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Apprenticeships Explained

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is employed to do a real job within your business, whilst studying for a nationally recognised qualification. Apprentices engage in comprehensive training programmes, which give the employee an opportunity to learn on the job and receive training, whilst earning a salary. As part of their apprenticeship they will gain relevant skills and knowledge for your business. Apprentices can be anyone aged 16+ and may be a new recruit in your business, an employee looking for a training opportunity, or someone looking to change careers.

Are apprenticeships just for school leavers and specific sectors?

No, apprenticeships have changed a lot in the last decade. There are now over 600 apprenticeship standards available across most sectors. Apprenticeships range from a level 2, the equivalent of GCSE, all the way up to a level 7, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.


How are businesses using apprenticeships?

Recruiting: Businesses are recognising the benefits of recruiting new employees through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships provide a cost-effective way to give your employees relevant, tailored training, whilst they learn your business’ way of doing things. With many young people choosing not to go to university, many are considering other career paths. People looking to change careers are also using apprenticeships to gain on the job knowledge and training in a new sector.


Developing and retaining your employees: With different levels of apprenticeships available businesses are embedding apprenticeships into their learning and development strategies to upskill their future leaders and managers of the business.

What does an apprenticeship involve?

Apprenticeship standards: All apprentices will complete a nationally recognised apprenticeship programme known as an apprenticeship standard. Apprenticeship standards have been designed by employers, for employers. Each apprenticeship standard outlines the skills, knowledge and behaviours the apprentice will learn through their job and apprenticeship training. What the apprentice learns will depend on the role they are training for. Whilst every standard will include core elements, the apprentice’s training will be tailored to the needs of your business.


Duration: An apprenticeship lasts for between one and six years, depending on the level and type of apprenticeship, and their previous experience. The apprentice must be employed for the duration of their apprenticeship.

Training & learning: The majority of the apprentice’s learning will take place ‘on-the-job’ as they learn through their job role. 20% of their learning must take place ‘off-the-job’ and includes any relevant activities and training they take part in which is outside their every day job, but still relevant to their apprenticeship e.g. preparing for apprenticeship assessments, workplace mentoring/meetings/training.  


End Point Assessment: All apprentices will take part in an End Point Assessment which checks whether they have gained all of the relevant, skills, knowledge and behaviors in the apprenticeship. Once they pass they will receive their formal qualification. 


Training provider: An Apprenticeship training provider will work closely with your business to support and deliver elements of the apprentice’s training. The training provider is responsible for ensuring that the apprentice has gained the relevant skills, knowledge and behaviours, before they complete their assessment. A training provider will support your business throughout the apprenticeship and will work with you to tailor the apprenticeship to your needs. Apprenticeship training providers are regulated by Ofsted and receive government funding through the Education and Skills Funding Agency to help train apprentices.

Where can I find the apprenticeships that are currently available?

All apprenticeships that have currently been approved for delivery can be found here: Apprenticeship standards / Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

What does an apprenticeship cost?

Every apprenticeship has a funding band which outlines the cost of delivering that apprenticeship.

There are two levels of funding which determine how much you as an employer pay towards the cost of the apprenticeship

I am an employer with a pay bill of over £3 million each year. You will pay an apprenticeship levy. Please see more information about what the apprenticeship levy is and how you can use it to pay for apprenticeships here.

I am an employer with an annual pay bill of less than £3 million. The government help to fund 95% of the training cost of the apprenticeship in something called co-investment. You will be asked to cover 5% of the costs of the apprentice's training + the apprentice's wages.


If you have fewer than 50 employees and your apprentice is aged between 16-18 years old or 19-24 with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) the Government will cover the full cost of the apprenticeship (excluding wages). If your apprentice is over 18, you will need to pay 5% of the apprenticeship, with the Government contributing the other 95%.

Our team at WTPN run the West of England Apprenticeship Service. If you want support in understanding apprenticeships and how your business can benefit we offer a free, independent and impartial apprenticeship service for small businesses based in the West of England. Get in touch with our team to talk through your business' needs: 
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