Making sense of the 20% off-the-job apprenticeship funding rule

One of the most important apprenticeship funding rules from May is the requirement that every apprentice “spends at least 20 per cent of their time on off-the-job training”.

This simple sentence actually raises a series of questions, such as how to define “their time” and “off-the-job training”.

We understand the SFA will shortly publish dedicated guidance about the off-the-job training rule, but in the meantime we asked for a definition of “their time”. 

The SFA today told FE Week that “their time” refers to contracted employment hours and said:

  • “Off-the-job training must amount to 20 per cent of the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across the whole apprenticeship.
  • “We do not stipulate how this should be spread out.
  • “It cannot include time spent on English and maths, or on training to acquire skills, knowledge and behaviours that are not required in the standard or framework.”

Thus, if an employee is on a two year apprenticeship and has an employment contract of 7 hours x 5 days x 46 weeks x 2 years that is a total of 3,220 contracted hours. Hence, at 20 per cent the minimum off-the-job training would be 644 hours (equivalent to one day per working week).

And for current completeness, here’s what version two of the ‘Apprenticeship funding and performance-management rules for training providers’ says:

The 20 per cent minimum off-the-job rule

“To use funds in an employer’s digital account or from government-employer co-investment for an apprenticeship, you must have evidence that the apprentice spends at least 20 per cent of their time on off-the-job training, recognising that apprentices may need more than 20 per cent off-the-job training, for example if they need English and maths. It is up to you and the employer to decide how the off-the-job training is delivered. This may include regular day release, block release and special training days/workshops.”

Definition of off-the-job training

“Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-today working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work, but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.”

The off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard and could include:

  • “The teaching of theory (for example, lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning, manufacturer training).
  • “Practical training; shadowing; mentoring; industry visits and attendance at competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments.”

Off-the-job training does not include:

  • “English and maths (up to level two) which is funded separately
  • “progress reviews or on-programme assessment required for an apprenticeship framework or standard
  • “training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours”

Evidencing the off-the-job

“The evidence pack must, among other things listed in the funding rules, contain:

  • “evidence to support the funding claimed and must be available to us if we need it. This must include details of how the 20 per cent ‘off-the-job’ training, excluding English and maths, will be quantified and delivered.
  • “details of employment including: the name of the employer and the agreed contracted hours of employment, including paid training and 20 per cent ‘off-the-job’ time, the total planned length of the apprenticeship.”

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  1. Providers need to develop a resource that shows all the off the job training by type and hours with sub-totals and an overall total that is available when discussing an apprenticeship with an employer. This will be a start point as learners with individual needs will require additional support. They then need to work with the provider in a partnership to best understand how to make up the remaining hours as required.

  2. The rule is the death of the Apprenticeship Levy scheme as employers will just pay and not train, 1 x day in five in learning and off the job??? this has now increased the cost of the levy (wages, operational and opportunity) for employers to an unacceptable level. They will now just pay 0.5% as a tax only.

    Employers will just now pay the levy and forget the training, employers and providers thought it was 20% off the job for the GLH of the qualifications, not 20% of contracted hours-crazy

    The SFA must rethink this rule as it will cripple this new scheme for providers and employers and ultimately Learners

    What a shame as many employers were looking forward to the Levy’s introduction

    • Do you speak on behalf of all employers!?

      In my view it still makes sense to businesses. Apprentices minimum pay is not 4/5ths of the national minimum.

      Starting to remind me a bit of day release……

      • Justin

        Maybe not all but the Majority. I simple cant afford to pay the levy and send an existing member of staff on an apprenticeship giving them 20% time off the job, without passing the cost onto customers. Where is the benefit

      • alan mann

        Hi What you have stated is correct, however there are many apprenticeships for which there are no college based diplomas available.
        People wishing to complete an apprenticeship for example in machine operation within a factory setting, learning how to set up very complex machines to produce a wide range of products. to learn these skill can take a long time and experience is the key.
        So to achieve this the training must be carried out on the machine in the factory with mentors shadowing them, and not in a classroom.

    • I have visited 3 Nurseries today offering childcare apprenticeships and all have told me they will no longer take on apprentices. They will only look for qualified staff as It’s no longer viable. This rule definitely needs a rethink.

  3. Unless there is recognition that the 20% paid time off the job element for Higher and Degree Level Apprenticeships should be treated differently, then for many learners and employers this will be a show stopper. Higher Apprenticeships do not have 16-19 year olds typically on them and it would be miss-guided to slavishly impose the same rules for the lower level programmes on to them. Many individuals undertaking these programmes are 24+ years already occupying more senior roles. These managers may often exceed their contracted hours in performing the normal duties of their roles. The activities they engage in when undertaking the apprenticeship programme will be fitted in and round their workload and from their personal time. A 2-year Higher Apprenticeship programme requiring 644 paid hours off the job also represents a significant cost to employers (particularly SME) when most apprentices will be earning more than £10 per hour. This is in addition to the significant fee contribution now expected from employers for such programmes. For degree level apprenticeships, these costs will be significantly more again. The rules should be written specifically to encourage SME employers to engage in these programmes and not justified solely on the basis of large employer’s willingness to engage. Recognition that one rule for all is not always good would be helpful here!

    • But, it *should* represent a significant investment, surely? They’re getting a degree for £3k rather than £27k!!! I’m amazed that people are legitimately upset by this, surely this is the only requirement that can drive the quality agenda and stop fly-by-nights “doing an elmfield” and just accrediting prior knowledge? If you want your managers to get a serious qualification you need to seriously support them.

      • Recasting current part-time degrees is clearly attractive to learners who would otherwise obtained a loan to do these. The point is however from an SME employers perspective they don’t currently have to support senior staff by giving them paid day release for 3/4 years to do this at present. This is what is effectively necessary according to the guidance now issued! It is not just a cost consideration for SME employers, it is also a practicality of coping with the absence of key individuals during this absence.

  4. This is moving away from apprenticeship models by providers that employers have favoured for a long time.

    Back to the classroom then… Individualisation for the learner/employer out of the window. Flexible and demand-led provision is no more.

  5. My work based learners spend 2days a week in college 3 in placement/work. They get both experiences and it works brilliantly. High quality practice experience and completely up to date quality assured theory and knowledge.
    Very few buisnesses have the teaching skills or the time to deliver the necessary in depth teaching. We learnt through t to g that half cocked was a disaster.

  6. Shaun Meek

    I believe the 20% off the job requirement is a ‘broad brush’ approach to what is not a straightforward issue. I agree some apprenticeship standards where the technical knowledge and/or skill requirement is high and therefore needs developing and practicing away from the daily constraints of the working environment, but others, the 20% is over the top and will discourage some employers participating. This is not that these apprenticeships are less important, just that the relevant skills and knowledge can be achieved equally as well by on the job coaching and mentoring.
    In my opinion, for what it is worth the percentage of off the job should be linked to funding bands maybe using a range of 10% to 20% off the job training.

  7. Norman

    ITPs be very afraid. Colleges nicking your lunch now as you can’t make millions out of the tax payer and you now have to teach not just record what you see.

    About time apprenticeships meant something and not the T2G beefed up.

    • We are an ITP (although we have never made millions)and have always delivered day release as do many of the other excellent ITPs locally to us good luck with your lunch stealing…. There are good and bad colleges and training providers.

  8. The BIS (2014: 24) Trailblazer guidance stated: “a new entrant to the occupation will require at least one year of training to meet the standard”.

    The guidance fails to specify, however, whether training will be undertaken via a full-time college course or in the context of the workplace and, as such, it implies that evidence of competence can be acquired through college-based training without the need for employment or qualified supervision in the workplace.

    The guidance on apprenticeship duration at work appears to be vague and this should not be the case for a apprenticeship qualifications which are perceived to employment related.

  9. This is simply impossible to work in small and micro employers,many of whom are simply struggling to survive. They cannot lose employees for that length of time,pay them and someone else to cover them who also has the required skills. That’s why they are on an apprenticeship in the first place.
    What about the millions on zero hours contracts.
    It’s not all about higher level apprenticeships and replacing degrees- how about creating the lower level skills gap as well.

  10. FE Lecturer

    I think this is very straightforward. An apprentice is an employee who is learning on the job, being paid and taking a vocational qualification part-time at college. If they have no contract of (paid 52 weeks) employment with an employer, they are not an apprentice, they are a student.
    The 80/20 split of the 5 days paid employment is simple.
    4 days (80%) spent at work on the employer’s site.
    1 day (20%) spent at college doing a vocational qualification (BTEC,C&G,EAL,etc)
    I think the government are wise specifying this to protect young people and ensure that government money is being spent on genuine apprenticeships.
    An apprenticeship is not a college course with placements!

    • Graham

      Maybe not so simple. Most colleges work on 36 weeks a year not 52 so the off-the-job training doesn’t add up to 20% of paid employment working hours. And Maths and English are on top of the 20% so not included. Nobody mentions ICT and many apprenticeships still require this – so even more time needed that doesn’t come from the 20% ‘pool’.

      The Govt hasn’t protected young people – the rules apply to all age groups from May and actually incentivise all providers to recruit 19+ (especially for frameworks and Standards in the higher funding brackets).

      The audit regime for this will be interesting to say the least.

  11. I have experienced delivery when working for a private and college provider. Many private providers have a head office and the tutors can sometimes be located many miles away. This also means that the apprentices are also located many miles away from the provider. My concern is where exactly will the 20% take place? Some employers simply don’t have the facilities to provide an area for off the job training.
    A college will be better placed to be able to classroom deliver. A college will then be a better choice for employers.
    Another point to consider may be if the employer has a high number of apprentices. This could result in a logistical nightmare for them. It could result in a high number of staff being off the job. Adding these off the job hours up for just one employer could have a negative impact. Let’s remember that not all apprentices are at management level. For example, a call centre employing a high number of staff may have not suffered any major loss by encouraging all their staff to take part. Will this still be the case?

  12. FE Lecturer

    There seems to be a lot of people who are confused about what an apprenticeship is. See below from a government website:

    “What is an apprenticeship?
    An apprenticeship gives you hands on experience, a salary and the opportunity to gain qualifications while you work – even a degree. All of this with some high quality, prestigious companies in loads of different industries.”

  13. Victoria

    At some point, is anyone actually going to consider the learners??
    There are many learners who have genuine fears about being in a classroom environment and workplace delivery meets their needs. It’s a huge step for some of them to arrive at a college or ITP for a group session.
    Not all learners can get to a training facility, but they can get to their workplace because maybe it’s a short walk away.
    Not all learners can attend sessions in the day, hence why they work shifts around family life, so I hope colleges & ITP’s start running more evening and weekend classes to accommodate their needs, as currently workplace delivery supports this?
    Equally, day release works really well for some learners.
    My point is….when did the sector lose focus on the learners?
    Employer this, SFA that is all I seem to read. I’ve sat at endless networking events where providers talk about how to get around one funding rule after another. What’s happened to caring about each individual learners needs?
    And Norman….you need to get out and take a look at what other providers offer, you make an awful lot of assumptions and telling providers they should be “afraid” – afraid of what, the only thing I’m afraid of is the learner being forgotten or being the last consideration on the list.

  14. Inasmuch as it’s a blow for employers, it’s also of concern for training providers. How do you track the usage of an employee’s on-shift hours for off-the-job training when you’re not physically in their place of work?

  15. What? I work seven days in a row 9-5 then have two days off and have to do my coursework in the evenings and on my days off, by which time I am absolutely exhausted. I typically on my have 2-4 hours a day to myself including my breaks. I’ve recently been asked to do extra days as well. I don’t have ANY college/classroom/teaching time; I am pretty much entirely self-taught. At least I know the grade so get will come from my own knowledge and experience being validated with a piece of paper rather than having parroted back information dictated to me. I literally have no life. I work, come home, so housework, do coursework and go to sleep. I have literally left the house to do something other than work (e.g. socialise, go to a doctor’s appointment etc.) less than 10 times in as many months.