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Apprenticeships – Frequently Asked Questions 

For Employers

If you’re having trouble finding the answers you’re looking for, then browse through our frequently asked questions for more information and help on apprenticeships. If still in doubt just call us on 01202 123444 or email and we can help you. 

Frequently Asked Questions – General Questions:

Who can do an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship training is available to anyone over the age of 16 who is no longer in full time education. There is no upper age limit to starting an apprenticeship. School leavers cannot start until after the last Friday in June of the academic year in which they have their 16th birthday.

Apprenticeships are a great starting point, but also a good re-starting point if you are returning to work after a career break, or redundancy, or you have reached a point where you feel you need to retrain and your skills can be transferred to a different career.

The duration of an apprenticeship depends on your current skill levels and the industry of the apprenticeship. Generally, apprenticeships take between one and four years to complete, dependent on the academic level of the qualification. See table 1 below. Employers can offer apprenticeships to new entrants or use them to grow talent from among current employees.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An Apprenticeship is an on the job training programme that develops an employee’s competence in the key skills they need to perform in their job role. The training is designed to be flexible and meet the needs of each individual, building on their strengths and identifying any areas for improvement. The Apprenticeship programme may involve 1:1 discussion, practical demonstration, assignment work, on the job assessments, online learning, as well as formal taught sessions and workshops. Apprenticeships are increasingly recognised as the gold standard for work-based training and include qualifications that have been co-developed with employers and employer bodies, to ensure their relevance to the sector and to help to address the UKs skills shortage areas.

Duration and key details of the levels of Apprenticeship
Level of Apprenticeship Equivalent to Duration of training
Intermediate – Level 2 Level 2 is GCSE level and an intermediate apprenticeship equals five GCSEs at A* – C (Grade 4-7) 15 months to 18 months
Advanced – Level 3 Level 3 is an A Level and an advanced apprenticeship equals 2 A levels upon completion 18 months to 2 years
Higher – Level 4 Level 4 is the same level as a Foundation Degree 2 to 4 years
Degree –Level 5, 6, 7 From Degree to Masters levels Totally dependent upon the business area.
Do apprentices have to be employed full time?

The minimum duration of 12 months is based on an apprentice working at least 30 hours a week, including any off-the-job training they undertake. If the apprentice works fewer than 30 hours a week, or where a part-time working pattern is needed, it can be agreed with the training provider to extend the apprenticeship accordingly. This could happen with Teaching Assistant apprentices, for example. However, in most circumstances, the normal working week will be 37.5 hours, worked as five consecutive days from Monday to Friday. These 37.5 hours, divided by the 5 working days, equates to a working day of 7.5 hours that must be worked between the hours of 7.00 am and 7.00 pm.

What type of apprenticeships are on offer?

There is a stereotype that apprenticeships are only available in physical trades like construction or hairdressers, but apprenticeships are now available in a wide range of sectors, from large national companies such as the NHS and Hitachi to smaller local companies. Over a wide number of training providers, you can choose to follow the apprenticeship path in specific fields, from Health & Social Care to Team Leading and IT to Professional Cookery. The full list can be found here.

Apprenticeship Training Available

Skills & Learning offer a range of Apprenticeships in the Dorset area. These include:

  • Customer Service Practitioner
  • Business Administrator
  • Adult Care Worker
  • Lead Adult Care Worker
  • Team Leader/Supervisor
  • Operations/Departmental Manager
  • Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools
  • Hair Professional (Hairdressing and Barbering routes)

We are always developing new programmes to support Apprentices so please talk to us about how we can support your business. Please contact us on 01202 123444, 01305 819059 or 

What are the benefits of the Apprenticeship scheme to my business?

Skills shortages and staff retention are still among the biggest risks to UK businesses. Apprenticeships can help businesses across all industries by offering a cost-effective route to attract fresh talent and to invest in workforce development. If you have trained staff with the right skills for the job, they can do a wider range of tasks and take on new responsibilities – this can help to reduce skill shortages, minimise staff turnover, improve your customer experience and increase productivity. Over 130,000 businesses across the UK currently offer Apprenticeship training to their employees, with 20% of employers hiring more Apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate. 96% of employers that take on an apprentice report benefits to their business and 70% of employers report higher productivity and improved quality of products / services.

What support does the Employer need to provide to an Apprentice?

The apprenticeship process is combined in a three-way partnership where the employer (line manager), apprentice and training provider work together for success. As the apprentice is a member of your workforce, the Apprentice will follow your normal HR policies and procedures and require access to your specific company induction and line management structures. They will be assigned to an Assessor, who will usually meet with them once a month during working hours, to review progress, coach and support the Apprentice and set new tasks for the month ahead, ensuring that they are making good progress against the required standards.

It’s also important that your Apprentice receives regular direction and feedback from their line manager, for them to improve and implement their skills effectively in the workplace. As part of the package of the apprenticeship training, there will be a need for the apprentice to have 20% off the job training and this must be recorded. This can be a mix of Training Provider activities and some Employer led. Commitment to this programme will form part of the agreement that is issued under the guidance of the Government funding rules. In practice, these guidelines are useful to ascertain what can be counted in this 20%. See Does this Count and Myth Busters.

Who pays for the training?

The Government or the employer. Since April 2017, employers with a wage bill of more than £3m per year have been signed up to the Digital Account Service, whereby 0.5% of their wage bill is transferred into the Digital Account, through PAYE (sometimes called the levy pot) and this funding can only be drawn down to fund the training of an apprentice. This funding covers the full cost of training for those aged 16 – 18 years and a proportion of the cost for those aged 19 years and over. The employer is expected to contribute to the costs of the Apprenticeship for those aged over 19 years.

Smaller employers, who do not pay the apprenticeship levy share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with the government; this is called ‘co-investment’. For new apprenticeships starting on or after 1 April 2019 you pay 5% towards the cost of apprenticeship training. The government will pay the rest (95%) up to the funding band maximum.

There is also an additional financial incentive for employers, with grants of £3000 per apprentice.

What is the wage rate for an Apprentice?

All apprentices are employed, and most will have a contract of employment for at least 30 hours per week. At Skills & Learning we advocate paying as much as you can above the minimum rate – this will be an investment in an employee who will become an asset and paying more than the minimum will usually attract a higher quality of applicant.

An Apprentice Wage Rate of £4.30 per hour applies to all Apprentices under 19 years of age and for those over 19 years who are in their first year of learning. As stated, employers may pay above this rate at their discretion.

Apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age if they are aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their Apprenticeship, as outlined below: The table below is provided as a guideline to outlines the minimum wages, below which Apprentices should not be paid.

Age From 1 April 2021 (current) Rate per hour
23 and over £8.91
21 to 22 £8.36
18 to 20 £6.56
Under 18 £4.62
Apprentice (all apprentices under age 19 AND any apprentice, regardless of age, in first year of apprenticeship) £4.30
Is there independent mental health support available for apprentices?

Remploy offers a free service to any apprentice who is experiencing mental health difficulties at work or has been signed off sick with a mental health condition but wants to return to work. Trained professionals can offer support with emotional wellbeing, advice on simple workplace adjustments, and successful coping strategies. For more information visit Mental health support for apprentices.

Is there any guidance to ensure consistency in employment?

The Government website has some general guidance on apprenticeship employment and approaches to pay. Apprentices must be offered the same conditions as other employees and paid a lawful wage for the time they are in work and in off-the-job training.

Don’t apprentices need a lot of support?

Apprentices may need additional support in the initial stages, especially if this is their first experience of employment but this is likely to decrease as their skills and confidence grow. Where appropriate, supervision or mentoring can be offered by an existing member of staff wishing to gain experience as part of their development. Skills & Learning offer training to those who will be mentoring an apprentice and we have Learning Support Assistants in the classroom. We can also offer a 1:1 consultation with a counsellor who specialises in motivational organisation, who will assist the apprentice in planning, being prepared and coping strategies to enable them to become an independent learner and employee.

Financial support is available to help with the cost of supporting younger apprentices, care leavers and young adults up to 25 who have an education, health and care plan (EHC). For more details see the Apprenticeship funding rules.

Do staff supervising apprentices under the age of 18 need to have DBS check?

As apprentices are employed, there is no requirement for the staff supervising them to have a DBS check, however, it is good practice to ensure they have the appropriate skills and qualities to support an apprentice in their new role.

Frequently Asked Questions – The Apprenticeship Levy:

Will the Levy apply to my business and if so, at what rate?

The Levy will apply to employers across the UK with an annual wage bill over £3m. For the purposes of the Levy, an ‘employer’ is a secondary contributor, with liability to pay Class 1 secondary National Insurance contributions for their employees. The Levy payments are collected via the PAYE system monthly alongside income tax and national insurance contributions. The money will be deposited in each employer’s digital account and be accumulated, with the balance carried forward throughout the year. The Levy rate calculated at 0.5% of the entire wage bill. All employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against the Levy payment. Click here for more detailed information.

How do I access the Levy funding?

Levy funding is accessed via the Digital Apprenticeship Service. Levy paying employers should have registered for their individual digital account from January 2017, with payments deposited automatically on a monthly basis. When the levy went live in April 2017, the first collections into the digital account were the following month, so each employer could access the Levy funding to pay for the costs of training from May 2017. 

In order to access the funds, the employer must register the Apprentice and provider details, outlining the training programme, expected duration of training, type of Apprenticeship programme and agreed price. The price will cover the delivery of the full Apprenticeship training and the end point assessment. The government will publish a table of maximum funding bands per Apprenticeship Level or Standard. These funding bands will provide a ceiling on the funding per Apprentice that the Levy can be used to pay for. Details of each funding band can be found here.

It is important to note that Levy funding can only be used for approved Training Providers, that are confirmed on the government’s ‘Register of Approved Training Providers’. Once the training commences, payments will be made directly from the employers digital account to the Training Provider on a monthly basis. Funds will automatically expire in the digital account, if they have not been utilised on Apprenticeship training within 18 months. If you are in danger of your funds expiring, get in touch by email

Will the Government contribute to the costs of the training?

Yes, the Government will ‘top up’ Levy payments directly to each employer’s digital account at a rate of 10% increase. Therefore, for every £1.00 that is deposited in the account by the employer, £1.10 will be available to pay for Apprenticeship training. These payments will be made automatically on a monthly basis.

If I don’t pay the Levy can I still access funding for Apprenticeships?

Yes, you will still be able to access funded Apprenticeships through approved Training Providers. You will however be expected to contribute to the costs of the training unless you have -fewer than 49 employees and are taking on a 16-18 year old. (In which case, the Government will fund fully). You will be part of a co-investment model which means that in addition to the salary for the apprentice, you will need to contribute 5% of the training costs and the government will fund the remaining 95%. More information is available on the Government website.

From January 2020, as part of testing new arrangements during a transition period, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), is inviting all employers to use the digital apprenticeship service.

We encourage all employers to set up an account so they can experience the benefits of the apprenticeship service.

Can I deliver the Apprenticeship internally?

Yes, an employer can apply to become a registered Training Provider via the ‘Register of Approved Training Providers’. Skills & Learning can help you to develop this programme and support you with the English, maths and IT delivery to fulfil the academic skills part of the training, along with any of our workshops that you may wish to include.

What if I can see the benefit of training an apprentice, but I must convince my managers?

Skills & Learning can arrange a meeting with you and your managers, either face to face, or as part of a virtual presentation. We can share case studies from our current employers and explain the benefits in general. We can also get a current or previous apprentice and/or an employer to have an informal chat with your managers, so they can ask the questions they need answering. Please also visit our ‘I want to employ an apprentice page’ for more information.

What employment contracts do apprentices need?

All apprentices must have a contract of employment which is long enough for them to complete the apprenticeship programme. They must also have a job role (or roles) that provide them with the opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to achieve their apprenticeship.

Employment can be offered either on a fixed-term or permanent basis. However, the apprenticeship must last a minimum of 12 months, regardless of age or prior experience. At Skills & Learning, we have contract templates, Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding that can be adapted to each of the bespoke training delivery we operate.

Can I recruit apprentices from outside the UK?

You can only use the funds in your apprenticeship service account, or government employer co-investment, for those individuals who are considered eligible. They must have the right to work in England and have an eligible residency status. This applies to citizens from both within and outside the European Economic Area. The Apprenticeship funding rules contain detailed information on this.

What do I do if an apprentice goes on maternity leave or long-term sick leave?

The Apprenticeship funding rules contain information on the action an employer must take if the apprentice requires a break in their apprenticeship due to illness, maternity, or other personal reasons. This includes when to stop and reactivate payments, who to inform and how to record this break to avoid incurring any costs.

Do I have to pay National insurance contributions for an apprentice?

Since 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.

Frequently Asked Questions – Training and Assessment:

Can apprentices work in different departments as part of their 20 per cent off-the-job training?

Yes – as long as the activity is within the scope of their role, is away from their day-to-day job and the apprentice gets to learn and practice their skills and knowledge. 

What counts as off-the-job training?

Simply explained, – the term off-the-job may be misleading, if you read the following case study, you will see that they felt rebranding it as Dedicated Learning Time was more acceptable to line managers. The truth is that apprentices do not physically need to be away from their work premises and training can happen in the workplace.

For further guidance and resources for employers on meeting the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement visit: Apprenticeships: off-the-job training. There is a good companion to this guide, as it debunks many of the myths surrounding 20% off the job training.

Can we choose which training provider to use?

Once you know which apprenticeship standard you want to use you can view the find apprenticeship training service to select an approved apprenticeship training provider in your area.

Employers negotiate with training providers to agree a total price for each apprenticeship, which includes the cost of the training and the end point assessment.

I have a member of staff who already has prior learning, could this be used towards their apprenticeship?

If the prior learning is relevant to the apprenticeship being undertaken, then yes, but the funding agency is strict about not using government funding to validate knowledge already gained. See here for more information on recognition of prior learning. The bottom line is that the learning during the Apprenticeship must be new, the levy funding cannot be used for something the apprentice already knows and has been doing as part of their job This is one of the reasons that all apprentices must have an initial assessment at the very beginning of the process, to help inform the training package and to assess that the level of the apprenticeship is appropriate for them as an individual.

End-point assessments (EPA)

All apprenticeship standards contain an EPA which must be passed to complete the apprenticeship. The cost of the EPA must be included in the total price for each apprenticeship. The register of apprenticeship assessment organisations lists all the organisations approved to undertake EPAs.

The EPA is a fair assessment of how the apprentice has conducted themselves and how well they have studied, worked and achieved. There are grades in the assessment and Distinction is the highest of these. See here for more information.