Apprentice Training: What you need to know.


New guidance reveals organisations will be held responsible for making sure apprenticeship programmes tick all the boxes

Employers must take responsibility for apprentices’ off-the-job training, according to government guidelines published yesterday.

The newly published guidelines lay out further details of the apprenticeship levy’s training requirements, which employers and providers will be expected to comply with to deliver high-quality apprenticeship programmes.

As part of the requirements of the new apprenticeship levy, which was introduced this April, 20 per cent of training must be off-the-job – described in the guidelines as learning that takes place outside the core working environment and focuses on the personal development of the apprentice.

“The 20 per cent threshold for off-the-job training is absolutely critical,” the newly appointed skills minister, Anne Milton, said in a keynote speech at the 2017 Association of Employment and Learning Providers conference. “We don’t just want three million apprentices, we want three million high-quality apprentices, with a strong reputation and brand.”

Meanwhile, Keith Smith, director of funding and programmes at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which is working alongside the government to oversee the apprenticeship levy, said employers and providers that were confused by the off-the-job training threshold must approach ESFA with any queries, warning conference delegates that a hard line would be taken with employers that did not comply with the guidelines. “A huge amount of work has gone into the guidelines – please do read it, as this will be an area of zero tolerance around non-compliance,” he said.

“We will be checking very carefully to ensure the 20 per cent threshold is being offered and, where it is not, you are not just putting the money you have procured for your apprenticeships at risk, but your place in the market.”

Actual delivery of the training can be handled by a provider or the employer themselves, but, however the training is delivered, employers will be responsible for making sure apprenticeships are receiving off-the-job training for a minimum of 20 per cent of the time they are paid to work.

The government has run into a number of roadblocks in implementing the apprenticeship levy. In the months leading up to the launch of the digital apprenticeship website, ESFA was forced to crack down on apprenticeship providers offering financial kickbacks to employers in exchange for using their services. Milton also acknowledged the fall-off in apprenticeship starts, which have dropped by 25 per cent since the levy rules were introduced.

In [the Conservative] manifesto, we reinstated our commitment to deliver three million high-quality apprenticeships by 2020, and that phrase high quality is very important,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical that we work together on this, and I am keen to listen to your views. I know there has been some uncertainty in recent months, and that for many of you this has been a bruising period – but I am here to listen and to learn, and I hope to offer some clarity moving forwards.”