All apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year-olds must last at least a year, Skills Minister John Hayes MP will announce in the House of Commons today.

Mr Hayes is expected to say that all new apprenticehips must take place for a minimum of 12 months from August 2012, and include a ‘rigorous’ amount of job-relevant learning and training.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), among a number of new measures confirmed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), will look at extending the new length of delivery to older learners, and take action to improve any apprenticeship frameworks failing to deliver new and relevant skills.

The NAS will also work in partnership with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to clampdowm on poor use of provision.

New measures include withdrawing public funding from training providers who fail to meet quality standards.

The announcement follows a rise in apprenticeships being delivered in as little as 12 weeks, offering very little training or new job prospects for young people.

(You can watch the announcement by John Hayes MP on Parliament TV from 3:30pm)

UPDATE: For more on this story click here

The BIS Statement reads:


On Monday Skills Minister John Hayes will be taking part in an Apprenticeship Debate. As part of this he is expected to announce tough new measures to help assure that every apprenticeship delivers world class training for learners and businesses, and that all apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds last for at least twelve months.  

These measures include:

Apprenticeships must entail a rigorous period of job-relevant learning, and the practice of new skills, normally extending over at least 12 months.   From August 2012, all apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds must last for at least 12 months. The National Apprenticeship Service will look at whether this requirement should extend to older apprentices, taking account they will often start from a higher base. Every apprenticeship will deliver significant new learning – and never be about the accreditation of existing knowledge and experience.

Tighter guidance for those developing apprenticeship frameworks will ensure national quality standards are always met.  The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) will take action to improve any frameworks that are not delivering relevant and challenging new skills.

NAS will work with the Skills Funding Agency to crack down on poor provision and where there is evidence public money is being over-claimed. In cases where training fails to meet required quality standards, contracts will be tightened to allow for public funding to be immediately withdrawn from training providers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The apprenticeships programme is a success story, with record numbers of learners starting an apprenticeship
this year.

“The measures announced today will ensure that we cut no corners on quality. All apprenticeships will be consistently delivered to a high standard, we will crack down on poor provision and ultimately withdraw funds from those providers that can not improve.”

Skills Minister John Hayes said:

“Putting apprenticeships back at the heart of our education and skills system is one of the Government’s proudest achievements, with record investment paying dividends for businesses and trainees.  With more employers and more apprentices involved in the programme than ever before, we will continue to raise standards and ensure the high quality of every apprenticeship.  My resolve is to ensure every penny of public money delivers high quality training, and continue to weed out failure and fraud wherever it is found to exist.”

Apprenticeships deliver strong benefits for apprentices, employers and the wider economy. Around 450,000 new apprentices started last year, and over 50,000 workplaces took on apprentices for the first time.


In today’s debate in the House of Commons John Hayes announced a number of new measures to boost the quality of apprenticeship  provision. He set out new steps to assure that every apprenticeship will deliver world class training for learners and businesses, normally extending for at least twelve months. For those aged 16-18, this period will become a minimum in all cases from August 2012, as new contracts are issued. 

The National Apprenticeship Service will also assess the implications of extending the above requirement to other ages.  If standards are sufficiently stretching all apprenticeships will naturally extend over 12 months.  This is in line with the requirement for every apprentice not already qualified to this level to receive training in English and Maths to the level of a good GCSE.

In November the Government set out its priorities for the next phase of the Apprenticeships programme, including financial incentives for smaller firms to take on their first apprentices, the creation of some 19,000 degree level apprenticeships through the Higher Apprenticeships Fund, and a new £250m fund to give employers more control over how publicly funded training is delivered. For more info see the BIS website

The apprenticeships budget from 2011/12 is £1.4bn

For the latest apprenticeship opportunities visit

Related articles in FE Week (incl. info graphic ~ 11mb):

Government figures show adult apprenticeships more than tripled

Hundreds of 12 week apprenticeships advertised on NAS website are ‘under review’

Short 12 week apprenticeships are off the menu

Remind me again why I pay the training budget of a $422bn company?

City and Guilds allocated more than £8m for 25,000 Asda Apprentices

Morrisons, Elmfied and the over 25 Apprentices

12 week apprenticeships still advertised

Will 12 week apprentices ever be derailed?

Latest apprenticeship policy slammed

NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

Concern at 12 week apprenticeships

External related links:

Guardian: Jobs rebranded as apprenticeships, government report warns

Guardian: Apprenticeship figures are not what they seem

Telegraph: Apprenticeships double but concerns over ‘chasing targets’

Mail on Sunday: The great apprentice racket: Some jobs fall short of skills as firms collect millions

Guardian: Big increase in apprenticeships due to ‘striking rise’ in trainees over 25

BBC Radio 4 In Business programme on supermarket apprentices

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Fiona Arnold

    I am wondering how the 12 week apprenticeships are enabled on the NAS website, bearing in mind they have to be checked before they are allowed to go on? Surely this should have been picked up and addressed by NAS at the very outset.

  2. Is this not just swinging to the other extreme though? Surely there has to be a place for an amount of accreditting prior learning in any qualification? To suggest this will NEVER happen is a ridiculous position isn’t it? So the person who can’t get on an apprenticeship gets a job with a bad employer who doesn’t offer them because they really want to work in a given field. Two years later the company is taken over by a far more enlightened boss who says “now we shall do apprenticeships”, surely the experience gained in that two years is valid?

    • Elaine Wain

      I fully agree with you Steve – apprentices come onto our frameworks with a good variety of skills and experiences. Does this mean we can only accept learners onto apprenticeships that do not have these skills? The frameworks that we offer state they must be at least 12 months so we do not have a problem with this. However, I feel that a caviat should be written into these that it is dependent on the learner and their starting base. This is usually evidenced in a good robust induction and assessment process and should be used to in the Individual Learning Plan – or will all of these be the same too! Interesting times!

  3. The Apprenticeship framework is based on the NVQ. You cannot gain an NVQ until you have proved competency against those standards. How can it be proved that an individual has already reached the standard of the unit “Maintain Health, Hygiene and Security in the workplace” at Lvl 2 for example, unless that individual is assessed and found competent? According to this, if they are found to be competent, then is that unit deleted from the framework? Who will pay for that initial activity which ascertains that they are already competent, so therefore won’t be funded for that element? And will the Awarding Body accept that NVQ is complete on the say so of the employee/SFA that they are already competent in that unit? I doubt it.

    There is a paradox here I can’t work out – to ‘stretch’ the Apprentice so their new learning takes up a whole year, they are going to have to start a new job they have very little experience in. Nothing wrong with this in principle, as long as you accept that cuts out the majority of Apprentices currently working in SMEs, particularly those who are aged 19+.

    This couldn’t possibly be yet another mutually exclusive set of outcomes, to add to those already inherent in the system – could it?!

    • Peter Wilson


      I’m afraid you’re wrong. Apprenticeships used to be based on NVQs. Apprenticeship Frameworks are based on the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE), which is the document NAS uses as the basis for guaranteeing quality in these Frameworks. The document is 18 pages long and makes no reference to NVQs. So ‘the paradox’ you identify doesn’t actually exist. Is it possible that one of the problems with quality in Apprenticeship Frameworks is that some people think they’re based on NVQs?


          • I agree as an employer i like to see the majority of our apprentices move through an intermidiate framework within 6-8 months hopefully to progress onto an adavanced framework.

            requirments of SASE only stipulate suggested GLH for ‘on the job’ and ‘off the job’ training and a ‘recommended’ timescale for delivery. the only LEGAL requirment is the GLH for each framework exceed the minimum of 280GLH.

  4. For 16-18 years, a 12 month minimum length apprenticeship is a good thing, at this age, there will be a very small minority who come with prior learning and skills but unless this is introduced, then unfortunately the providers who deliver poor qulaity and accelerated apprenticeships will find a loop hole. I agree, that for older apprentices, a 12 month minimum apprenticeship would not be ideal as many do have prior knowledge etc but surely to protect the brand, something has to be done now, parents and employers are already starting to turn away from apprenticeships and there are some horror stories out there, make no mistake. Lets hope that they look at 19+ apprenticeships seperately to 16-18

  5. Its an easy thing to say that we want higher quality Apprenticeships and we will need to see the details of these proposals. We already have enough controls on quality through awarding organisations, the requirements of the SASE, funding agencies, NAS and Ofsted. Minimum length of stay is not a quality measure in itself and may have some unfortunate consequences. Will it help the young person who has completed all of the qualifications but leaves before their year is up, the young person who has done 12-18 months at College doing a related qualification to their apprenticeship or help the young person who could have completed the programme in less than 12 months and could have gone on to earn a higher salary but will now be kept on an apprenticeship rate. More controls, less flexibility, sometimes you have to be careful about what you wish for.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment behind apprenticeships at 16-18 lasting a minimum of one year. However, there are easier and better ways to deal with the real issues that lie behind the policy. We must also beware the unintended adverse consequences of the change. For example…

    – Apprenticeships are supposed to be led by the learner and the employer. This means that they agree, with the training provider, how long “their” apprenticeship should take. For some learners this will be a year or even two. For others, who decide that they want to put in extra work, it will often be less than a year. Removing this freedom to agree programme lengths on an individualised basis will lead to the artificial lengthening of some learners’ programmes and will delay progression – hardly a motivator for an enthusiastic young person!

    – Some less scrupulous employers may see the extension of the apprenticeship as a way to keep an apprentice on the apprentice minimum wage (currently £2.60 per hour) for longer than they otherwise could.

    – A “one year rule” will lead more employers to offer apprentices fixed-term 12 month contracts. Fixed term contracts are not always a bad thing, but are they as good as the indeterminate contracts that most employers offer currently?

    – Fewer learners will successfully complete their qualifications. Because it is taking them longer, there is a greater risk of them losing their jobs and re-employment will be more challenging because they do not have an apprenticeship qualification.

    Fundamentally though, for many learners and employers an “apprenticeship” is far more than a single statutory apprenticeship qualification and it is artificial for a single qualification to have a fixed period. In areas like accounts or the law for example, we offer 3 to 5 year apprenticeship programmes that can take a young person from their first job all the way to a professional qualification. Within that programme there may be at least three statutory apprenticeships at different levels, some of which will take more than a year but learners can complete faster if they are sufficiently motivated. These programmes, which deliver sustainable careers (not just jobs!) are exactly what the economy needs more of and we shouldn’t fetter these and other high quality programmes through a simplistic “one year rule” approach.

    Far better is to take a more robust approach to those programmes that, although called apprenticeships, are not what most people outside the sector would recognise as such. To ruin an analogy… if it’s called an apprenticeship but looks like an elephant then it’s an elephant, not an apprenticeship and it shouldn’t be funded.

    The usual clues are…

    – Where all (or nearly all) apprentices complete within a very short period (3-6 months).
    – Where the apprentice’s employer is not a commercial enterprise but is, either, a training provider in disguise or is closely affiliated to a funded training provider.
    – Where few if any apprentices remain in employment with their employer after the end of the apprenticeship.
    – Where the employer’s business model is overly reliant on apprentice staff (for example – there are lots of apprentices all employed on or close to the minimum wage).
    – Where the apprentice’s wage is being subsidised either directly or indirectly by the training provider.

    Here the solution, surely, is simply to withdraw the funding. As a consequence apprentice numbers will appear to decrease in the short term but this is only on a superficial level as these were not really apprenticeships in the first place. More importantly though, these providers will face a choice – to either adjust their model so their apprenticeships are delivering the value that the public and our politicians want, or go out of business.

    • Scott Upton

      Excellent points well made Jonathan. Nothing to add really, except that whilst NAS / SFA are overly concerned with chasing ‘starts’ there will be no impetus to root out the provision you allude to in your closing points.

      Scott Upton, Sandwell College.

    • Jonathan good points.

      As an employer I have always found our apprentices more than capable of completing an intermediate apprenticeship framework within 6-8 months (Sport & Active leisure sector) – having researched the SASE framework within 6-8 months our apprentices achieve double the recommended GLH’s for the framework anyway.

      We have toyed with the idea of offering an advanced level apprenticeship. If we have to offer intermediate level over 12 months this would only stretch out the training which could be completed sooner. I would prefer to push on apprentices to advanced level and therefore complete both intermediate and advanced within a 12-15 month period. Doing so would qualify apprentices with actual skill set my business requires and therfore become a crucial part to the business.

      My question is which no one seems to know the answer to:

      My apprentices will be employed for 12-15 months, which fits in line with proposed new requirements for 16-18 year olds. However providing the GLH are met for the SASE frameworks can the training provider deliver both an intermediate and advanced framework within a 12-15 month period?

      I cannot find clarification if the apprentice needs to be employed for a minimum of 12 months AND can only achieve one framework.


      The apprentice can gain more than one framework i.e intermediate and advanced within a 12 month period (intermediate 6 months / advanced up to 9 months)

      I must stress this is for the Sport & Active Leisure industry and therfore frameworks may require less credits / GLH than other sectors.

      Any clarification would be welcomed

  7. An artificial solution to an underwhelming problem that should have been easily sorted by the controls already in place.

    This will be hailed as a ‘victory’ for ‘newshounds’, academics and for ‘quality’…as a comment above said, “be careful what you wish for”, as this will inevitably bite us all in the bum with lower recruitment, a proliferation of fixed-term contracts and some highly delighted employers.