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Apprenticeships explained: all you need to know

Catch22's Director of Vocational Training, Chris Stoker-Jones, answers frequently asks questions about apprenticeships, the levy and the outlook for apprentices.

04 March 2019

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a real job with training, which allows trainees to earn while they learn, as well as often gaining a nationally recognised qualification. They cover 1,500 job roles in a wide range of industries, from engineering to accountancy, public relations to veterinary nursing.


What age do you have to be to sign up to an apprenticeship?

You have to be a minimum of 16 to start an apprenticeship. There is no real upper age limit, as long as you are either an existing employee or willing to work within a role where you require learning new skills or knowledge.


How long does an apprenticeship take to complete?

Apprenticeships take between one and four years to complete dependent on the level being undertaken. A Level 2 Apprenticeship takes on average 15 months to complete, whereas a Level 6 or 7 can take between three and four years to complete.


I have heard there are degree apprenticeships now, is this correct?

Yes, Level 6 and Level 7 Apprenticeships are classed as Degree level and are their equivalents.


Is the apprenticeship route better than going to university?

They are very different. Of course, I’m biased…

The benefit of an apprenticeship is that you can earn a living whilst you are learning. You are within a company which is investing in your future and you have the opportunity to forge a career within that company and rise through their ranks. As you complete a level, you can progress to the next one, or change pathway and embark on a new route to achievement. For example, you could start at a company as an Administrator doing Business Admin and move into the Recruitment team and then enrol on a Recruitment Apprenticeship. The options are endless as long as you are able to demonstrate evidence of meeting the criteria within the standard.


Is an Apprenticeship an NVQ, and what does NVQ stand for?

An NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification and it isn’t the same as an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is the term used for a collection of qualifications. NVQs or Diplomas as they are now known as can be part of an apprenticeship, but not all apprenticeships have vocational qualifications within them. The new standards don’t demand a qualification, some have them, and some don’t. However all apprenticeships other than higher and degree level require completion of Functional Skills in Maths and English


What is the difference between the old frameworks and the new standards?

Frameworks are primarily qualification-focused. The main aim at the end of a framework is to have achieved a competency-based qualification, such as an NVQ, and a technical qualification, such as a BTEC.

It’s possible for an apprentice to achieve all qualifications in the framework but not actually have the right skills to carry out their job. This means some apprentices may need further training from their employer.

In a framework, apprentices are assessed throughout their apprenticeship. They have to obtain a number of qualifications during the apprenticeship. Once they’ve completed a unit, it is ticked off and they won’t necessarily need to demonstrate the skill again.

A standard contains a list of the skills, knowledge and behaviours an apprentice will need to have learned by the end of their apprenticeship.

Standards are occupation-focused; they are not qualification-led. The learning happens throughout the apprenticeship. And the apprentice is assessed at the end. They need to prove that they can carry out all aspects of their job. They develop transferable skills and gain credibility too and they are highly valued by employers.


Apprenticeships statistics


What is the 20% off job training element?

This is a well-used term and it relates to the amount of time that a learner on an apprenticeship programme needs to have protected, within their working hours, to be focused and working on learning relating to their apprenticeship programme.

In practical terms it equates to 8 hours per week to engage in learning activities that have a relevant impact on their apprenticeship. This could be online learning, a training session, some mentoring that they receive or even researching. There are many ways that this 20% can be captured and recorded throughout the programme. However, it is a funding requirement and without evidence of it being met, the learner cannot progress to the End Point Assessment stage of the programme.


What apprenticeships are available at Catch22?

Currently we deliver the following: Business Administrator, Customer Service Practitioner and Specialist, Team Leader, Operational Manager which would be applicable to our staffing population.

In addition to these, we are also involved in the delivery of a suite of Housing and Property Management Apprenticeships at levels 2, 3 & 4.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

This is a payment that all companies with a payroll in excess of £3m pay into a Digital Apprenticeship Account to support any apprenticeship training. It is 0.5% of any payroll above the £3m threshold. Companies can overspend this if they wish at which point it flips into the SME funding rules.

SMEs now are required to contribute 10% towards the cost of the Apprenticeship required. For example, Customer Service Practitioner is £3500, so they would pay £350 towards it and the rest would be funded by the Government. This will drop to 5% from April 1st 2019 – even more attractive for SMEs.

Companies can receive £1000 in an incentive payment to support the recruitment of 16-18 year olds, which is paid in two installments of £500 (midway and at completion).