10 things you really need to know about apprenticeship training

June 2, 2020 10:35 am

If your business pays more than £3m in wages to your staff per year, then you are required to pay 0.5% of that amount into the government’s Apprenticeship Levy. This means you’ll be building a pot of money that you can use to upskill your staff through apprenticeships – and if you don’t use it, you will lose it (more on this below).

If your wage bill is less than £3m a year, you can still enrol your staff into an apprenticeship programme – and the government will pay up to 95% of the costs.

But what training is available? How do you enrol learners into an apprenticeship? And how can you find out how much money is in your apprenticeship pot? We’ve listed ten points that we think will answer your questions – and overcome any misconceptions – about the Apprenticeship Levy.

1. Apprenticeships are for everyone in your business

This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to apprenticeships. People typically think they’re only for junior staff that have been newly recruited into a business, or in more traditional disciplines – but that’s not the case at all.

Yes, some of the apprenticeships we offer are for new employees at the start of their career, but the vast majority of the training we do at Apprenticeship College is with more established people within a business. Qualifications such as Team Leader and Departmental Manager, for example, are aimed specifically at those who have been with an organisation for some time. These qualifications are ideal when someone has been recently promoted, for instance, and they could benefit from additional training for their job. Such training empowers employees to get the most out of the opportunity they’ve been given, and shows that the company cares and is investing in their potential.

2. You can enrol furloughed staff into an apprenticeship programme

This is an important one: companies that have furloughed staff due to the coronavirus can still enrol those staff into an apprenticeship training programme.

Official government guidance states that furloughed staff can still take part in volunteer work or training. And the Department for Education is encouraging apprenticeship training to be continued remotely, through the use of digital content and delivery methods as far as possible. At the Apprenticeship College, we’re geared up to deliver all of our content this way, through virtual classrooms, and remote coaching sessions; so for us, it’s (almost) business as usual.

What’s more, it’s arguably even more important to keep investing in staff right now. Becoming furloughed can be a psychological wrench for an employee, and that’s in addition to the stressful climate we all find ourselves in. Continuing to train your people is reassuring as it demonstrates your loyalty, showing that you value them even when times are tough, and are looking forward to the contribution they will continue to make when work restarts. It also gives employees a constructive distraction; something valuable to do when they cannot be productive for work.

Looking at this from a purely financial point of view, it’s also worth remembering that eligible employers will still be paying into their apprenticeship levy at this time. Given that social distancing rules could be in place for months, it’s important to continue to use this pot of money, as payments will expire after two years (see point 4 for more details).

3. Here’s how to find out the amount of money in your apprenticeship levy account

Lots of organisations have no idea how much money is in their levy account. If that’s you, please don’t worry: you’re in good company.

There’s rarely one dedicated person in a business that manages the whole apprenticeship process. Making payments into the levy pot is the responsibility of finance or payroll, but often they are disconnected from the HR or Learning and Development teams that actually organise training. This means that money could be sitting there for months without anyone using it.

Accessing your levy account

Fortunately it’s very easy to find out how much money you have available in your levy.

If you are responsible for organising training, you should go to your finance or payroll team. They can log on by visiting the government website, and entering your company’s username and password.

How much training does my pot give me?

Naturally, the amount of training you can offer will depend upon the size of your wage bill. However, if you are an employer in London with circa 500 employees, it is likely that you could be paying around £70,000 per year into your levy pot. This equates to being able to take 16 managers through the Team Leading programme!

4. Your apprenticeship payments expire if unused within 2 years

When you make a monthly payment into your apprenticeship levy account, that payment is valid for up to two years. If it remains unspent, it ‘expires’, or rather it is used by the Department for Education to help fund apprenticeships run by employers that do not pay the levy (the government will pay 95% of the costs).

There is a staggering amount of apprenticeship money that goes unspent. According to HMRC data, in 2019 employers paid around £2.8bn into the government’s apprenticeship fund, yet only used £864m.

This means almost £2bn of apprenticeship funding remained unspent by employers last year. On average, employers are only using 35% of the money they’re paying out.

Quite simply, if you don’t use it… you will lose it!

5. With the right partner, setting up an apprenticeship is not difficult

Because there typically isn’t one person managing the apprenticeship programme within a business, getting started can seem quite daunting. There is a definite process to work through when applying, including compliance matters to deal with, for your funding to be granted.

However, with the support of experts like our team at The Apprenticeship College, there’s no need to feel daunted. We can run the whole process on your behalf, and work with you to scope out a complete, funded learning programme for your business – what we call the “Apprenticeship Blueprint”. This would detail your company’s training objectives, and match them to apprenticeship standards, frameworks and qualifications. It would then break down the full programme of delivery, and profile the funding requirements, ensuring everything is in place to recover your apprenticeship levy payments.

6. You will have a better skilled workforce at no extra cost

Right now, many training budgets are understandably being frozen or cut, as companies strive to save money during the shutdown. But the apprenticeship levy is money that you have already spent… so it allows you to upskill your workforce for no extra cost. In fact, you could potentially use it to address key skills gaps in your business that may help you to weather the economic storm.

Thanks to our specialism in management training, we can help to empower your people with skills they can use straight away, allowing you to create a workforce that’s ready for action when your workplace is reopened.

7. Apprenticeship training can save your business time and money

If you’re running – or thinking about running – your own in-house staff training programme, you may be concerned about the time this will take, and the burden this may place on your staff.

Through apprenticeship training, this burden can be lifted completely.

We work with a number of clients who have actually replaced their in-house management training programmes with our apprenticeship delivery. They’re typically finding that our programmes not only cover everything they expect, but much more.

For example, one of our clients had been running a Management Academy for high potential staff for a number of years. The programme was designed to upskill the most talented managers with specialist training, and had always been hugely popular, with a long list of applicants every year.

Initially, this 18 month training course was delivered by the company’s internal team. But the time and cost of delivery was significant to a relatively small HR department. After working on other programmes with them, we started to look at the Management Academy, and very quickly discovered that the Operations and Department Manager L5 apprenticeship covered everything they required – and much more! So not only did they receive an enhanced programme, but it was effectively already paid for through their levy account. This freed up time and expertise within their team, while offering reassurance that their top managers were being trained by experts.

8. Smaller companies can also be funded for apprenticeships

While the apprenticeship levy is for companies with a salary bill of more than £3m a year, any company can enrol their employees into an apprenticeship training programme, and the government will fund up to 95% of the cost.

Often, smaller businesses are looking to source and train a new member of staff, so at the Apprenticeship College, we offer an end-to-end service to support precisely that. We’ll work with smaller businesses to find and recruit the ideal candidate into a job, and enrol them onto the appropriate apprenticeship while recovering training costs as far as possible.

One of our clients in the music industry was looking to recruit an administrator to join their small team. Whilst they were not able to afford someone with huge amounts of experience, they wanted someone with the ability to learn the appropriate skills. As the team was small, they were worried about the time it would take to train someone on the job.

The perfect solution was to take advantage of the 95% apprenticeship contribution from the government, and enrol the new administrator onto a Business Administration programme. This saved time and money, whilst ensuring the new team member was getting the very best training for their role.

9. Apprenticeship training is not just for large groups of learners

The beauty of the programmes run by The Apprenticeship College is that they can be delivered to virtually any size of group – from one person, to hundreds of people. If you have just one person to train, we can enrol them onto one of our open programmes. But if you have multiple staff to train, you can create a programme that has been designed to fit your business needs.

Equally, if you’re not sure that apprenticeships are right for your company, you can always test it out by putting one person onto one of our open programmes. There aren’t many apprenticeship training providers that can offer this degree of flexibility.

10. Our training is fun, interactive and delivered by experts

The notion of ‘government-funded training’ perhaps sounds a little dry. But when you train with The Apprenticeship College, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

We use innovative methods to bring our training to life. Everything we do is interactive, and we use professional actors to deliver realistic scenarios, allowing learners to fully experience real-world situations while testing themselves in a safe environment.

What’s more, we ensure that each programme is run by a subject matter expert… specialist trainers that have lived through the role they are training others to do, and who have also delivered this kind of training in a corporate setting.

While apprenticeship training must meet government standards, we make every effort to ensure we meet those standards in the most impactful and engaging way possible.

Interested? Contact us for more

We hope this has given you a bit more insight into the potential of apprenticeships for your business.


You can also download our brochure and course guides.