With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy now no further away than a human gestation, the conversations about its impact are sharpening.

One theme that is emerging is ‘what can be an Apprenticeship?’

Currently large employers are calculating at their anticipated Levy bill and wondering how to spend it; as well as how to maximise their potential associated N.I. savings.

Assuming that they can work through the formula (Total UK wage /0.5% + £15k – devolved wage bill + 10%) they can start to look to at how best to plan for its deployment.

Where the Levy bill is large, then entire L&D strategies are being reviewed, ‘if we have a Levy bill of X £m can we really also afford a corporate L&D budget of Y £m?’ is the question for HRDs at the largest employers.

If the answer is no, then the next question is invariably “what can we apprentize?”

This is not a simple question to answer. There are some basic checks that you can start with.

  • Does an Apprenticeship exist in the areas in which we currently purchase training? (Framework or New standard)

Anyone signed up to the relevant Gov.UK alerts will know that the Apprenticeship ‘live’ list is a fast moving beast. Turn your head for 5 minutes and 60 Frameworks have disappeared and 82 new standards have sprung up, and not necessarily in the same places.

If the answer is no then why not grow a Trailblazer of your own….

If the answer is yes, then can we use this Apprenticeship?

Here it starts to get a little more tricky..

  • Are the staff new or existing?

It might be easier to put new staff on apprenticeship contracts and programmes but what if you’re not recruiting at present?

  • What experience and qualifications have they got?

Will the eligibility rules remain the same? PS please don’t mention this to colleagues in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland…

  • Is an Apprenticeship necessary for them or is it overskill?

Will we have to measure the competence of thousands of staff in order to ascertain their suitability for a ‘substantial 12 month+ programme of learning and development’?

  • Do they even want to be Apprentices?

If they qualify for an Apprenticeship and would clearly benefit from one but aren’t sure that they want one should we try and encourage them?, whose career is this s anyway?

And finally

  • Would these be good quality Apprenticeships?

This is more subjective but reference to the NAS quality guide of 2012 (God bless Martin Ward) is no bad place to start.

An Apprenticeship is a job with an accompanying skills development programme

designed by employers in the sector. It allows the Apprentice to gain technical

knowledge, real practical experience and wider skills required for their immediate job

and future career. These are acquired through a mix of learning in the workplace,

formal off the job training and the opportunity to practice new skills in a work context.

This broad mix and transferable skills differentiates Apprenticeships from training

delivered to meet narrowly focused job needs.

On completion the Apprentice must be able to undertake the full range of duties

confidently and competently to the standard

That still does it for me!


None of the above challenges are unsurmountable given enough thought and planning ….And I guess this is the core purpose of the Levy (deficit reduction aside) it is forcing some pretty serious employers to do some pretty serious long term workforce planning – right here in the UK! who would have thought it…


Written by Richard Marsh

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