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Apprenticeship FAQ 2017

Posted by James Bridgman on Sep 13, 2017 12:04:25 PM
James Bridgman
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A couple of weeks ago I asked my LinkedIn connections to fill in a short survey about apprenticeships – just a snapshot survey to commemorate my one year anniversary in the sector, and to help me take a step back and see the wood for the trees again. There has been so much change in Apprenticeships in the last year, particularly the potential impact of Brexit on future talent, the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, not to mention the election and (another!) change of government minister overseeing its roll out. 

As expected, my (truly marvellous) connections really helped me out, with almost 70 responses and a number of great conversations over the phone about the state of the industry and the perception of apprenticeships – good and bad – across different business sectors, the FE and HE sector, local government and LEP initiatives, and for SMEs.

The survey was very short, but had some interesting insights – for example 45% of respondents, by far the biggest group, had never heard of Degree Apprenticeships, and 39% had never heard of the Apprenticeship Levy! Maybe for many people this is not such a surprise, but considering every employer with over 250 employees is impacted on the bottom line by the Levy, and every SME can now access 90%-100% subsidised apprenticeship training leading to higher level qualifications in areas such as digital marketing, law, accountancy and IT, this perhaps reflects the confusion about the system this year and the lack of focus and communication by the government in the meantime.

Having said all that, I did promise all respondents I would answer their questions on apprenticeships, so rather than email everyone individually I thought it would be more interesting to post them here. (I have moved my laptop over to our recruitment team to pick their brains, which is sort of cheating I know – thanks to Hollie Fountain, Sarah Rawcliffe, Sophie Hobbs and Cat Wiggins for your input!).

Apprenticeships FAQ

I asked everyone “Is there anything about apprenticeships, young talent or recruitment you would like to know that could help you or your organisation?”

  1. Why not take on an intern instead?
    With an apprentice you are much more likely to get someone to commit to their company longer term, as they are enrolled in training and development that boosts loyalty as well as improving skills. It is also better for a company’s brand (internally as well as externally) to be associated with a successful apprenticeship programme rather than a ‘revolving door’ of interns. There is potentially more expense up front, but the cost of hiring and re-hiring interns is actually much higher.
  2. What are the levels of co-investment typically required from employers?
    The current system has a split between Levy payers (over £3m wage bill) and non-Levy payers, with the former claiming 100% of their Levy back against training (the only way to get this money back into the business), and the latter claiming 90% back, although for 16-18 year olds this rises to 100%. You can download a Levy factsheet for free from this link which sums up the system in a few visual diagrams.

  3. In the case of the business having to shrink – i.e. lay off staff – I understand the last to go is the apprentice, after all other staff. Is this so?
    Actually, an apprentice is very much a regular employee, with the same rights and obligations as everyone else. It would be expected some effort would be made to place them with another employer if possible so they could continue their progress.

  4. It would be good to know what apprentices should be paid and what they can expect at the end in terms of employment?
    The minimum statutory pay is currently £3.50/hour, but pay can vary hugely depending upon the role, location and employer, up to £8/hour or higher. Contrast to University where you have to get an extra job AND pay for your training. As employers see apprenticeships as a way to find future staff, over 90% of apprentices go on to employment or further training.

  5. How do we go about finding one and does it need to lead to a qualification?
    Well of course I’m going to recommend getmyfirstjob.co.uk as we have well over 10,000 vacancies at any one time which you can search by industry, location or employer. You can also use the government NAS site, which will have most vacancies across the country but may take more time to find and apply for vacancies. All apprenticeships lead to a qualification, some to degree or masters level or professional status (the youngest every chartered accountant was an apprentice).

  6. How to address the challenge for employers hiring for web/software development with sufficient level of skill to be considered useful for fast paced environment with very tight deadlines?
    As with any fast-paced environment, integrating and growing talent internally is a big challenge, but should be seen as one strategic HR goal which (over time) is more reliable than relying on the recruitment market alone.

  7. How do apprenticeships appeal to employers and universities?
    For employers it is a route young people can choose to develop skills and experience at the same time, and create the workforce they need; for universities (many of whom are now providing degree level apprenticeships) apprenticeships count as UCAS points as A Levels do, so you can go from an apprenticeship to a university degree, and vice versa if there is a level 7/8 apprenticeship (masters level) available in your field.

  8. Is there an agency that the apprentice candidates could register with so when the companies are looking for an apprentice they would have a good starting point?
    Yes, us! Once candidates register with GetMyFirstJob they don’t have to find the apprenticeship themselves, employers and training providers can use our system to proactively search and find candidates in the area and with the qualifications they need.

  9. I have an 18yr old son and would be interested in what apprenticeships there are for a young adult with three A's at 'A' level who would otherwise be going to university to do Politics, Economics and Philosophy.
    There are great apprenticeships available for higher levels and top achievers – in fact employers are very keen to find them. There are some great degree level apprenticeship programmes run by employers like KPMG, IBM and BT which would give him a head start on the graduate paths that are available. Having said that, if there is not an advanced apprenticeship course that fits his interests or aspirations, University may be a better option.

  10. Is there a good website they can search for all apprenticeships on? Like UCAS for unis?
    If you search on GetMyFirstJob you can immediately see what is available in your area, within your interests and what the employer is looking for. You can also register as a career advisor on our site and get additional resources for free.

  11. Examples of the type of work a digital/marketing apprentice would do in another organisation would be great.
    I have three apprentices in my team and they do a fantastic job – managing social media, creating blogs and graphics, editing video, planning and creating campaigns, going to events and working closely with other members of the organisation and the leadership team. In fact with support of our wider team they contribute massively to the success of GetMyFirstJob and learn super fast on real world projects.

  12. How to make the levy work for me? (thanks Bill – please be more specific next time!)
    It depends on your size of business, area of speciality, HR plans and aspirations for the future. Best place to start is give us a call or email and we’d be glad to advise!

  13. On the tech side – what media apprenticeships are available?
    Overall there are over 200 different types of apprenticeship available. Within the media sector, the main apprenticeships are: Broadcasting Technology; Community Arts; Creative and Digital Media; Cultural and Heritage Venue operations; Design; Digital Learning Design; Journalism; Live Events and Promotion; Photo Imaging and Technical Theatre; Lighting, Sound and Stage.

  14. Have they sorted out the financial services apprenticeships or canned them completely?
    We work with Kaplan and other training providers who provide four Financial Services apprenticeship courses – Insurance, Investment Operations, Financial Administration and Mortgages. I just searched on our site and found over 80 current vacancies. There are more vacancies all the time.

  15. I would like to know a lot more, my son has just finished his degree and has no job to move into.
    It is possible to retrain using an advanced apprenticeship, which might be an alternative to a graduate programme and a different way to start his career. You could also check out debut.careers which is a fantastic app for finding opportunities for graduates. If he is in a field like Law, Engineering or HR, there are ‘masters level’ apprenticeships in some areas which could work well.


As my connections cover a wide range of types and sizes of business it was great to get a big range of questions, but clearly the Levy is not clear for many, if not most, of the respondents. The government's target of 2 million quality apprenticeship starts by 2020 is in serious jeapody if this is not better executed and so businesses know how to take advantage of the benefits the levy offers. By 2030 75% of the workforce will be millenials, generation Z or below – we need to start finding the employees and leaders of the future now!

If you have any additional questions about apprenticeships please post in the comments below.

You can also download our Apprenticeship Levy Factsheets by clicking here.


Topics: Apprenticeship, Employers, Levy, Skills, Training Providers, Apprentices, skills gap

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