A website maintained for the Sheffield City Region by the HEPP

Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Apprenticeship Information for Employers

What’s an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are nationally designed training programmes for 16-24 year-olds who have left full-time education or are already in employment.

They offer young people the opportunity to learn on the job with an employer, building up knowledge and skills, gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time.

There are two levels of Apprenticeship: Apprenticeships (also called Intermediate Apprenticeship) and Advanced Apprenticeships. There are over 200 Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships to choose from, although not all skill areas are offered in all regions. Examples of some of the skills that can be learned can be found by clicking here (NB Scroll down to ‘Types of apprenticeships’).

Apprenticeships last at least 15 months, while Advanced Apprenticeships last at least 2 years. Some Apprenticeships, for example in engineering or construction, take much longer to complete because of the depth of knowledge to be demonstrated.

On the other hand, many Adult Apprentices have been able to speed up the process of gaining an Apprenticeship, partly because of prior knowledge and skills and partly because they may be quicker to learn than a young person.

If you have never taken on an apprentice before, or it it’s been some time since you did, you can get more information from the Apprenticeship website here. There is also another useful website that has been established for you to discuss Apprenticeships with other employers here.

You will also find other useful links on the Links page. And the national website also has a brief introductory video to give you an introduction into what’s involved; you can access it here.

“After a false start at College I’ve now found a job that I enjoy and am on my way to getting a good qualification as well as gaining valuable working experience.”

Richard Dyson

What will they study?

An Apprenticeship is not classed as a qualification in its own right but is a set of separate qualifications, called a ‘framework’. Most Apprenticeship frameworks follow a standard format comprising three components. If you want to know more, click on the links below:

  • A Competence Qualification, such as an NVQ or equivalent, such as a QCF Certificate or Diploma (Level 2 for Apprenticeship and Level 3 for Advanced Apprenticeship)
  • Key Skills or Functional Skills (from 2011)
  • Technical Certificate
    This is a recognised qualification that provides the underpinning knowledge needed to do a job. It is normally taught within a college setting but can be delivered by the training provider. There are a number of organisations that offer Technical Certificates, such as BTEC, City & Guilds and others. Some Apprenticeships do not require a Technical Certificate because the underpinning knowledge is incorporated into the NVQ (or equivalent).
    The relevant Sector Skills Council will specify the Technical Certificate for their Apprenticeships, as well as the appropriate Functional Skills and Competence Qualification. You can find out more about the content of Apprenticeship Frameworks by going here, where you can also find out about which Sector Skills Council covers the skill area in which you are interested.

In addition to the three core components, there are two other components that are included within them. They are:

  • ERR Employee Rights and Responsibilities. This covers subjects such as apprenticeship agreements, contracts of employment, diversity and equality, and holiday and salary entitlements. Plus information relating to health and safety, data protection and discrimination.
  • PLTS Personal Learning and Thinking Skills. This is a new requirement for inclusion in an Apprenticeship framework and covers 6 areas of independent enquiry, creative thinking, reflective learning, team working, self management and effective participation. All frameworks must clearly specify how the achievement of the 6 elements is to be evidenced by the apprentice. Each framework developer will set out their individual requirements for how PLTS is required to be evidenced. Examples of this may be through completion of a specific qualification or through completion of a workbook.

NB As a consequence of various changes in vocational qualifications and in educational standards, Key Skills have now been replaced by Functional Skills. NVQs are being incorporated into the QCF and some Sector Skills Councils are replacing them by Diplomas. However, whether the qualification is an NVQ or Diploma, they will still be based on National Occupational Standards. (NB Click ‘Cancel’ at the log-in pop-up)

The training provider will provide the knowledge and develop the skills, and the employer will provide the practical experience to put those skills to the test, providing the evidence for completion of the Competence Qualification component. Training can be classroom based, in a workshop or in the workplace, depending on the subject and on the training provider.

What academic standard is needed?

Young people who want to become an Apprentice will need to show that they have the ability to complete the programme. Normal entry to the Advanced Apprenticeship level is via 5 GCSEs with grades A* to C with, ideally, English and Maths being two of those subjects.

Entry to the Apprenticeship level can be gained with lower grades. They will also be assessed for general ability in their chosen area of study by their training provider.

If they are not yet ready, young people can now start on a Traineeship, which will give them the academic qualifications that they need to go on to an Apprenticeship programme.

“The Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce found me an engineering Apprenticeship with Linpac Plastics in Featherstone and I attended Wakefield College on day-release.”

Faye Banks

What are the advantages?

There are many advantages to your business in employing an Apprentice. Here are a few:

  • An Apprenticeship is an effective way of tackling skill shortages.
  • Apprentices will be trained to do a job to agreed standards, which have been set by your representative trade body - the Sector Skills Council. So they will gain a qualification that shows that they have the skills necessary to do the job, unlike those who follow a formal academic route.
  • The training that they receive away from work is state-of-the-art so, as technology moves on, you can be assured that new developments will be incorporated within the programme of study.
  • Because they will learn by a combination of attending college or training provider and learning on the job, many apprentices find that it is a much better way of learning, by doing things rather than having to remember facts.
  • They gain recognised qualifications – NVQs (or Diplomas/Certificates), Key Skills and a Technical Certificate.
  • Apprentices are usually more motivated, because they can see that you are investing in their training and because you take an active part in their development.
  • They can go on to gain a higher qualification, such as HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or full Degree, by studying on a part-time basis while continuing to work for you. In this way they will be gaining higher-level skills to improve the productivity of your business, but without making too much of an impact in terms of lost time. The increased investment in them will benefit, not just your business, but will also help to cement the relationship that you have with them, leading to greater motivation and company loyalty.

What’s it going to cost me?

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) made a commitment that learning for 16 - 18 year olds would be free. The LSC’s role has been taken over by the Skills Finding Agency (SFA) and the same commitment remains.

However, there is an expectation that employers will contribute to the training of apprentices over the age of 18 and this is reflected in the funding allocated to college and private training providers. A fee is usually charged for apprentices within the 19 - 24 age range and this may differ by institution. As a guide, employers are expected to pay up to 50% of the off-site training costs. If the apprentice is 25 or over, then the employer is expected to contribute all of the cost of training unless the jobs are in a skill or area where the Government sees a need for additional numbers, in which case a contribution to the cost of training can be made.

It is always worth checking on the financial support available for young adults as this is constantly changing. As an example, in June 2010, the new coalition Government announced an additional £150 million of funding for Adult Apprenticeships, which would be made available to small and medium-sized enterprises. This was taken from the Train to Gain budget. At the end of July 2011 the Train to Gain service was withdrawn.

As another example of the way in which funding is constantly changing, the last Government looked at financial assistance to those employers who ‘over-recruit’; i.e. those who take on more apprentices than their businesses could justify. This was proposed in order to increase the number of Apprenticeship places.

Currently, there is financial support for companies with less than 1,000 employees where the company has not previously employed an apprentice in the previous 12 months. This is known as the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24 year olds (AGE 16 to 24).

The National Apprenticeship Service will provide AGE 16 to 24 to eligible employers, in respect of qualifying apprentices, with an individual value of £1,500. Employers can be paid ten grants in total during the lifetime of the initiative.

You will need to consult your training provider to determine the current support available.

You will not be able to claim any further costs related to on-the-job training although in some industries, e.g. Construction, there is the potential for employers to access training grants through the CITB.

Because Apprentices have employed status, you will need to pay them a wage, which very much depends on the ‘going rate’ for your trade although, in 2005 a minimum wage was introduced. The current rate (from October 2014) is £2.73 per hour for apprentices aged 16-18 and for those aged 19 and over in their first year. Over the age of 18, where an apprentice has completed the first year of training, the national minimum wage applies, which is age-related. The pay also covers the time that the apprentice spends in off-the-job training at a local college or at the training provider.

You can get advice on an appropriate wage from the training provider, but typical rates range from the minimum in hairdressing to >£200 per week in electrical installation.

If you do decide to send your Apprentice to gain higher-level skills, you will not normally be able to recover the cost of this training, although sometimes fees may be waived to launch a new course. However, those who study on a part-time basis are now eligible for student loans. Regrettably, the fees were also increased to a maximum of £9,000 for a full-time course equivalent. For more help on funding, click here.

Why should I support my apprentice?

There are many reasons why your business will gain by your staff acquiring higher-level skills:

  • They will be gaining immediately transferable ‘state of the art’ knowledge that can be used to improve efficiency, productivity and to make the business more competitive.
  • Your staff will gain an added maturity through self-motivated study, self-discipline and independence.
  • Your staff will become more motivated and committed stakeholders in the business.
  • If you equip your staff with higher-level skills your organisation will be better placed to respond to the need for succession planning.


Apprenticeship Links

General Business Matters

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