What is an apprenticeship?

1st March 2018

Apprenticeships have changed. 

Gone are the days when the plumber or decorator took on a young person to make cups of tea - apprenticeships are now available in hundreds of sectors, from engineering to TV production , and in thousands of companies, from Amazon to Zurich Insurance. They're not just for young people leaving school either - apprenticeships can also be used to upskill your existing staff or introduce an older person to a new career. 

Taking on an apprentice can be a valuable resource to your company, improve your business's productivity by £11,000 per year and boost your staff morale. Want to know more? I have covered some frequently asked questions below: 

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with studying for a formal qualification. Usually the apprentice will work a real job with some time out to attend college or a training centre.  By the end of an apprenticeship, an apprentice should have gained the skills and knowledge needed to either succeed in their chosen career or progress onto the next apprenticeship level.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16 and can be used as a way of employing a new member of staff, or to upskill existing staff. 

Why should I take on an apprentice?

Despite numerous success stories, many small companies hear the word apprentice and immediately ask; why should I take on an apprentice when I don’t have the time?

Initially taking on an apprentice needs time investment but with the right support and planning, it shouldn’t cost you any more time than any new employee. 

In fact, research proves apprentices are far more likely to increase productivity in the long term, by as much as £214 a week, giving you a way to plug specific skills gaps, grow your own workforce and potentially find a leader from within. 

Will it cost me money? 

Many businesses operate on limited budgets, so it’s an understandable concern that an apprenticeship could be another financial burden. However apprenticeships can be a cost-effective way of recruiting and developing your staff base and with the right training and support the benefits to your business far out way the costs. 

In regards to how much it will cost, the government is putting employers in control of funding. We’ve entered a new age with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

  • Employers operating in the UK with an annual pay bill over £3 million will pay a levy to fund training. 
  • SME’s will be funded through co-investing 10% of the training cost, with the government funding 90%. 
  • The levy is calculated as 0.5% of a company’s salary bill with an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. 
  • You can spend the levy on the costs of apprenticeship training with the training delivered by an organisation on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers. 
  • You cannot use the levy to fund other costs associated with apprentices, e.g. wages or workplace equipment.

Apprenticeships are also now available to anyone from the age of 16. That means regardless of whether your apprentice is 16 or 60, your can develop their skills with the new apprenticeship reforms. You can also use the apprenticeship model to train existing members of staff, or even top-up an employee’s qualifications with the choice of over 100 higher and degree apprenticeships.

After taking into account the benefits you stand to gain from the levy and government contribution, the cost is not so much to your business after all.

How do I take on an apprentice and what do I need to consider?

You may be at the stage where you’re keen to hire an apprentice but don’t fully know the basics. Let me guide you through ‘Apprenticeship 101’;

  • An apprentice must be employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week for a minimum of 12 months.
  • You need to pay an apprentice at least the minimum wage, or preferably living wage.
  • You need to induct and support an apprentice’s on-the-job learning.
  • Apprentices will spend at least 20% of their time off-the-job learning.
  • Apprentices will take an independent End-Point-Assessment at the end of their programme.
  • There must be a genuine job available at the end of the apprenticeship

A training organisation will help you with all of this, from identifying the type of apprenticeship that fits your business requirements, to the recruitment process. Our Skills West team can put you in touch with training providers who can help guide you through the process.

What are the different types of apprenticeship?

There are different types of apprenticeship with different levels of qualifications. 

The type and level you choose depends entirely on the needs of your business, and what role you want the apprentice to fulfil. The key part is that apprenticeships at all levels must be part of the same framework or the new apprenticeship standards.

What’s important is to think about the role you need, as this will make choosing the ‘framework’ at the right level a lot easier.

How do I get involved?

This blog has hopefully provided you with the basic information on how to get started with apprenticeships. 

I know it can be daunting for a business to know where to start, but the skills team at Business West can offer you impartial advice on all of this and introduce you to partners that can help.  

For more information on how to get involved, contact the Skills West team today.

  • How to get started

    Chat to one of our skills advisers about any of your apprenticeship questions and find out how we can help your business. Call us on 0330 124 4446 or submit your enquiry today.

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