Accounting for apprenticeship durations

NAS confirm that 12 month minimum duration will apply to each level of the apprenticeship

Apprenticeship providers should not be able to deliver multiple levels of a framework in less than 12 months, according to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).

The NAS say they are working with training providers such as Aspire Achieve Advance Ltd, which runs a programme qualifying learners at three different levels in 14 months, to ensure their delivery is compliant.

A NAS spokesperson said: “An apprenticeship framework is made up of different qualifications and will reflect what the Issuing Authority recognises as appropriate for an apprenticeship in that particular sector – however different levels would usually constitute different apprenticeship programmes.

“The framework document for accountancy gives an expectation that the Level 2 would take 12 months and the Level 3 and Level 4 would each take between 12 and 18 months.

“Where necessary we are working with providers to change their delivery models to be fully compliant.”

The Accounting Academy Partnership (AAP) is one of four divisions run by Aspire Achieve Advance Ltd, a provider with subcontracts totalling £9.7 million part owned by Di McEvoy-Robinson, former principal of West Nottinghamshire College.

The first apprentices enrolled by AAP, described by McEvoy-Robinson as “bright young things”, started in March last year and are expected to complete in May.

McEvoy-Robinson says the achievement rates, which are above the national average at 95 per cent for Level 2 and 90 per cent for Level 3, justify the duration of the programme.

“They’re all very well educated in terms of their GCSEs, in the main – they have to have at least five at A to C to  get on the programme,” McEvoy-Robinson said.

“So yes, my answer is it’s definitely appropriate to do all three levels in 14 months.”

AAT, the awarding body for the accounting technician qualification delivered by AAP, says although the delivery model isn’t suitable for every provider, there is still  “much to recommend about it”.

“AAT does not prescribe how long each level should take beyond the published guided learning hours,” an AAT spokesperson said.

“We are assured that in the 14 month model guided learning hour requirements are more than met because of the balance of time apprentices spend in college.”

Apprentices recruited by the AAP spend three days a week learning in an FE college before working with the employer for two days.

McEvoy-Robinson says the employer pays the apprentice for between 30 and 37 hours each week, although in reality they only work for two days.

Despite this, the NAS website states: “Employment must be for at least 30 hours per week, except in the minority of circumstances where the learner cannot complete the full 30 hours.

“In these cases employment must be for more than 16 hours per week.”

AAT says the balance between learning and working on the job is “justified” by AAP.

An AAT spokesperson said: “Accountancy is unusual as an apprenticeship framework in that the skills and underpinning knowledge components are linked within the qualification.  One consequence is that all underpinning skills/knowledge assessments are college-based.

“AAT therefore considers that the balance in the 14 month model is justified.”

A spokesperson from Financial Skills Partnership , the Sector Skills Council for finance, accountancy and financial services, told FE Week: “we are unable to discuss this at this stage as it [AAP] is currently under review by NAS and the Skills Funding Agency.”