What are apprenticeships?
Apprenticeships are employment based training programmes combining on and off the job training. On the job training is provided by the employer through mentoring and supervision. Off the job training, away from the immediate pressures of the job, is normally delivered with the help of a specialist training provider such as PBD. We offer training for a wide range of apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3.
Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or over. They can be used to train both new staff and existing employees who are moving, or hoping to move, to a new job role. Apprentices must be employed under a contract of employment for a minimum of 16 hours a week, although at least 30 hours a week is preferred. They must be paid the appropriate minimum wage for their age. A special, lower minimum wage applies to apprentices who are in the first year of their apprenticeship, or who are under 19 years of age.
Important changes ahead
At present, apprentices work and study to achieve a recognised vocational qualification combining competence and knowledge. They also need to be aware of employment rights and to achieve qualifications in English, mathematics and (in some cases) ICT. In future, apprenticeships will focus less on qualifications and more on the skills that employers say the need: there will be a comprehensive ‘end point assessment’. However, in sectors like early years, formal qualifications provide a statutory licence to practise and so will continue to be a key component of an apprenticeship.
For apprenticeship starts before 1 May 2017, PBD is able to deliver all apprenticeship training free of charge through its government contract. From that date, however, the new apprenticeship levy will fundamentally change the rules.
Only employers with an annual payroll over £3m will pay the levy: further information can be found here. Smaller employers (with whom we overwhelmingly work) will still benefit from substantial government support for apprenticeships. However, in order to qualify for this support, the government will require them to pay 10% of the cost,
PBD has developed a simple fee structure for apprenticeship starts from May 2017. On registration, employers will be asked to pay £240 for a level 2 apprenticeship or £300 for a level 3 apprenticeship (including) VAT. Nothing further will be payable by the employer. Even this contribution will be waived for smaller employers (under 50 staff) where the apprentice is under 19.
The government is offering a further incentive to employers to recruit apprentices under 19, in the form of a £1,000 bonus paid via the training provider over the duration of the apprenticeship.
At present, employers are expected to ensure that apprentices complete their guided learning hours during contracted (paid) working time. Much of this can be satisfied by on the job training and mentoring but a minimum number of hours (which varies according to the apprenticeship) must be ‘off the job’ (mainly studying and meeting their assessor). For starts from 1 May 2017, there will be a legal requirement for employers to reserve at least 20% of an apprentice’s time (an average of one day per week) for off the job training.
Where an apprenticeship is not appropriate (eg where the employee needs a qualification but is not acquiring substantial new skills, or where the employer is not willing or able to offer paid study time) an alternative source of funding should be sought, such as a student loan (available to learners aged 19 and over for qualifications and level 3 and above).