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Apprenticeships and skills policy in England

Published Friday, January 4, 2019

This note provides a summary of current apprenticeships and skills policy and developments in England.

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Skills and training are devolved policy areas. This Briefing Paper covers apprenticeships in England. Sources of information on apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are included in Section 3, Useful Sources.

This paper covers policy developments from 2015 onwards.

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are paid jobs which incorporate on and off the job training. Apprentices have the same rights as other employees and are entitled to be paid at least the apprentice rate of the national minimum wage. A successful apprentice may receive a nationally recognised qualification on the completion of their contract.

There are two different types of apprenticeships: frameworks and standards. Apprenticeship frameworks are being progressively phased out and replaced by the newer apprenticeship standards.

Over 900,000 funded apprentices participated on an apprenticeship in the 2016 to 2017 academic year, and the Government has set a target of 3 million new apprenticeship starts between 2015 and 2020.

Apprenticeship Levy

On 6 April 2017 the apprenticeship levy came into effect with all UK employers with a pay bill of over £3 million per year paying the levy. The levy is set at 0.5% of the value of the employer’s pay bill, minus an apprenticeship levy allowance of £15,000 per financial year. The levy is paid into an apprenticeship service account, and funds in this account have to be spent on apprenticeship training and assessment.

Other changes to apprenticeship funding

From May 2017 apprenticeship frameworks and standards will be funded in the same way. Each apprenticeship framework or standard will be associated with a funding band, and the government will only pay a share of the costs below the upper limit of the funding band.

Apprenticeship levy funds will be used to pay for the training and assessment for employers paying the levy (up to the upper limit of the funding band). Employers who do not pay the levy will pay 10% of the cost of training and assessment with the government contributing the remaining 90% (up to the upper limit of the funding band).

Additional payments may be paid to the employer and training provider depending on the characteristics of the apprentice and the type of apprenticeship.

Impact of the Funding changes

Since the introduction of the funding changes in 2017 there has been a large fall in the number of apprenticeship starts, leading to criticism of the levy and other reforms that have been put in place. The Government has responded by stating that the quality of apprenticeships has improved since the reforms have been put in place.

Other Skills initiatives

The Government has various other initiatives in place to improve the skills of workers in England, including Skills Advisory Panels, Technical Education reforms, the Digital Strategy and the Industrial Strategy.


Commons Briefing papers SN03052

Author: Andy Powell

Topics: Employment schemes, Training

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