Recent changes to the ESFA funding rules around apprenticeships have opened up some great opportunities for employers to grow and develop their workforce.
Employers can now take on “… an apprentice at the same or lower level than a qualification they already hold…” and existing employees “…where the individual needs significant new knowledge and skills to be occupationally competent”.
This makes it easier to upskill your existing staff, but inevitably it also adds a layer of complexity. If you wish to attract the related funding, you must ensure your apprentices are actually eligible to be called apprentices.
To start with, the initial assessment of the learner will need to include not just their ability at English and maths, but also “…an analysis of the apprentice’s existing knowledge, skills and behaviours versus those required to complete the apprenticeship.”
Where your assessment identifies an overlap in content with the apprenticeship, you must reduce the content, duration and price of the apprenticeship to take into account those existing knowledge, skills and behaviours.
So, if you want to deliver apprenticeships to learners with prior learning and experience, the question you need to consider very carefully is, when is an apprenticeship not an apprenticeship?
If you have had to reduce the content and duration of the apprenticeship to take into account the individual’s prior learning and this takes the apprenticeship duration below the necessary minimum (365 days plus EPA time for Standards), it no longer qualifies as an apprenticeship and you can’t draw down funding for it (or pay the individual the apprenticeship minimum wage).
And just in case you were thinking of it, you can’t just extend the duration by adding in more content such as further optional NVQ modules – if it’s not content which is directly relevant and necessary to the specific Standard or Framework, it can’t be funded by the ESFA or an employer’s levy funds.
If reducing the content of the apprenticeship takes the amount of off-the-job learning below the required 20% minimum, as with duration, it’s no longer an apprenticeship and can’t be funded.
Again, don’t just add more off-the-job content for an individual learner to reach the minimum requirement – you need to measure against what’s in the apprenticeship specification and what training apprentices without prior learning would normally be undertaking.
If you wish to attract the related funding, you must ensure your apprentices are actually eligible to be called apprentices.
"If you want to deliver apprenticeships to learners with prior learning and experience, the question you need to consider very carefully is, when is an apprenticeship not an apprenticeship?"
It’s an element which often gets forgotten in the clamour to quantify the 20% off-the-job training, but an apprenticeship needs to include on-the-job training too.
“Through their apprenticeship, apprentices will gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills they need for their immediate job and future career……through a wide mix of learning in the workplace, formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise these new skills in a real work environment.”
Not including on-the-job learning becomes a particular risk where:
- Individuals are working towards an apprenticeship for a future role and might not have the opportunity to apply and practise their skills in the workplace.
- The apprentice is an existing employee and already has extensive experience in the workplace. In this circumstance, the skills element of the “new skills and knowledge” requirement is missing from the apprenticeship.
- The employer is not willing to give the apprentice opportunities to work in new areas or projects where they can apply their new knowledge and develop their skills.
Providers working with employers upskilling existing employees (where there’s likely to be significant prior experience) will need to be especially careful to make sure that they don’t fall foul of these rules.
And for new recruits, while this won’t affect the majority of apprenticeships, for providers who deliver the more common, shorter apprenticeships like customer service or retail, it may have a significant impact since huge swathes of the working age population have some previous experience – even if it’s just a summer job working in a shop or call centre – so risk falling below the minimum duration threshold.
Source for all quotes: Apprenticeship funding rules for training providers, August 2018 to July 2019, Version 1 (clarification document)
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