An employers’ guide to apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have changed a lot in the last decade, and so have the ways that employers can get involved and benefit from them. To help you make the most of these opportunities, the West of England Apprenticeship Service will be offering free drop-in guidance sessions every Wednesday morning at Engine Shed for businesses interested in getting involved, starting on 14 February.

To kick things off, we’ve prepared a whistle-stop introduction to apprenticeships answering some of the most frequently asked questions.


What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is employed to do a job within your business, whilst studying for a nationally-recognised qualification. Apprentices engage in comprehensive training programmes known as apprenticeship standards, which give the employee an opportunity to learn on the job and receive training, whilst earning a salary. As part of their apprenticeship, they will gain relevant skills and knowledge for your business.


What does an apprenticeship involve?

Apprenticeship standards outline the skills, knowledge and behaviours the apprentice will learn through their job and apprenticeship training. What the apprentice learns will depend on the role they are training for, and whilst every standard will include core elements, the apprentice’s training will be tailored to the needs of your business.

The majority of the apprentice’s learning will take place on the job, but 20% of their learning must take place ‘off-the-job’. This includes any relevant activities and training they take part in beyond their everyday job, such as preparing for apprenticeship assessments, workplace mentoring, meetings, and training.

To get their qualification, apprentices must pass an End Point Assessment which checks whether they have gained the relevant skills, knowledge and behaviours.


Are apprenticeships just for school leavers and specific sectors?

No – apprentices can be anyone aged 16+ and may be a new recruit in your business, an employee looking for a training opportunity, or someone looking to change careers.

There are now over 600 apprenticeship standards available across most sectors, ranging from a level 2 (GCSE equivalent), all the way up to a level 7 (the equivalent of a bachelor’s or master’s degree). With many young people choosing not to go to university, many are considering other career paths. People looking to change careers are also using apprenticeships to gain on-the-job knowledge and training in a new sector.


How are businesses using apprenticeships?

Recruiting new employees through an apprenticeship provides a cost-effective way to give your employees relevant, tailored training, whilst they learn the ropes at your business.

With so many different apprenticeship standards available, you can also use apprenticeships as part of your learning and development strategies to retain and upskill your current employees and prepare them to be future leaders and managers of the business.


How long does an apprenticeship last?

An apprenticeship lasts for 1-6 years, depending on the level and type of apprenticeship, and their previous experience.


​What does an apprenticeship cost?

Every apprenticeship has a funding band which outlines the cost of delivering that apprenticeship, ranging from £1,500 to £27,000.

Employers with a pay bill of over £3 million each year pay an apprenticeship levy. You can find more information about the apprenticeship levy and how it can be used to pay for apprenticeships in this apprenticeship levy FAQ.

If you are an employer with an annual pay bill of less than £3 million, the government will help to fund 95% of the training cost of the apprenticeship. You will be asked to cover the apprentice’s wages and 5% of the costs of the apprentice’s training.

The West of England Apprenticeship Service can, if requested, cover the 5% contribution with a levy sharing gift from a larger employer donating their unspent levy. To date this ‘share to support’ scheme has enabled the 5% to be covered for over 300 apprentices.

If you have fewer than 50 employees and your apprentice is aged between 16-18 years old or 19-24 with an EHCP (education, health and care plan) the Government will cover the full cost of the apprenticeship (excluding wages).


Where can I find the apprenticeships that are currently available?

All apprenticeships that have currently been approved for delivery can be found on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) website


If you would like support in understanding apprenticeships and how your business can benefit, Western Training Provider Network is offering free, independent and impartial apprenticeship guidance sessions for small businesses at Engine Shed during National Apprenticeship Week, as well as weekly sessions from Wednesday 14 February onwards.

You can also get in touch with their team at