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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a combination of employment and training (the apprentice obtains a nationally recognised qualification upon completion) for anyone above the age of 16. Employers train individuals within the context of their organisation, so apprentices contribute to the organisation’s productivity while developing their own skills. There are more than 240 apprenticeship frameworks across the UK, covering most occupations and sectors. Some differences in terms of the level of funding provided and training required exist in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the core features of the apprenticeship model remain the same across the four nations (note that in Scotland apprenticeships are known as Modern Apprenticeships).

Why get involved: What are the benefits for my organisation?

Apprenticeships are a unique way to grow your own workforce; they combine on-the-job training in your organisation with off-the-job learning. The learning takes place in context and provides a real understanding of the working world, combining practical skills with theoretical knowledge. They thus offer a career route into your organisation and an invaluable opportunity to grow the skills you need now and in the future. Apprenticeships can also help to improve your organisation’s staff retention and engagement, as they can be used to further develop your existing workforce.

Benefits of Apprenticeships:

  • A more engaged workforce: 92% of employers who employ apprentices believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
  • Lower staff turnover, fewer skills-related vacancies and reduced recruitment costs: 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future. One in five employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate.
  • Increased competitiveness: 80% of those employers who employ apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.
  • A better image and greater customer satisfaction: 81% of consumers favour using a company which takes on apprentices.

Source: National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

What pay will they receive?

The apprentice is your employee, and even though the on- and off-the-job training they will receive is the most important element of that employment relationship, the apprentice contributes to your organisation’s objectives, so they should be paid a wage. Pay rates vary between sectors, regions and between different employers and they are subject to an annual review. There is an apprenticeship National Minimum Wage (NMW) which applies to all 16–18-year-olds and to those aged 19 and over in the first year of their apprenticeship. The current rate is £3.40 per hour.

How long does an apprenticeship take to complete?

The minimum is generally one year, but most high-quality apprenticeships would take longer to complete, sometimes up to four years. Someone who was already in paid employment prior to starting the apprenticeship may take less time to complete an apprenticeship than someone who is new to the working world. This flexibility is part of what makes apprenticeships such a good tool to train and grow your workforce.

What kind of contract will the apprentice be on?

As an employee, an apprentice should have a contract of employment. Many employers provide additional entitlements such as access to bonuses and overtime payment schemes. Some apprentices may be eligible for additional benefits such as childcare and transport funding. Depending on where you are based, you may need to offer to pay for the apprentices’ travel expenses as well, because some of them might find it difficult to get to work otherwise.

Contract: The expiry of the fixed term

Apprentices are normally employed under a limited-term contract, with a defined end date or end event. If their employment is not renewed after this date or event, they will be treated as having been dismissed.

However, because apprentices have the same employment rights as other employees in terms of dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the apprentice would be entitled to receive a written reason for dismissal and the Acas Code would apply. The dismissal would be for ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR). It may be part of a fair dismissal to show that consultation had occurred and the employer had no place for the qualified apprentice, and why this was so.

How to make sure the training corresponds to your organisation's needs

When selecting your training provider, it is important to ascertain that they have trainers and assessors who understand your business and can teach your apprentice the relevant units in the QCF framework (occupational competence). The frameworks are usually very broad and it is important that your chosen provider is in a position to deliver units that fit your business requirements.

Portsmouth College has a designated Apprenticeship Manager who will work with you to design the Apprenticeship package that not only meets your organisational needs but enhances the quality of your workforce.


The Apprenticeships funding and delivery has changed for employers as of May 2017. Please click here to find out more. 

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