - not to mention the new skills your business will gain through this process.

Who are Apprenticeships for?

It is a common misconception that Apprenticeships are solely aimed at school leavers aged 16+, who are looking to gain a foot in the door of the industry of their choice. While this may have been the case in the past, Apprenticeships nowadays are available to all age ranges.

In addition to taking on a new employee as an Apprentice, many employers are using their training budget or levy funds to fund Apprenticeship training for their current employees as part of a continuing professional development plan. These are people who are already loyal to your business or brand, and they will see your investment in their continuing professional development as a very positive contribution.

How does the Apprenticeship process work?

There are many stages to taking on an Apprentice. The first is to make contact with Apprenticeship training providers and find one that works within the relevant sector, whether you are looking for a new Apprentice or to train a current employee through Apprenticeships. Next, you’ll need to work closely with your training provider to provide a detailed vacancy post to attract the right candidates. Don’t be afraid to boast about how great it is to work for you and the benefits of joining your team.

 Interview process

Your management and HR team will need to ensure they gain the right information from each candidate while expressing the benefits of working for your organisation. Apprentices come from all age ranges, from 16 - 65, so for some candidates you might be their first employer. With more than 1,650,000 online Apprenticeship applications made in 2015 and 2016, you shouldn’t be short of applicants to choose from.

Once you have selected your new Apprentice, you will need to sign an employer agreement with your training provider.

Ongoing process

You will need to ensure that your Apprentices have a primary point of contact and that their training, will need to be delivered in a structured way. Apprenticeship training needs to include 20% off-the-job training which can be completed in the workplace, but must include learning carried out away from the Apprentice’s daily role.

A personal tutor will arrange regular visits to your site with both you, the employer, and the Apprentice, unless the learner is attending a day release programme.

Once your Apprentice has learnt their role and developed the skills and knowledge set out in your agreement, they will need to complete and End-point assessment.

What is an Apprenticeship standard?

Like the SASE Frameworks (which are gradually being phased out and replaced with Standards by 2010), Standards begin with an assessment and comprises both on and off-the-job training, ending with completion and certification. In addition, the new Apprenticeship Standards are tailored to each profession, instead of being multi-occupational.

Unlike Frameworks, the new Apprenticeship Standards also include assessment and grading of behaviours, skills and knowledge through End-Point Assessment (EPA), in addition to on-programme assessment of progress throughout the learner's journey. The EPA requires an independent End- Point Assessment organisation to carry out the assessment.

It was noted that an individual can achieve an Apprenticeship Framework without learning the skills, behaviours and knowledge they need to ‘do their job,’ and this was one of the main drivers for the introduction of the Apprenticeship Standards.

Company Benefits of Standards over Frameworks

  • Standards were created by employers for employers, ensuring that Apprentices, gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours their organisations need.
  • Apprenticeship Standards offer the skills that organisations need and want, whilst some SASE Frameworks are 14 years (or more) old - think about how technology and workplaces have developed in the last decade.
  • Apprenticeship Standards can be tailored, adapted to meet the unique requirements of specific job roles and organisations. 
  • Standards are now more relevant for the future, aiding organisational succession planning.
  • Standards are designed to integrate with individual organisations in-house training.
  • End-Point Assessment validates the skills, knowledge and behaviours gained.
  • Standardisation


Does your business need to do anything for the End-point Assessment stage?

There are still a number of frameworks within the national Apprenticeship curriculum which will not include this assessment. One of the most significant changes in the Apprenticeship reforms is the introduction of the End-point assessment, which is an integral part of the process to ensure that the learner is capable of completing their job role.

Do you need to have an Apprenticeship programme in place?

You won’t have to have an Apprenticeship programme in place especially if you are a small company, but it is suggested that you set out the beginning of a plan. You will be able to work on this with your training provider to ensure that you are offering the Apprentice a safe and productive learning environment.  

Funding an Apprenticeship (h4)

Funding rules depend on whether you are a levy, or non-levy paying employer.

What is the Apprenticeship levy?

From 5 April, 2017, all employers operating in the UK, with an annual payroll of over £3 million will be required to pay a levy of 0.5%, regardless of whether they make use of the funding available for Apprenticeships, or not. 

If your business works in partnership with other smaller businesses and you have not used your full levy amount, 10% of your levy fund can be transferred to other companies.

What about non-levy-paying employers?

Co-funded Apprenticeships

Non-levy paying employers can benefit from significant Government co-funding opportunities to support their commitment to Apprenticeships. They have to make a financial contribution, a ‘co-investment’. An employer cash contribution towards the costs of training is an essential part of Apprenticeship reforms, designed to increase quality and employer engagement.

A non-levy paying employer (usually small and medium businesses) usually needs to co-invest 10% of the cost of the Apprenticeship and then can benefit from Government funding to cover the remaining 90% of the Apprenticeship cost. All employers need to meet, in full, any costs above the funding band limit for any particular Apprenticeship. Employers need to make these payments directly to the training provider.

Small employer co-investment waiver

Employers with fewer than 50 people working for them can train 16 - 18 year old Apprentices without making a contribution towards the costs of training and assessment. Instead, the Government pays 100% of the training costs for these individuals, up to the funding band maximum.

Additional payments for employers training younger Apprentices

The Government is committed to an Apprenticeship programme that supports young people into quality Apprenticeships, and recognises that for employers who take on young Apprentices aged 16-18 years old, there are some additional costs associated with supporting them in the workplace.

When employers take on a 16-18 year old on an Apprenticeship framework or standard, they receive £1,000 to help meet the extra costs associated with this. This will be paid to employers in two equal instalments at three months and 12 months. These payments are made to employers via their training provider, who will pass the money on. These payments come directly from the government and will not be deducted from an employer’s account.

Employers who benefit from the small employer co-investment waiver will also receive these payments. Support for care leavers and those who have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan.

Apprentices aged 19-24 who have previously been in care or who have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan may need extra support, and we recognise this can represent an extra cost to employers.

Source: - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/562401/Apprenticeship_funding_from_May_2017.pdf

What counts as off-the-job training?

Off-the-job training makes up 20% of the Apprenticeship, and this can entail such things as day release to the training prover, college or even another business within your industry. This can also be done within your current working environment but must be outside the Apprentice’s daily role. This could be partaking in industry/role related webinars, training seasons, and time spent writing assignments or even role-play sessions.

The Educations Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have stated that maths and English (functional skills) cannot be used as part of this 20% off-the-job-training, it cannot be Apprentices regular working hours nor can progress reviews or on-programme assessments that are required as part of the Apprenticeship standards be used to make up this section.

What do you need to pay an Apprentice according to the law?

Apprentices must be paid the minimum wage, and the amount will depend on the age of the Apprentice as of the 1stApril 2018:

  • The Apprentice Rate: £3.70 per hour
  • The rate for 16-17 years old: £4.20 per hour
  • The rate for 18-20 year old: £5.90
  • The rate for 21 -24 year old: 7.38
  • The rate for 25’s and over: £7.83


What Apprenticeships are right for your business?

Understanding the needs of your business and skills gaps that exist is key to answering this question. Knowing that you have a plan in place to address your skills gap will take stress off your current team members whilst showing your Apprentice that they are a truly valued member of your team.

Apprenticeships exist across all sectors and at Paragon Skills we offer Apprenticeships in Automotive, Boatbuilding, Barbering, Beauty, Business Administration, Childcare, Customer Service, Health & Social Care, Hairdressing and Team Leading & Management.

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We hope you found our employer guide to Apprenticeships useful. If you have any questions, please contact our customer service team on 0800 783 2545.


*- https://www.managers.org.uk/insights/news/2017/april/cmi-urges-employers-to-embrace-new-apprenticeship-levy

**- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/key-facts-about-apprenticeships/key-facts-about-apprenticeships