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Apprenticeship Week 8-14th February 2021

A Guide to Employers for Hiring an Apprentice

Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years, and whilst they may have evolved into something very different today, what remains the same is the founding principle that they combine working, learning, and earning.

In 2018/2019 there were 742,400 people starting an apprenticeship in England and’ in just under 10 years, there has been a total of over 4.2 million apprenticeships started. Therefore, despite the growing popularity of Universities, there remains a strong interest in Apprenticeships and what they offer to both the individuals and employers.

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to fill any skills gaps in its workforce and can help from a strategic planning perspective to contribute to the long-term success of the business. In this short article will look at what employers need to consider when employing an Apprentice.

How do Apprenticeships work?

There are two different types of apprenticeship schemes – ‘frameworks’ and ‘standards’. Apprenticeship frameworks are being progressively phased out in England and replaced by the newer apprenticeship standards, which were introduced in 2014 (for further information see the Commons Briefing Paper, Apprenticeships Policy in England).

Pretty much most businesses can employ an Apprentice and in recent years there has been a government focus on expanding the different types of ‘Standards’ available by encouraging employers and industry experts to develop new ones. Apprenticeships are available in the following sectors:

  • Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care
  • Arts, Media and Publishing
  • Business, Administration and Law
  • Construction, Planning and the Built Environment
  • Education and Training
  • Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies
  • Health, Public Services and Care
  • Information and Communication Technology
  • Languages, Literature and Culture
  • Leisure, Travel and Tourism
  • Preparation for Life and Work
  • Retail and Commercial Enterprise
  • Science and Mathematics

Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for an Apprenticeship and they don’t necessarily have to be a new employee. Indeed, they can be someone already working within your business that you are keen to upskill and retain.

It’s worth bearing in mind that an Apprentice must spend 20% of their time completing off-the-job training and a minimum of 30 hours a week at work. This translates to roughly around 4 days at work and 1 day at University or College.

The duration of an Apprenticeship varies from 1 year up and anything up to 6 years, depending on the nature of the role and what qualification they are working towards. Apprenticeships are available at differing levels, from those that are comparable to GCSEs to those that are as high as a Master Degree.

What do I need to think about when hiring an Apprentice?

Apprenticeships are paid jobs that incorporate on and off the job training, which means that employers must have a contract of employment with them, under which apprentices are entitled to –

  • The National Minimum Wage (which will be the Apprentice-specific category if the Apprentice is 19 or under in his/her first year of the Apprenticeship);
  • The same conditions as the business’ other employees, such as paid holiday, sick pay etc; and  
  • and any other benefits or support that are provided to other employees.

Remember, you don’t need to pay employer National Insurance Contributions if your Apprentice is under 25 and the Apprenticeship meets certain conditions, such as the Apprentice earns under £827 per week.

What funding is available for my business?

The Government will contribute to the cost of employing an Apprentice, but the amount of that contribution will vary depending on the circumstances of your business. The funding for Apprenticeships is raised by levies on large employers – if your payroll bill is more than £3m, you will pay a 0.5% levy of your total annual pay bill into the ‘pot’. The Government then applies a 10% top-up to this levy, and these funds are then available for the large employer to fund its Apprenticeships. For businesses with a payroll bill of less than £3m, those small employers pay 5% of the Apprentice’s training bill, with the Government funding the rest.

How can an Apprentice benefit my business?

Apprentices can add a new dimension to an established workforce by bringing in new, fresh ideas, motivating existing staff and boosting productivity. An employer can use Apprentices to fill skills gaps in its current business model, as specific skills and knowledge can be sought out.

Furthermore, a business can set itself apart from other employers by investing in Apprentices, demonstrating a forward-thinking and engaged approach to upskilling and investing in them. Investors in People have a specific ‘We invest in apprentices’ accreditation which automatically enters the business into the Investors in People awards. A business that invests in its people and looks to their future is rewarded with a happier and more loyal workforce.  


Apprenticeships Statistics – Briefing Paper
FE Week