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Apprenticeships in a nutshell

Apprenticeships in a nutshell

If you think you know apprenticeships, think again. Apprenticeships in England are changing. A raft of government reforms is restoring the prestige, credibility and impact of Apprenticeship Training Programmes. Here’s our handy guide to the changes.


Large organisations (with an annual payroll bill more than £3m) are being encouraged to engage with apprenticeships through the Apprenticeship Levy. Those who do so will receive significant funding top ups from the Treasury. Smaller organisations (with a annual payroll bill below £3m) will receive at least 90% funding towards the cost of Apprenticeship Training.


New qualifications and more rigorous delivery rules will help to elevate and standardise the content of apprenticeships, restoring their prestige as the primary route for technical and skilled professionals; on a par with academic alternatives.


The quality, content and impact of Apprenticeship Training is being restored with a greater focus on labour market and employer requirements. A focus on technical requirements, high quality teaching and increased productivity will ensure a greater Return on Investment for employers.

Our Approach

Total Training Company (UK) Ltd will work with you to develop an apprenticeship training programme that delivers the future skills and talent your business needs. By understanding your long term development requirements we can tie today’s apprenticeship training to your future projects and ensure you have the skilled talent you need when major projects go-live. Your apprenticeship programme can include core training courses including SSSTS, SMSTS, First Aid or Confined Spaces; when delivered as part of an Apprenticeship these courses may either be fully funded through your Apprenticeship Levy  or receive 90% funding from the ESFA if you do have a levy fund.
Your company may be eligible for CITB grants which can be used to cover your 10% contribution, you may also be able to claim attendance allowances for the time your staff spend in training as part of their apprenticeship.
Hungry for more? Scroll down for our detailed briefing.
Seen the light already? Contact us today to find out how our Apprenticeship Programmes can support your business.

Building Capability

Apprenticeship Reforms and the Construction Sector

Historically, apprenticeships were the primary method of recruiting and up-skilling skilled and technical tradespeople. Once regarded as the technical equivalent of academic pathways, they had a particular prominence in the construction, skilled trades, food and craft sectors. This was thanks largely to the nature of learning which essentially passed skills from Master Craftsman to an Apprentice working under close supervision; in todays parlance we’d call this mentoring. This blend of working and learning was at the core of apprenticeships for generations and critically, apprenticeships were seen as a vehicle to increase novice staff capability to a point where they could perform skilled tasks without supervision.
More recently, several government initiatives sought to address the high-number of school leavers in the UK workforce without formal qualifications. A focus on certificates led to a culture of assessment and accreditation with some providers issuing high volumes of qualifications with minimal tangible training taking place. Apprenticeships became another way to observe and assess staff in their current role and certificate their existing skills, as opposed to a method to develop the skills they and their business needed for their next role. The Apprenticeship Reform Agenda is restoring the credibility and usefulness of apprenticeships to industry through three key initiatives.

Teaching and Learning

New delivery rules state that as of April 2017 all new apprenticeships must include a minimum of 20% off-the-job training delivered over at least 12 months. This requirement is having a radical impact on the types of roles that will suit apprenticeship programmes. Entry level, low skilled roles (retail, customer service etc) typically don’t require such in depth training over such a long period of time. There is definitely a place for high quality training but if it doesn’t take at least a year to learn the role, it’s not an apprenticeship. By contrast, roles with the greatest impact on business productivity (a key economic challenge for UK PLC) are those with an inherent requirement for continuous practical training. Skilled trades, technical manufacturing and senior roles with a requirement to continuously learn, embed and hone complex policies and procedures are much more suited to the sustained learning requirements of an apprenticeship. Key to this development is the role of the senior, skilled person as mentor. High quality apprenticeship programmes will provide an appropriate level of practical training which could include existing commercial training courses such as SSSTS (Site Supervision Safety Training Scheme) and time spent working under the close supervision and support of an experienced mentor; all of which contributes to the 20% off-the-job training requirement. Typically this model won’t resemble day release to college once a week, there will be more subtlety as providers help employers to prescribe and capture the knowledge that is transferred through shadowing and mentoring in the workplace whilst maximising the impact of specific training events. These rules are a perfect fit for the construction sector as they provide an alternative means of delivery for the high quality training that already takes place and more critically, a structure to standardise and accredit mentoring.

The Apprenticeship Levy & Co-funding

As of April 2017 all employers with an annual UK payroll bill of more than £3m are now liable for a levy of 0.5% with an initial exemption of £15k. HMRC collect the levy against every pound over £3m which is then locked in a digital Apprenticeship Service account for up to 2 years (rolling) from the date of collection. Funds are only recoverable in England and can only be used to pay for apprenticeships. The Government will contribute an additional 10% top up for against the available levy fund. Companies below the £3m threshold (non-levy payers) will also be asked to contribute to the cost of apprenticeships going forward however, ESFA will still provide 90% funding for learners aged over 19 and 100% for 16-18 year old staff.

New Standards

The approach to developing and delivering qualifications through apprenticeships has become increasingly diverse in recent years. Employers and providers would identify a qualification Framework which contained some core elements of delivery but the majority of the programme would be made up of a bespoke selection of units. Whilst this freedom of choice and creativity allowed significant opportunities to create bespoke, employer specific programmes it was at the cost of the reputation, quality and portability of apprenticeship qualifications. A lack of standardisation reduced the credibility of the qualifications and made it difficult for employers to make role specifications and selections based on achievement in the way they would with academic alternatives. The reform agenda is restoring the prestige and recognition of apprenticeship qualifications with the introduction of New Standards. Employers have worked with Awarding Organisations to form “Trail Blazer” groups, these groups have specified in detail the skill requirements for specific roles and signed off together on the agreed New Standard for apprenticeships. Whilst there will still be some opportunity to deliver apprenticeships with the specific character or requirements of a business in mind, the core qualification will not differ to that delivered to a different company employing apprentices in the same role.

The Skills Sector is still adapting to these changes and there is still significant resistance from some providers however, what’s driving these reforms is the UKs chronic productivity deficit and the now clichéd “skills gap”.  Going forward high quality, specialist providers will continue to champion the reforms to ensure the government’s objective of 3m new apprentices by 2020 is achieved through  meaningful and impactful programmes that deliver the future talent our economy needs.

Any Questions? Need Advice?

If you’re not sure where to start simply click here to send us your enquiry or call us on 0121 706 0851 (Midlands) 01429 224 433 (North East).