An employer’s quick fire guide to apprenticeships

Thinking of taking on an apprentice but not sure where to start? The Education Training Collective’s (Etc.) Gary Potts is here to offer a helping hand.

As Group Director of Business Engagement at the Etc. he is no stranger to helping employers, of big and small businesses, get their heads around the jargon.

The good news is, he said: “It can sound complicated when you are just getting started but there are teams, like ours, who are here to help. We can talk you through your options, helping you to review your organisation, identify where there are potential training needs and look at ways you can utilise apprenticeships to grow skills in your workforce, with funding you may already be paying!”

An employer’s quick fire guide to apprenticeships

Here Gary offers a quick fire guide…

When taking on an apprentice, what are my responsibilities as an employer?

“This doesn’t differ too much from taking on any new employee, they have to have a contract, a safe working environment and access to the relevant policies and procedures and also be paid the correct wage. With regards to the apprenticeship, you have to make sure they are in a role that allows them to gather the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours. You need to assign a mentor to your apprentice and allow time in their contracted hours to complete 20% off the job training, which we will help you plan from the start.”

Is there an upper age limit for apprenticeships?

“Apprenticeships are now funded by the government irrespective of age, therefore the apprenticeship route can be used to retrain, upskill and develop your existing workforce, as well as to recruit new staff on apprenticeships.”

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

“All employers with an annual wage bill of more than £3m pay the levy. It is 0.5% of the total wage bill. This money is allocated to an account that can then be used to fund apprenticeship training. If you don’t choose to use this fund for apprenticeship training, this money cannot be recouped or used to pay for anything else. Therefore it makes business sense to explore apprenticeship opportunities for new and existing staff.”

And what about small to medium sized businesses?

“Apprenticeship training for non-levy paying employers is 95% funded by the government with a 5% co-investment required from the company, unless the apprentice is aged 16 to 18 where it is fully funded.

“The government is now phasing in a new web-based system for SMEs to use in the future, so if you are thinking about taking on an apprentice, speak to us about how this is all going to work.”

What do I need to pay an apprentice?

“There is a minimum apprenticeship wage set by the government, but you can choose to set the wage higher than this, in line with your business operating model.”

Is there funding or other incentives available?

There may be other, local, incentives and grants available for taking on an apprentice and that is part of conversation we can have. Potentially, the co-investment you make could be covered by available local grants, depending on meeting certain criteria, such as the sector you are working in and the age of the apprentice. We would help to review your case and advise what is available, if anything, to take on an apprentice.

I have heard of apprenticeship Frameworks and Standards, what are these and what is the difference?

Frameworks are a system that has been in place for a number of years, generally including a technical certificate and an NVQ, with a set duration for the apprenticeship to be completed in. You won’t be able to enrol on a Framework after July 2020.

There has been a change in how apprenticeships are designed. Now employer led, Standards are designed by a group of at least 10 sector employers coming together to identify the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for someone to be competent in a specific role. These standards must then be validated by the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Standards don’t necessarily contain qualifications but do include an independent end point assessment. This assessment will set tasks for the apprentice to prove they have the required knowledge, skills and behaviours (competencies) to undertake the role.

What is meant by 20% off-the-job training?

“This is training that is carried out in the apprentice’s normal working hours to help achieve the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are applicable to their programme.

Want to find out more about your apprenticeship options? Call the Etc. Business Development Team on 01642 865581 or email:

Incorporating Stockton Riverside College, Redcar and Cleveland College, Bede Sixth Form, NETA Training and The Skills Academy, Etc. can provide employers with advice and guidance about their options and also delivers an extensive range of apprenticeship training either direct to your workplace or from its campuses across the Tees Valley.