Apprenticeship Q&As

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This section includes Q&As for the areas listed below.

Employing apprentices

The funding rules (for 2017 to 2018) state that apprenticeships are genuine jobs with an accompanying skills development programme. How do they define what is a ‘genuine job’?

In their definition of the term 'genuine' job the rules state that apprentices must have a contract of employment, which is long enough for them to complete the apprenticeship programme, and have a job role (or roles) that provides them with the opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to achieve their apprenticeship.

On completion, an apprentice should remain with their employer where a job opportunity continues to exist. Where this is not possible, they must be supported to seek alternative opportunities.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will monitor apprentice destination data to ensure that job roles are genuine and are not created purely for the purposes of an apprenticeship programme.

Is there a minimum pay rate for apprentices?

The current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £3.50* per hour and applies to those under the age of 19 years old and those aged over 19 who are in the first year of their apprenticeship (*figures correct at 1 April 2017).

Those aged 19 years or over who have completed their first year are entitled to be paid at the national minimum wage rate. Pay levels above this rate are for employers and workers to agree and government strongly encourages employers to pay more when they can afford it.

Apprentices must be paid for time spent training or studying for a relevant qualification, whether this is while at work, attending college or a training organisation.

National insurance contributions 

From April 2016, employers are not required to pay employer national insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 on earnings up to the upper earnings limit. 

What is the national view from a staff-side perspective in relation to terms and conditions for apprentices to ensure consistency in employment?

NHS Staff Council has jointly issued general guidance on apprenticeships in the NHS that provides some details on apprenticeship agreements and approaches to pay. Read their new guidance Apprenticeships in the NHS.

Apprentices must be offered the same conditions as other employees working at similar grades or in similar roles. This includes:

  • paid holidays
  • sick pay
  • any benefits you offer, such as childcare voucher schemes
  • any support you offer such as coaching or mentoring.
In order to provide the 20 per cent off the job training required, is it acceptable to move an apprentice to a different department to learn new skills?

All apprenticeship standards must include a minimum of 20 per cent off-the-job training. This does not necessarily mean that apprentices must attend college, or be away from the employer’s premises, but they must undertake some sort of training/development activity away from their day to day job, in order to learn and practice their skills and knowledge. 

Will job descriptions and person specifications need to change to recognise qualifications gained through an apprenticeship, particularly those at higher/degree level?

Apprenticeships are a learning route to achieve a recognised qualification, they are not a qualification in themselves. For example, a nursing degree will be the same qualification whether gained via higher education, or through an apprenticeship.

Training providers and assessors

How do we choose a training provider?

Employers will be able use their online account to search for and select an appropriate apprenticeship framework or standard. They will then search for and select a training provider, or providers, in their area who are approved to deliver the training. 

How will the register of  approved training providers work?

From 1 May 2017, levy funds can only be spent on apprenticeship training that is delivered by providers and employers that appear on the register of approved apprenticeship training providers (RoATP).  For the time being there is a threshold in place which means that organisations who want to deliver less than £100,000 of apprenticeship training per year as a subcontractor will not need to apply to join the register (they can apply if they want to) in order to deliver apprenticeships.

How do training providers become approved?

Training providers wishing to deliver apprenticeship training that is funded under the levy arrangements must appear on the register of approved apprenticeship training providers (RoATP). Organisations that previously received grant funding direct from government that wish to continue training apprentices must also apply to become registered providers.

The register will open four times a year for applications and each provider will need to refresh their information every 12 months to maintain their registration.

Can an employer become a training provider? 

Yes. However, employers wanting to deliver apprenticeship training, either to their own staff or to another employers’ staff, will need to become a registered apprenticeship training provider. This will involve meeting certain requirements, including due diligence and financial checks, as well as your organisation's capability to deliver high quality apprenticeship training. 

Download the government's guidance for employers wishing to become a training provider.

Is there any financial support for employers who become training providers?

Employers who become training providers will be able to use funds in their digital account to pay for some of the related costs of being a provider, including administration, use of premises and costs associated with employees directly involved in the delivery of apprenticeships. Further details can be found in the government's apprentice employer-provider guide

Are Ofsted inspections for employer-providers different to that for providers and what descriptors will be used to rate them?

The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspects apprenticeships to assess the quality of the training and ensure it is being managed effectively. Guidance on the inspection for employers can be found at Annex B of the government's employer-provider guide

Each inspection will result in a report on the quality of the training, using descriptors which range from outstanding to inadequate.

End-point assessments

All apprenticeship standards must contain an independent end-point assessment (EPO). Apprentices must meet the requirement of the EPO in order to achieve the apprenticeship standard. 

Will the end-point assessors need to be registered?

Only registered apprentice assessment organisations (RAAOs) will be eligible to undertake the end-point assessments of apprentices. While a training provider can also be a registered assessment organisation they cannot deliver training and undertake EPO's for the same group of apprentices. Employers may also become a registered assessment organisation. 

Employers wanting to use an organisation that is not on the register will need to make sure they apply and are listed against the apprenticeship standard before using them to conduct the independent end-point assessment of your apprentices. 

To register, organisations will have to show they are capable of delivering independent end-point assessments and are suitable to receive public funds. Organisations thinking about applying to the RAAO or looking for an organisation to conduct assessments can find further info at apprentice assessment organisations.

For guidance on how to use the RAAO go to Gov.UK. From May 2017 the register will start to be incorporated into the apprenticeship service. 

Can we use the levy to pay for a second end-point assessment if needed? 

The funds in your digital account can only be used to pay for re-taking qualifications or assessments where it is clear that additional learning has taken place.

Trailblazers, standards and qualifications

What is happening with the trailblazers and standards?

Apprenticeship frameworks are being replaced by apprenticeship standards developed by employer groups known as ‘trailblazers’. 

There is a lot of interest in developing healthcare standards so to avoid time and energy being duplicated anyone interested in setting up, or becoming part of a trailblazer should initially contact Healthcare.Trailblazer@skillsforhealth.org.uk who can offer advice and support. 

Healthcare Apprenticeships Standards Online (HASO) is an online system developed by Skills for Health that provides a one-stop shop to find and download apprenticeship standards that are commonly used in healthcare settings. HASO can help employers find the most up-to-date information and download standards that are currently in development, or are approved and ready to use

How-to guide for trailblazers that reflects the updated policy and processes has been published by the Institute for Apprenticeships. Providing stage-by-stage guidance on the development of new apprenticeship standards and End Point Assessments, this replaces all previous guidance from April 2017.

Finances

Will financial support be available to help employers set up systems and processes to manage apprentices?

No. The funds in your digital account can only be used towards the costs of apprenticeship training and the end point assessment. 
They cannot be used on other costs associated with your apprentices or wider training, for example wages, statutory licences to practice, travel and subsidiary costs, managerial costs, work placement programmes or the costs of setting up an apprenticeship programme.

Will help be available for apprentices who have additional needs or require support to engage them with their learning?

Additional payments will be offered to both employers and training providers to help with the costs associated with supporting younger apprentices, young care leavers and young adults with additional learning needs.

Training providers will also receive additional funding where apprentices need help to gain the minimum standard of Level 2 in English and maths, or require additional learning support as a result of conditions such as dyslexia, learning difficulties or disabilities. 

General questions

Is there an easy to read guide for employers available?

Yes. NHS Employers have developed a guide that offers advice, hints and tips to help employers across the health service get the most from the apprenticeship levy which is available to download

What are the implications of not reaching our target? 

A target will be applied to all pubic sector organisations with 250 or more employees set at 2.3% new apprenticeship starts in each financial year based on the headcount of staff. To allow for scheme to develop the target can be applied as an average across the years 2017/18 to 2020/21.

There are currently no financial or legislative penalties for not achieving the public sector target. However, the government expects that organisations will strive to meet the target and report annually on progress made towards achieving this. 

The report should outline steps being taken, or planned, and be descriptive to help set the context. For example, an employer piloting higher level apprenticeships may not be planning to achieve their target until 2019. 

Will apprentices who start from September 2016 count towards our target?

No. Apprentices who start before the new funding arrangements come into effect will be supported under the current funding system and therefore will not count towards the public sector targets.

Is there any advice available on how to market NHS apprenticeships?

If you are looking to attract young people into your organisation, our ThinkFuture web pages have a range resources, including three digital toolkits, to help you engage this age group.

Traineeships

Employers may also consider using traineeships as part of their approach to recruiting apprentices. Traineeships are funded separately to apprenticeships and are designed help young people, aged 16-24, to become ‘work ready’ by providing them with work preparation training, English, maths and work experience. You can find more information on our traineeship web pages.

How can I maximise the levy when I am limited by the number of vacancies I can recruit to? 

Apprenticeships are not just for new recruits but are an ideal way of developing staff across an organisation. The levy can be used to fund individuals who already hold a qualification as long as they are acquiring new skills that are substantially different. 

With a lot of focus on young apprentices, how can we change the perception that apprenticeships are not applicable to those aged over 24 years?

The purpose of an apprenticeship is to help individuals develop new skills that suits both their individual needs and that of the organisation, and employers can use the levy to fund apprenticeships for staff of all ages. In a change to previous rules, an individual can undertake an apprenticeship at any level (higher, equal or lower) to a qualification they already hold, if it allows them to acquire substantive new skills and the training is materially different. 

Employers should think about how they can raise awareness and challenge the perceptions held in their organisation about apprenticeships, in order to make full use of the levy and to support the career pathways and progression of their staff. 

Collecting evidence can help show the impact of apprenticeships on workforce development and how they are helping to meet the needs of the organisation though this will require setting up a system to collate the information.

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