The Engineering Trust

10 Things Employers Need to Know About Apprenticeships

Businesses that offer apprenticeships view them as beneficial to their long-term success. Whether using an apprenticeship to train an existing member of staff or hiring a new start apprentice, they (apprenticeships) are a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to pass business specific knowledge to a new generation of staff, helping to plug future skill gaps.

With the economic and social effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) looking as though they will push deep into 2021, apprenticeships are more important than ever and can help businesses develop the skills they need to respond to difficult and disrupted conditions – both now and in the long-term. So for those who are new to apprenticeships, here are 10 things you need to know in order to assess if they are right for your business.

1. Apprenticeship Standards

Previously known as ‘Frameworks’, these are the structure within which apprenticeships are delivered and there is an eye watering amount covering every industry imaginable. Standards are important as you need to select the right one to fit the skills and capabilities of the role you wish to employ an apprentice within. That also goes for if you are using an apprenticeship to train an existing member of staff (yes, apprenticeships can be used to train someone already employed). Standards are available from level 2 – level 7 and each has a typical duration length. Level 2 for example takes 12-18 months whilst level 3 can take up to 42 months. At the end of the period the apprentice must then pass an End Point Assessment in order to complete their programme.  

How do we help? 
We meet with you to understand what you are trying to achieve and the employee you want to get at the end of the apprenticeship training. We then match your aspirations to a Standard under which we would facilitate the training.  

2. Funding

Employers fall into one of two groups.

Levy payers. Those of you who have a payroll of more than £3 million per year. You will be paying 0.5% of your salary bill into your levy pot and the government will top-up each month by 10%. Your levy pot can only be used to fund apprenticeship training and it’s a ‘use it or lose it’ situation with un-spent funds expiring after 24 months. 

Non-levy payers. Those of you with a payroll under £3 million per year. The Government will pay 95% of the training cost with you contributing the other 5%, this is called co-investment. For example, co-investment for a level 3 Standard with a funding maximum of £21,000 would be £1050. 

In both cases, funding covers the training of the apprentice and cannot be used for wages, statutory licences to practice, travel and subsidiary costs, work placement programmes or any fees required when setting up your apprenticeship scheme. 

How do we help? 
For levy payers, utilisation of your levy by delivering a high quality scheme within your business, advice on what the levy can be used for and advice on what to do if you have exhausted your levy pot. For non-levy payers, help to set up on the online system to access the funding available for the apprenticeship.

3. Picking the right Training Provider

There are many different ways that an apprenticeship can be delivered and different training providers will work to different levels of engagement with you and the apprentice. Finding the right training provider to partner with is an important decision to ensure that your efforts and financial commitments don’t go to waste and your apprenticeship scheme is a success.

How do we work?
We work in partnership with you from start to finish, ensuring your apprenticeship scheme is a success. Initially we spend time to understand your business and what you would like to achieve from the apprenticeship, helping you to match your needs with an Apprenticeship Standard, as mentioned above.

We then construct a bespoke programme to meet the requirements of the Standard and the needs of your business. Our tailored approach in terms of your work schedules and structure means the apprenticeship fits into your unique operating model and producing the employee you need at the end of the process. 

Our in-depth recruitment process helps you find the right person to employ if using an apprenticeship for a new recruit. Getting the right person for the right role means a high success rate for the apprenticeship. We do much of the work involved in getting you to that decision.

We’re learner centric and build meaningful relationships with each apprentice, placing them at the centre of everything we do and providing them with high quality advice, honest opinion and high quality training.

Lastly, we are industry specific with a high level of understanding in respect of the work that you do and the learning that the apprentice completes. 

4. Recruitment

Finding the right person is probably the most important part of the process. The successful person will gain recognised qualifications within a structure that promotes loyalty and longevity to their employment so, you need to find someone who you want to employ for the long-term.

How do we help?
Once you’ve confirmed your apprentice vacancy and given us the job description we advertise the opportunity on your behalf, posting it on our website, the Government Find an Apprenticeship website, recruitment websites and on social media. We also maintain links with schools and colleges within which we promote your vacancy to those finishing their education at 16 and 18.

Our process, from application to shortlisting, is designed to establish the level at which the candidate is able to learn, their drive to complete an apprenticeship and their motivation for wanting to work within an Engineering role. We then provide you with a shortlist which means you only interview those who are ready to learn at the level you require and are keen to take on an apprenticeship role within the Engineering sector. 

5. Pay

Apprentices are employed by you from day one and are paid a salary, receive all benefits and treated like any other employee. As mentioned, the funding does not cover wages and all the apprenticeship training and learning must be done within their paid hours. There is a national minimum wage for apprentices which is currently £4.15 per hour. This can apply to an apprentice under 19 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year. Those aged 19 or over must then be paid at least the national minimum wage for their age once they have completed their first year.

How do we help? 
We can advise you on what rates of pay you should aim to achieve depending on the level of learning, the age of the apprentice and your aspirations as to the staff member you require. We can also advise you on how to structure wage increases in line with the apprentice’s competence levels as they move through their programme. 

6. Contracts

There are several compulsory contracts or agreements that must be in place as set out by the ESFA. Firstly, you must employ the apprentice and provide them with a Contract of Employment, as you would any person you take on. Secondly, an Apprenticeship Agreement between you (The Employer) and the training provider must be in place. This is specific to each apprentice and sets out how the two parties will work together, what funding will be drawn and what will be achieved in terms of apprenticeship training. Thirdly, an Apprenticeship Commitment Statement must be agreed and signed between you (The Employer), the apprentice and the training provider. This sets out the specific responsibilities of each party, what training will take and who will deliver it. 

How do we help?
We draw up the Apprenticeship Agreement and Commitment Statement for all parties to agree to. These are important as without them in place no training can commence or funding drawn.

7. Apprenticeship Delivery 

There are many different providers, each of which will have a different approach to the way in which they deliver apprenticeships. Although we all work within the same Apprenticeship Standards, the manner and quality of delivery can differ considerably. It is important to understand how the provider you select to work with plans to deliver the apprenticeship, how much support and engagement will they provide you and the apprentice? 

How do we deliver? 
We take a holistic, wraparound approach to you and the apprentice. We take an active interest in your company, guiding you through the entire process, working with you and your apprentice as partners. We assist you in the development of a Company Training Plan, mapping out the skills, knowledge and experience the apprentice will gain specific to your business and the role they will hold when they complete their apprenticeship. We organise and manage all college elements that are required as part of the apprenticeship and any Functional Skills (the learning of English and Maths if required) that the apprentice has to complete. 

Our Training Officers are the driving force behind our delivery and work hard to progress each apprentice through their programme. They set work, assess work and provide constant support for both you and the apprentice. 

We use an E-portfolio platform called Smart Assessor within which we record the work and progress of each apprentice. You also have access to this platform in order to have full visibility to the progress of the apprentice and to sign off their learning.

Apprentices are inducted both by us and yourselves. Our induction covers how we will work with the apprentice plus 8 online awareness courses delivered within our Virtual Learning Platform. These courses include elements such as Health & Safety and Manual Handling but also Mental Health and Personal Safety. You too are responsible for inducting the apprentice into your business as you would any other new member of staff. 

8. Apprentice Mentor

A mentor within a business is an expert in his or her field who is able and willing to pass on their knowledge and experience to the apprentice. They have to be able to monitor an individual’s progress and provide constructive feedback which is aimed to aid further development. Being an apprentice mentor is not all about developing a learner’s knowledge and skills in relation to the job they will undertake in the future. A mentor must also support an apprentice's transition into the working environment as many will have come straight from school. This may include helping them to understand how to conduct themselves, work with others and develop confidence in all the areas experienced workers take for granted.

The Mentor doesn’t necessarily have to work with the apprentice all the time. This will depend on the size of your business and the breadth of the apprenticeship programme. In smaller businesses, the apprentice may well work under the mentor all the time. In larger businesses, there is a good chance that the apprenticeship programme may see the person move through several departments and work under many different people within the business. In this case, it is still preferable to have one person centrally who oversees the apprenticeship programme, even if they are not with the apprentice all the time.

How do we help?
Our Training Officer works with each Mentor to manage the progress of the apprentice. They will help to develop the Company Training Plan under which the Mentor can structure the learning for the apprentice and both parties (Training Officer and Mentor) support each other in the management of the apprentice’s wellbeing and performance.

9. 20% Off-the-job

The ESFA define off-the-job as ‘learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship.’ The phrase ‘off-the-job’ can be confusing as you might jump to the conclusion that this learning is done in addition to the apprentice’s hours or has to be completed away from the work place. Neither of these are true. Off-the-job training hours are logged whilst the apprentice is in the work place and must be logged within their normal working hours. 

Off-the-job training is calculated using the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across their whole apprenticeship. By way of example, an off-the-job hours’ calculation might be; 52 weeks less 5 weeks’ holiday = 47 weeks’ x 37 hours per week = 1,739 x 0.2 = 347.8 off-the-job hours required per year.

How do we help?
We help you and the apprentice identify opportunities to plan and complete off-the-job learning. For example; all college learning, online learning, CPD related to their job, simulation exercises, manufacturer training, shadowing colleagues, being mentored, industry visits, learning support and time spent writing assignments can all be used. Our e-portfolio system has a handy phone app. that allows the apprentice to log the learning in real time which is by far the best way to keep track of what has been achieved. 

10. End Point Assessment

Every Standard finishes with the apprentice completing an End Point Assessment (EPA). Conducted by an EPA Organisation unrelated to the Training Provider, this can consist of a project, multiple choice test, workplace observations or a professional discussion supported by the apprentice’s portfolio. It is your choice as to which EPA Organisation you would like to use and can be selected from a central government register. You and your training provider must decide at what point each apprentice is ready to progress through their Final Gateway and be put forward for their EPA. The EPA will take place within 4 months of the Final Gateway.

How do we help?
We will support you fully in the EPA process and help you to identify which EPA Organisation to use. As the apprentice progresses toward the end of their programme, we will help you to plan the EPA in order to ensure the apprentice has the best possible chance of completion. 


Written by Mark, CEO.