Apprenticeships – What you need to know

What is an apprenticeship?  

An apprenticeship is a genuine job with an accompanying assessment and skills development programme. It is a way for individuals to earn while they learn gaining valuable skills and knowledge in a specific job role. The apprentice gains this through a wide mix of learning in the workplace, formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise new skills in a real work environment. Apprenticeships benefit employers and individuals, and by boosting the skills of the workforce they help to improve the UK’s economic productivity. 

How do they work? 

Apprentices must spend at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training, however, they may need more than this if, for example, they need training in English and maths. It is up to the employer and training provider to decide how the off the-job training is delivered. It may include regular day release, block release and special training days or workshops. It must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard and can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work as long as it is not part of their normal working duties. It can cover practical training such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attending competitions. 

On-the-job training helps an apprentice develop the specific skills for the workplace and they should be supported by a mentor. 

Once an apprentice completes their apprenticeship they should be able to demonstrate that they can perform tasks confidently and completely to the standard set by the relevant industry. 

Who are they for?  

Individuals over the age of 16, spending at least 50% of their working hours in England over the duration of their apprenticeship and not in full-time education can apply for an apprenticeship.  

Employers can offer apprenticeships to new entrants or use them to grow talent from among current employees. 

Employer responsibilities 

There must be a genuine job available with a contract of employment long enough for an apprentice to complete their apprenticeship. Employers must pay an apprentice’s wages and the role must help them gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to achieve the apprenticeship with support from the employer.  

Employers can select a training provider from the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers and agree a total price for the cost of training and assessment. For an apprenticeship standard, this should include the cost of the end-point assessment which must be agreed with the provider selected from the Register of EndPoint Assessment Organisations.  

Employers need to have: 

  • an apprenticeship agreement in place with their apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship 
  • a commitment statement signed by the apprentice, their employer and the provider 
  • a written agreement with providers, 
  • an apprenticeship in place for at least one year 
  • the apprentice on the correct wage for their age, for the time they are in work, in off-the-job training and doing further study 
  • updates on progression and average weekly hours and changes to working patterns must be logged and checked with the training provider.  


The minimum English and maths requirements needed to complete an apprenticeship for people with a learning difficulty or disability are reduced. For such apprentices the English and maths requirements are reduced to an Entry Level 3 qualification. It should make completing an apprenticeship more achievable for those who are able to meet all the occupational requirements to be fully competent in their role, but who may struggle to achieve English and maths qualifications at the level normally required. 

SMEs and apprenticeship funding 

Employers with a pay bill of less than £3 million a year do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy which was introduced in 2017. As a result, at least 90% of non-levy-paying employers’ apprenticeship training and assessment costs in England is paid for by the government.  

The government will ask these employers to make a 10% cash contribution to the cost, paid directly to the provider, and the government covers the rest (up to the maximum agreed funding band). 

Employers are not required to pay National Insurance Contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 on earnings below the higher tax rate of £827 a week (£43,000 a year). 

Incentive payments 

Support for young apprentices aged 16-18 

When employers take on a 16-18-year-old on an apprenticeship standard, they receive £1,000 to help meet the extra costs associated with this. This will be paid to employers in two equal installments at 90 days and 365 days. 

Support for care leavers and those who have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan  

Because apprentices aged 19-24 who have previously been in care or who have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan may need extra support, their employers receive £1,000 to help with these additional costs. This will be paid to employers in two equal installments at 90 days and 365 days. 

Additional COVID-19 related Special Incentive Payment 

An additional incentive payment for will be made to employers who hire an apprentice between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021. The apprentice must be a new employee to the business, have a contract of employment start date between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021 (inclusive) and must not have been employed by the employer within the six months prior to the contract start date. 

Claims can start to be made by employers in relation to these apprentices from 1 September 2020. Those claims must be made through the apprenticeship service. There will be two levels of payment based on age. For apprentices aged 16-24 the payment will be £2,000, and for apprentices aged 25 or over the payment will be £1,500.  

The payment will be made directly to employers in two equal installments, where the apprentice is still in learning at day 90 and day 365. There will be no limit on the number of incentive payments that an employer can claim for apprentices eligible to receive funding, provided each apprentice meets the criteria, including being a new employee. 

SRC-Time are one of the South East’s leading accountancy firms in advising the self-employed and partnerships in all aspects of their tax affairs and we are able to assist in any issue raised above. 

Our expert team is available to provide you with advice and can be contacted on 01273 326 556 or you can drop us an email at or speak with an account manager to get any process started. 

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