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A successful business needs a dedicated and skilled workforce. Apprenticeships are a great cost-effective way to recruit fresh talent, train your employees, increase staff retention and improve productivity.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, designed around the needs of you the employer. They combine training at the College with practical skills learnt in the workplace. An apprenticeship usually takes between one and four years to complete, but the duration depends on the level of apprenticeship, the apprentice’s ability and the industry sector.

Apprenticeships can help develop vocational expertise in an increasing variety of occupations in more than 170 industries – from engineering to science and IT to professional cookery.

What levels are there?

Apprenticeships are available at various levels:

Intermediate apprenticeships
These courses lead to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2, a certificate in Functional Skills (maths, English and ICT) and, in some cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification (e.g. BTEC). An NVQ Level 2 is equivalent to 5 GCSEs (A-C).

Advanced apprenticeships
These courses lead to a NVQ Level 3, a certificate in Functional Skills (maths, English and ICT) and, in some cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification (e.g. BTEC). An NVQ Level 3 is equivalent to two A Levels.

Higher apprenticeships
These courses lead to a NVQ Level 4/5 and, in some cases, a relevant Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma or Foundation Degree.

These courses lead to a level 6/7 qualification such as a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.

Who can do an apprenticeship?

Anyone over the age of 16 can apply to do an apprenticeship, whether they are just leaving school, have been working for years or are seeking to change careers. However, they must be employed. Different apprenticeships have different entry requirements.

How is the course funded?

From spring 2017, the way the government funds apprenticeships in England is changing. All employers with a gross annual wage bill (or payroll bill) of over £3 million will be required to pay an apprenticeship levy from 6 April 2017. Employers with a gross annual wage bill of £3 million or less are not required to pay the apprenticeship levy, but will need to pay a 10% contribution to the cost of the apprenticeship training they require and the government will fund the remaining 90%.

  • Levy paying employer (annual payroll over £3 million): You will pay 0.5% of your wage bill above £3 million through your PAYE scheme to HMRC to pay for apprenticeship training.
  • Non-levy paying employer (annual payroll under £3 million): You will pay 10% of the cost of apprenticeship training and the government will fund 90%. If your business employs less than 50 employees, then you may be eligible for additional funding or support.

For the latest information on what funding and grants may be available to you, please call our Business Services team on 01753 443855.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

In a bid to deliver three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, the government has introduced an apprenticeship levy on employers with an annual wage bill of more than £3 million. The levy will be collected through the employer’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme to HMRC from 6 April 2017. Employers can then access these payments through the online Apprenticeship Service portal to fund their apprenticeship training with their chosen provider. For more details, click here.

What are the benefits for the employer?

Whether developing the skills of a current member of staff or recruiting a new individual, apprenticeships are a great, cost-effective way to develop your workforce and improve your bottom line.

Apprentices grow flexibly with your business as they develop in their role. And because they are learning qualifications relevant to your industry, they will soon start to deliver exceptional return on investment.

An apprenticeship will enable your business to:

  • reduce overall training and recruitment costs
  • harness fresh new talent
  • address future skills gaps
  • keep pace with the latest technology and practices
  • improve staff morale
  • increase staff retention and loyalty
  • keep skills in-house and pass them from one generation to the next
  • improve productivity.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

As an employer you are expected to pay your apprentice a wage. The national minimum wage for an apprentice aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship is just below the national minimum wage and applies to time working, plus time spent in training that is part of the apprenticeship. However, employers are free to pay above this minimum wage and many do so. As your employee, the apprentice should have a contract of employment and be expected to work a minimum of 30 hours per week, including time at college.

As with all staff, you will need to comply with all current Health and Safety Legislation, provide initial and ongoing health and safety training, and provide protective clothing (where necessary). You will also need to ensure that your apprentices are covered under Employer’s Liability Insurance.

The most successful apprentices are ones that have employers who encourage and support them in developing their knowledge and skills. As apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, you will need to provide some on-the-job training. Many employers allocate one member of the team to be a mentor for their apprentice.

Why work with us?

At East Berkshire College, we support the employer as well as the apprentice, to help businesses maximise the benefits of their apprenticeship scheme. We have over 40 years of experience in delivering high quality training to SMEs and multi-nationals in a wide range of industries, and even help organisations access funding and recruit apprentices. Our free apprentice matching service will ensure you find the right individual for your business.

We offer:

  • industry-experienced trainers
  • help accessing funding
  • a free apprentice matching service
  • training tailored to meet your needs
  • state-of-the-art facilities
  • a dedicated account manager
  • sector-specific expertise
  • a dedicated Business Services team to support employers
  • high quality training – Ofsted has graded our apprenticeship provision as good

Click here for case studies on employers who are already working with us.

What is the next step?

If you are thinking about developing a current employee or taking on a new apprentice, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01753 443855 to talk to an adviser.

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