Skills and training are devolved policy areas. This Briefing Paper covers apprenticeships in England. Sources of information on apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are included in Section 4, Useful Sources.
The Government has made a commitment of 3 million new apprenticeships starts in England between 2015 and 2020. Apprenticeships are full-time paid jobs which incorporate on and off the job training. A successful apprentice will receive a nationally recognised qualification on the completion of their contract.
Types of apprenticeships
There are over 200 different types of apprenticeships currently available in England, through existing apprenticeship frameworks. Apprentices can receive qualifications ranging from those equivalent to 5 GCSE passes to those equivalent to a degree.
New employer designed apprenticeship standards are being developed to replace the current apprenticeship frameworks.
Traineeships are available for unemployed people with little work experience who can be prepared for employment or an apprenticeship within six months.
Government support for apprenticeships
The Government contributes towards the training an apprentice depending on the apprentices age. A grant of £1,500 is also available to some small employers taking on an apprentice aged 16 to 24. From April 2016 no employer will pay secondary Class 1 (employer) national insurance contributions for apprentices under 25 earning up to the Upper Earning Limit.
Minimum Standards for Apprenticeships
Recognised apprenticeships are required to meet Government minimum standards, which include a minimum duration of 12 months, employed 30 hours, an English and maths requirement and include off the job training. Apprentices have the same rights as other employees and are entitled to be paid at least the apprentice rate of the national minimum wage.
In the 2015 Queen’s Speech the Government set out its intention to create a duty to report on progress to meeting the target of 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. Public sector bodies will be required to employ apprentices and be set targets to increase apprenticeship numbers. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill includes an obligation for the Government to report each year on the progress made towards meeting this target.
The Government has also announced that it would give apprenticeships the same legal treatment as degrees and protect the term “apprenticeship”, in the Enterprise Bill.
In line with recommendations from The Richard Review, new apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer led groups known as “trailblazers”. A new funding pilot is being trialled for these standards giving employers greater control over spending on training delivery.
The modalities of the Apprenticeship levy were announced in the Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. The levy will be rolled out in April 2017 and paid by 2% of UK employers. It will raise over £3 billion a year by 2019-20, £2.5 billion of which will be spent on apprenticeships in England only. This is the highest investment in real terms ever made for apprenticeships.