FAQs

The Apprenticeship Levy and our approach

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships provide the opportunity for training whilst undertaking paid employment and must align to an occupational Standard, or if operating under the previous apprenticeship system, a Framework. Frameworks will gradually be superseded by the new apprenticeship Standards.

New apprenticeship Standards are designed to meet employer needs and apply across all employment sectors. The standards describe the skills, knowledge and behaviour required to undertake the occupation and are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships, which was formed in April 2017.

Apprenticeship standards are employer led and groups of employer trailblazers are in the process of working together to develop apprenticeship standards that respond to the needs of their sector. There are many apprenticeship standards either in existence or under development, a list of which can be found here.

What types of apprenticeship are available?

The number of different types of apprenticeships on offer continues to increase, thanks largely to the work of Trailblazers. A Trailblazer is a group of employers who work together to design new apprenticeship standards for occupations within their sectors.

You can search for approved apprenticeships here: https://findapprenticeshiptraining.sfa.bis.gov.uk/Apprenticeship/Search

There are different levels of apprenticeship:

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A Level
Higher 4, 5, 6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor's or Master's degree

Some apprenticeships may also give you an additional qualification, such as a diploma.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

Employers with a pay bill over £3 million each year, must pay the apprenticeship levy as of 6 April 2017. The apprenticeship levy is charged at 0.5% of our annual pay bill (approximately £1.3 million annually). We report and pay our levy to HMRC through the PAYE process. Levy funds are available for 24 months and any unused funding will be made available to other employers nationally.

The levy will not affect the way we fund training for apprentices who started an apprenticeship programme before 1 May 2017. We will carry on funding training for these apprentices under the terms and conditions that were in place at the time the apprenticeship started.

How have apprenticeships changed since the levy was introduced?

Since May 2017 new employer-led apprenticeships have become available in a variety of occupations up to Masters level. Modern apprenticeships are an attractive option to people of all ages and levels to gain new skills and develop a career in their chosen profession. Apprenticeships are available for both new and existing staff.

Government reforms include the introduction of a UK levy on all large employers to fund apprenticeships. The aim of this is to support the government’s ambition of delivering three million apprentices by 2020. The levy came into effect in April 2017 and costs the University circa £1.3 million annually.

New apprenticeship standards are designed to meet employer needs in the higher education sector and the wider economy. The standards describe the skills, knowledge and behaviour required to undertake the occupation and are approved by the Department for Education.

Apprenticeship standards are employer-led and groups of employer trailblazers work together to develop apprenticeship standards that respond to the needs of their sector. There are many apprenticeship standards either in existence or under development.

To find out more, watch the video.

What’s the difference between a Framework and a Standard?

Apprenticeships were previously delivered through Frameworks. These are gradually being phased out and replaced by Standards. Apprenticeship Standards are developed by employer groups called Trailblazers. Each standard is approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and fully defines the occupation in terms of the responsibilities and tasks involved and the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to achieve competence.

How much does it cost to train an apprentice?

Between £1.5k and £27k, depending on level and training provider. Every standard has a funding band ceiling.

Can we use the levy to train staff to use new equipment?

Not normally. This might apply if the staff member’s post was an apprenticeship (or was converted to an apprenticeship for the duration of their training) and the training on the new equipment was recognised within their apprenticeship standard or framework.

How are levy funds accessed?

The University manages the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) which is the online system used to access levy funds and purchase training from an approved training provider centrally within HR.

How will the levy funding for apprenticeship training be split between the Faculties and Professional Services?

Departments can only use levy funding for training being undertaken by, or provided to, apprentices. Initially the funding will not be ring fenced by department as we anticipate we will have more than sufficient funds to pay for all apprenticeship training, but as the scheme expands this may be something the University considers doing.

How will the University communicate about apprenticeships?

We will provide updates through the Apprenticeship webpages. Where appropriate we will hold manager workshops to enable the University to make the most of our levy. If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk.

Will there be any guidance from University departments who have been successful in their experience of hiring an apprentice?

Yes. The advice and guidance within these pages has been developed from the University’s experiences with apprentices. We update this when necessary with changes or new information.

Will HR be engaging with and notifying managers of possible apprenticeship positions in their areas?

Yes. A mapping exercise has been carried out, and is regularly reviewed as new standards are made available. We are meeting with departments to discuss how to implement apprenticeship opportunities.

Please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you think there may be an opportunity in your department. For example, if you are planning to recruit a new member of staff who will need training on the job, it would be good practice to look at the existing apprenticeship standards to see if any might apply to that post. Similarly, if an existing member of staff requires on the job training, or is looking for significant training to help them progress in their career, it would be worth exploring whether their post could be converted to an apprenticeship for the duration of their training.

Preparing for an apprentice

Who qualifies as an apprentice?

An apprentice is an individual enrolled on an apprenticeship training programme and must be a minimum of 16 years old, however there is no upper age limit. They can be a new or current employee and must work enough paid hours each week to undertake sufficient training to achieve their apprenticeship. This is usually a minimum of 30 hours per week full time, but part-time working is allowed, where the minimum duration of the apprenticeship is extended to take account of this. They must also meet employment eligibility criteria, such as the right to live and work in the UK.

In order to attract government funding for an apprenticeship, the apprentice must not be enrolled on another apprenticeship, or another DfE funded FE/HE programme, at the same time as any new apprenticeship they start.

In addition, the levy fund cannot be used to pay for skills already attained by the apprentice.

An individual can undertake an apprenticeship at the same or lower level than a qualification they already hold, provided the apprenticeship will allow the individual to acquire substantive new skills and there is evidence that the content of the training is materially different from any prior qualification or a previous apprenticeship.

Further information about employing apprentices can be found here.

How do I know whether someone is eligible for an apprenticeship based on their current skills and qualifications?

You should discuss individual eligibility for an apprenticeship with your chosen Training Provider.

Will there be opportunities for existing staff to develop their roles through an apprenticeship?

Yes. There will be opportunities for existing staff. Use the guidance available within these pages but if you have any queries contact your customary HR team if you have any queries, or email tuos-apprenticeship-project@shef.ac.uk.

If an existing member of staff requires on the job training, or is looking for significant training to help them progress in their career, it is worth exploring whether there is a relevant apprenticeship standard. Please email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk and we will help you to explore the possibility.

How can we identify apprenticeship opportunities for existing staff?

You can search the list of Apprenticeship Standards for relevant apprenticeships. There is also a list of standards under development. See here.

Within my department I have a requirement for a specific skill or type of training (e.g. researcher/DSO). How do I arrange an apprenticeship for this?

When considering setting up an apprenticeship you need to choose an approved apprenticeship standard. You can search for approved apprenticeships here: https://findapprenticeshiptraining.sfa.bis.gov.uk/Apprenticeship/Search.

What if there is no standard or framework in place to fit the needs of certain departments?

Apprenticeships need to comply with one of the existing standards
or framework
. However, groups of employers (trailblazers) are working together to design new world-class apprenticeship standards that respond to the needs of their industries. There is currently a HE Consortium made up of several trailblazer groups in the process of developing apprenticeship standards for the HE sector. We could propose new roles to the group for consideration. If this is something you wish to pursue, please email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk.

Will it be possible to use apprenticeships for graduate interns?

It may be possible to map some internships onto an apprenticeship. The training would need to be linked to an approved training standard and the hours and duration of the internship would need to be sufficient to allow the intern to complete their apprenticeship training and end-point assessment. The minimum duration of an apprenticeship is 12 months (for a full time role). In addition, the levy fund cannot be used to pay for skills already attained by the apprentice. As such, the internship training would need to be in a different field to the qualifications already obtained, or being undertaken by them.

Would the levy be able to fund current HNCs/HNDs or to replace trainees with apprentices?

Yes. As long as the staff involved were employed on a contract for the duration of their training and the training complied with existing apprenticeship standards or frameworks.

Would it be possible to have a short, one-year apprenticeship?

Yes. The minimum duration of any apprenticeship is 12 months, but the duration is determined by the standard (or framework) and level of the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships need to comply with one of the existing Apprenticeship standards: list of occupations available.

How do I select a training provider?

All ‘apprenticeship training providers’ need to be accredited and registered on the national Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP). You can search for approved providers on the national database.

However, as the University receives public funding we have to ensure that responsible procurement and value for money is maximised and statutory requirements are adhered to.

As such, we are currently setting up a list of preferred training providers, which will be made available on our web pages in due course.

Whilst we are aiming to build University relationships with a group of reliable training providers, we do not want to prevent departments from working with other excellent providers. If the apprenticeship you are setting up would benefit from a training provider who is not on the recommended list, please email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk and we will advise you.

Payment of training providers is managed centrally within HR.

How do I go about recruiting an apprentice?

The project group are currently supporting a pilot group to help them through the process and to share best practice. We have developed an online toolkit to help you through the process which can be found here. If you have any queries about the process, please contact your customary HR team or email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk and we will advise you how to proceed.

When setting up a new apprenticeship post, or an apprenticeship for an existing member of staff, managers should consider the appropriateness on a case by case basis. Our apprentices are employees of the University and are subject to the same terms and conditions and other HR policies and procedures. The apprentice is expected to pass their qualification, as well as meetthe behavioural elements of their post.

When is the best time to recruit an apprentice?

You can recruit an apprentice at any time throughout the year and many training providers have a flexible delivery model. You might also consider how long it will take to recruit and the training provider can help to advise you on timescales from shortlisting to interview.

What are the contract arrangements between the University, training provider and apprentice?

There will be an overarching Apprenticeship Training Services Agreement between the University and each training provider we engage the services of, which will be signed off by Human Resources. For each apprentice who subsequently receives training from that training provider, there will be an Apprentice Agreement between the University and the apprentice and also a Commitment Statement, which is a three way statement agreed by the University, the training provider and the apprentice. Please see the recruitment process flow chart for details of the sign off process for these documents.

The Apprentice Agreement is very similar to a normal employment contract, but reflects that the relationship includes the learning element. Along with all the normal contractual information, which is included for all employees, the apprentice’s agreement must also include the following:

  • Skill, trade or occupation which the apprentice can expect to learn
  • Name the Apprenticeship framework/standard and level
  • Start date and length of contract
  • Estimated completion of learning date

What documents need to be in place for an apprenticeship and where are they stored?

A Framework Agreement: this is the overarching agreement between the University and the Training Provider and is arranged by HR on behalf of the University. This is held centrally by HR.

A Commitment Statement: this is a tripartite agreement between the Apprentice, the Line Manager and the Training Provider and outlines the commitment from all parties to the apprenticeship. This is stored on an individual’s uBASE record.

A Schedule: this is between the Line Manager and the Training Provider and details what the Training Provider will provide and the costs associated with the apprenticeship. This is saved by the Line Manager.

An Apprentice Agreement: this is a TUOS document that provides HR with all the relevant information to enter an apprentice on to the Digital Apprentice Service, and subsequently draw down levy funds. This is stored on an individual’s uBASE record.

Will money for apprenticeship salaries, pension costs and NI come from departmental budgets, or a central apprenticeship budget?

Money for apprenticeship salaries needs to come from the departmental budget. The apprenticeship levy only covers the costs of training provided by organisations registered as accredited training providers on the national database.

Can the University claim training materials and travel from the levy?

The levy can only be used to pay for training and assessment (including the end-point assessment) to attain an apprenticeship that is eligible for funding up to the limit of the funding band. Associated costs, such as apprentice wages, travel and subsidiary costs, or the costs of setting up an Apprenticeship Programme are not eligible for claiming back.

How will space/resource/time/money be accommodated to plan, hire and manage apprentices?

Apprentices are members of staff and as such you would need to consider this within departmental planning in the same way that space/resource/time/money are considered for any member of staff.

Managing an Apprentice

How long should an Apprentice contract be for?

An Apprentice should be employed long enough for them to complete their apprenticeship. Each standard offers a typical duration, so as a guide the contract length should at least match this. In addition, the training provider will be able to offer advice regarding length of the contract.

Whilst some apprentices will be fixed term, there is a recognition that there should be a genuine need for the apprenticeship role. Therefore, it could be appropriate for the position to be open-ended. If you have any queries you can discuss these with your customary HR team, or contact tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk.

Could an apprenticeship work on a part-time basis?

Yes. The University is an equal opportunities employer and an apprentice may work on a part-time basis, however the minimum number of hours set by the government is 30 hours per week. An apprentice is a member of staff and the same rules apply. A working pattern would need to be agreed with the staff member to ensure that they could attend their training programme’s compulsory elements. If this is not possible, alternative training providers / formats might be sought for the member of staff. The training provider would need to be accredited and listed on the Register of apprenticeship training providers and would need to be agreed with HR for procurement purposes.

What is an incentive payment?

It’s a payment to support the employment of apprentices between the ages of 16 and 18. It should be used for additional training (for example, timekeeping or organisational skills) or support (such as mentoring or supervision). The payment is made to the University by the Training Provider and will then be credited to the relevant department.

What Terms and Conditions will an apprentice be on?

Apprentices will be under the Terms and Conditions relevant to their role.
Guidance on appointing new members of staff as apprentices is available here.

Existing staff will retain their existing terms and conditions of employment during their apprenticeship.

Do existing staff have to have the title of ‘Apprentice’?

Existing staff will retain their existing job title and terms and conditions of employment during their Apprenticeship.

How is the 20% training time managed?

Off-the-job training is defined as training which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship. It equates to 20% of an apprentice’s contracted time (the equivalent of 1 day a week for a full time apprentice).

Managers must ensure that apprentices are recording how their 20% off the job training is being utilised. A simple spreadsheet would be sufficient.

Managers must also ensure that cover is available to allow the apprentice to undertake their off the job training. This must be built into the apprenticeship.

Some of the off the job training will be undertaken by the Training Provider. The remainder will be employer-led, and could include time spent shadowing different business areas, developing distinct skills which enhance the role.

Off-the-job training does not include:

  • English and maths (up to level 2) which is funded separately;
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessment needed for an apprenticeship framework or standard;
  • Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours. See here.

Employers need to make sure the apprentice spends at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training (please see paragraphs 28 to 29 of the Apprenticeship funding: rules and guidance for employers).

It is up to the employer and the training provider to decide how the off-the-job training is delivered. This may include regular day release, block release and special training days/workshops.

What happens when the apprenticeship training has been completed?

Given that an apprenticeship is a genuine job role, we expect that the majority of roles will continue once the training element has been completed, however like any University job this is dependent upon departmental need. Progression in the role upon completion of the apprenticeship training should be considered as part of the overall career pathway for the role prior to recruitment. For guidance and advice on this, please speak to your customary HR team.

Further guidance is available in our Salary and Progression Principles guidance.

What support is available to managers of an apprentice?

A range of support is in place for managers considering recruiting an apprentice.

If you would like to get in touch with someone before you start developing your first apprenticeship role, please contact your customary HR team or email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk.

There is a tool kit available on our web pages, which summarises the steps involved in the recruitment process. Please work through these steps with your human resources representative. Your HR team will be able to help you with ‘About the Job’ design, sourcing a training provider and recruitment.

The AMRC Training Centre are offering a one day mentoring course for managers of apprentices. This will be delivered on campus and is aimed at any manager who is new to managing an apprentice. For more information and confirmation of your interest in attending this course, please email tuos-apprenticeship-project@sheffield.ac.uk.

We will hold a central induction day for new apprentices and also managers of apprentices which will be a good opportunity for people to come together and share experiences of apprenticeships.

What if the apprentice no longer wants to stay after the department has invested in their development? Will there be a clause for retention or payback?

No. Apprentices should not be asked to contribute financially to the direct cost of learning or assessment (this includes where an apprentice leaves their programme early - you must not claim training or assessment costs back from ex-apprentices). Therefore, it is important that the recruitment processes are robust enough to only select candidates who have the potential to successfully complete the apprenticeship.

What's an End Point Assessment?

Each Apprenticeship Standard has an End Point Assessment. As an employer, we have certain responsibilities to appoint an End Point Assessment Organisation. Further information about End Point Assessments can be found here.