A Summer of Change in the World of Apprenticeships

Old Way New Way

Six months ago, everyone woke up to some big changes on how they approach Apprenticeships. In a major shake-up of the system, the new Apprenticeships – designed by employers for employers – now give businesses the opportunities to develop high quality, low cost, flexible training programmes for all staff; in a much needed move to help tackle the UK’s chronic skills gap.

So, what’s changed?

The design and structure, how Apprenticeships are assessed, the eligibility criteria and how they are funded have changed. Whilst the redesign and new assessment process started in 2016, employers are just starting to take them up – particularly in light of eligibility and funding changes that occurred in May this year.

Under the new scheme launched in May 2017 there will broadly be two types of Apprenticeship employer – levy paying and non-levy paying.

  • Employers who pay more than £3 million in wages/year have been subject to an Apprenticeship Levy, set at 0.5% of their wage bill. Levy payers can use these funds, to which the government adds an extra 10%, to spend on Apprenticeship training for developing the skills of existing employees (including senior, middle and first line managers) or to recruit new talent. While the changes seemed daunting at first for many ‘levy paying’ employers, we have been working closely with them over the summer to ensure the smooth transition to the new system and develop the processes required to manage and access their levy funds.
  • For smaller, ‘non-levy payers’, the Apprenticeship Reforms also offer a wealth of opportunities, particularly those looking to offset the costs of L&D training or launch a workforce development programme. The government will now pay 90% of the costs of valuable qualifications which previously were unfunded, and works out as a massive saving against many other training programmes in place for developing existing employees.

Understanding the value of apprenticeships

Much of the discussions we have had with the employers we work with are around the sheer breadth of apprenticeships and qualifications that funded training can now offer – from trainee right up to director level, spanning a broad range of professions. We have seen some amazing successes this year yet there is still a lot of work to be done to help employers understand what they can do, engage with their workforce and recognise the true value of new Apprenticeships.

An essential ingredient that brings everything together is that employers are now at the centre of the process for designing and delivering Apprenticeship programmes. Hundreds of new Apprenticeship Standards which are more closely tailored to individual professions are replacing the older frameworks. Some of these standards are still being finalised but the aim is to have them all complete by 2020.

While there still remains some issues to resolve, the reforms – and the renewed focus on quality, progression and learner experience – have the potential to transform skills development in the UK, which has been a long time coming.

If you have any questions about the Apprenticeship Levy or funding available for existing employees, please email ab@theapprenticeacademy.co.uk or call us on 0161 200 1673.