Why apprenticeships are valuable

The theme for National Apprenticeship Week from 5-9 March this year is ‘Apprenticeships Work’, and the event aims to showcase how apprenticeships assist individuals, employers, the community and the wider economy.

What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships develop practical and theoretical skills so that employees reach a high level of competency and performance in a particular job role and sector. Apprentices work to a learning plan and are required to demonstrate the competence and skills required to complete the programme.

Can you explain the apprenticeship reforms?
The Government has set a challenging target of recruiting three million apprentices by 2020. Reforms to apprenticeships continue to grow momentum and we are now seeing the introduction of a new range of apprenticeship Standards, which will replace the current Apprenticeship Frameworks.

How long do apprenticeships take?
That depends on the Standard or Framework being followed and the ability of the individual, but the duration of an apprenticeship should be no less than 12 months. An apprenticeship can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of apprenticeship, the apprentice’s ability and what sector of the industry it is in.

What about wages?
Employers are responsible for all wage payments to apprentices. All apprentices are employed and must have an up-to-date contract of employment. Ideally, a salary should be offered that reflects the job role and the skills and experience of the candidate, while recognising the training opportunity being offered. All apprentices must be paid in line with National Minimum Wage rules (see table, below).

From April 2018, a minimum wage of £3.70 per hour must be paid to apprentices who are under 19, or in the first year of an apprenticeship. Individuals not falling into these categories should be paid the National Minimum Wage. Apprentices must be employed for at least 30 hours per week and for a sufficient period of time that allows them to complete their apprenticeship.

Who pays for the training?
Apprenticeships can be funded in a number of ways, from part funding to full funding depending on the size of your employer. Currently funding is available through the Skills Funding Agency to support the delivery of training, and can be accessed to support the development needs of new or existing employees. Employers with 50 staff or more are expected to contribute a minimum 10 per cent towards the negotiated cost of training. Those with a payroll in excess of £3m will fund through their levy account within the Digital Apprenticeship System (DAS).

What is the apprenticeships levy?
Businesses whose annual payroll costs exceed £3m will be required to contribute 0.5 per cent of their payroll.  Levy monies will help fund the recruitment of enthusiastic young people into the UK workforce as well as support the skills development of existing employees. Levy funds can only be spent on the delivery of Apprenticeship Frameworks or Standards.

What about apprenticeship funding for small businesses that do not have to pay the levy?
From May 2017, employers with 49 staff or less, who offer apprenticeships to 16- to 18-year-olds, will receive 100 per cent of the cost of the training from the Government up to the maximum funding bands.

Employers will have to pay 10 per cent of the cost of the apprenticeship training for those aged 19 and over and the government will pay the remaining 90 per cent, up to the maximum funding bands. This support applies to all age groups.

Employers with more than 50 staff who are not levy payers will be expected to pay a minimum 10 per cent of the negotiated apprenticeship training costs.

Are there any cash incentives for employers?
There is currently a £1,000 incentive for taking on an apprentice aged 16 to 18. The incentive also applies to care leavers, and those with an EHCP who are aged 19-24. The incentive is paid in two instalments: 50 per cent after three months and then the remainder after 12 months of programme attendance.

What are ‘Trailblazer’ standards?
Following a series of consultations, the way apprenticeships are delivered is gradually changing as apprenticeship Standards are introduced. Under the new system, employers will play an enhanced role in the planning and delivery of apprenticeships.

New apprenticeship Standards are gradually being introduced across a range of programmes. Myerscough College became the first land-based college to introduce a Standard, enrolling the first learner onto the new Golf Greenkeeping Apprenticeship. We now deliver against the new standards in Horticulture, Greenkeeping and Groundsmanship. This includes the new Sportsturf Operative Level 2 Standard.

Minimum wage rates from 1 April 2018

• 25 and over £7.83
• 21 to 24 £7.38
• 18 to 20 £5.90
• Under 18 £4.20
• Apprentice £3.70

• 25 and over £7.50
• 21 to 24 £7.05
• 18 to 20 £5.60
• Under 18 £4.05
• Apprentice £3.50

By Lee Price, Employer services manager, Myerscough College