I speak to many people in the course of my work on apprenticeships; employers, training providers, people from intermediary organisations and apprentices themselves. I am often told things as fact, which I know not to be true, and I am frequently asked questions which lead me to believe that the person asking has previously been misinformed. Even people who you would expect to know the answer, are sometimes confused by an aspect of apprenticeship policy, or the latest changes to the funding rules.
Here I answer 12 of the most common apprenticeship myths that I have come across:
1. Apprenticeships are only for those with no qualifications
Apprenticeships can be undertaken by anyone, whether or not they already have qualifications. The eligibility criteria for an apprenticeship is that you have to show that the apprentice will be gaining a significant amount of new learning. This can apply even where the apprenticeship is at a lower level than that of the qualifications already held. For example, someone with a degree in geography, could enrol for an apprenticeship in accountancy, as a significant amount of new learning would be involved.
2. You can only do an apprenticeship if you are aged 16 – 18.
The minimum age limit for an apprentice is 16. There is no upper age limit.
3. The additional £1,000 paid to an employer if the apprentice is 16-18 is paid out at the end of the apprenticeship.
The additional payment made to an employer for enrolling a 16-18 year old onto an apprenticeship is paid in two instalments. £500 after three months, and £500 on completion of the apprenticeship.
4. Apprenticeships can only be taken up by new recruits.
An apprenticeship is ideal for someone starting a new job, but many apprentices are already in a job. Providing existing employees will gain a significant amount of new learning by undertaking the apprenticeship, they are also eligible.
5. I can only get back a proportion of my levy payment.
A levy paying businesses can spend up to 110% of its levy contribution on the training and assessment of apprentices in England. The levy is calculated on UK wide payroll costs. The levy is part of the devolved funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therefore, the proportion of the levy that applies to England is based on the size of the English payroll for any particular business. If a company operates in England only, then it is able to spend 100% of its levy contribution on the training and assessment of apprentices, plus the additional 10% added by the government.
6. The apprenticeship levy funds are paid out at the beginning of an apprenticeship
The funds taken from an employer’s levy account are done so on the basis of a monthly profile, spread across the agreed duration of the apprenticeship. Details of the amount to be taken each month are agreed by the employer and the training provider.
7. Those employers who are marginal levy payers will never get their funds back.
This depends! The levy is payable by employers with an annual payroll of £3m or more, which equates to a monthly payroll of £250,000. If for a single month, the payroll exceeds £250,000, then the levy should be paid to HMRC for that month. If however, at the end of the tax year, the payroll is less than £3m, then the employer will be able to claim back the monthly payment made earlier in the year.
8. The mandatory 20% off-job training element means a day per week at a college.
It is important that all apprentices are given sufficient time to receive off-job training, so that their knowledge in particular is enhanced. The rules now say that this must equate to 20% of their normal paid hours and be specifically related to the delivery of the apprenticeship, and not to any other training outside of the apprenticeship. Additionally, training outside of their normal hours does not count towards the 20% total. However, the training can be undertaken in a number of ways, and it does not require attendance one day per week at a local college. Mentoring, or work-shadowing counts toward it, as does on-line learning and undertaking a project or similar activity.
9. An apprentice has to work full-time.
The minimum time associated with an apprenticeship framework or standard is 30 hours per week. However, provided that the employment is for at least 16 hours per week, then an apprenticeship can be done. In such circumstances, the minimum time needed to undertake the apprenticeship is extended on a pro rata basis.
10. Apprenticeships cannot include qualifications.
Until recently, unless there was a mandatory requirement (eg a legal requirement), new apprenticeship standards could not have a qualification within them. However, the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) have recently changed this ruling, and it is now possible for a new standard to have a formal qualification embedded within it. That said, there are still some strict criteria that apply.
11. If I have an apprentice, then all my training and development activity can be inspected by the education regulator Ofsted.
Firstly, Ofsted are only empowered to inspect training that is funded by the government, in this case only apprenticeships. If the training is being delivered by an approved training provider, then Ofsted will only inspect them, not the employer. They may well visit an employer’s premises to speak to them and their apprentices regarding the quality of their training, but it is the training provider who is being inspected. Employers are only inspected directly if they are approved to deliver their own training and are therefore classified as an employer / provider.
12. The government decides what new apprenticeships there are, and what the content is.
New apprenticeship standards are developed by employers. A minimum of 10 employers, including SMEs are required to apply to develop an apprenticeship. This can be done for any job, at any level, providing that it does not significantly overlap with an existing standard. The IfA has an approvals process, and Standards groups can expect to be challenged by the IfA on the content of the apprenticeship.