The number of apprentices that small employers can start through the digital apprenticeship service will increase from three to 10 from tomorrow, the government has announced.

This cap will be in place for the remainder of the 2020-21 financial year, as from April 2021 the Education and Skills Funding Agency plans for all starts to go through the online apprenticeship system.

The digital service was launched in April 2017 but was only for levy-paying employers to manage and spend their apprenticeship funding.

Since January 2020 employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy have been able to create accounts on the service and reserve funding for an apprenticeship in advance of recruitment as part of the ESFA’s move away from the use of government-procured contracts. 

However, non-levy payers were capped at just three starts each owing to ongoing affordability issues.

In a new document outlining how apprenticeship funding will work from August 2020, published today, the ESFA said: “For the remainder of the financial year 2020-21, the number of ‘active’ or ‘used’ reservations available to non-levy payers at any given time will increase from three to 10.

“This enables non-levy paying employers to recruit more apprentices for their businesses through the apprenticeship service.

“This policy will come into effect from 15 July and will continue to be kept under review as we further assess how the new system is working.”

The agency reiterated that the transition period to move all employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy onto the apprenticeship service has been extended from October 2020.

Funds available to providers through non-levy procured contract allocations can be used for new starts until 31 March 2021 and “we plan to fund all starts through the apprenticeship service from 1 April 2021”. 

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