Employing an apprentice – FAQs

Employing an apprentice

The following information is about apprenticeships in England. For information on apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, please select one of the following links:

What's an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a genuine job with an accompanying assessment and skills development programme. It’s a way for individuals to earn while they learn, gaining valuable skills and knowledge in a specific job role. The apprentice gains this through a wide mix of learning in the workplace, formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise new skills in a real work environment. Apprenticeships benefit employers and individuals, and by boosting the skills of the workforce they help to improve economic productivity.

What hours does an apprentice work?

You must employ them for a minimum of 30 hours per week, throughout the length of the apprenticeship. You must also allow them time to work on their apprenticeship programme during the working week and give them ‘off-the-job’ training opportunities, at least 20% of their time.

Some apprentices may need more time than this, for example extra training in English and maths. It’s up to you and the training provider to decide how the off-the-job training is delivered, such as regular day release, block release, special training days or workshops. It must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard and can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work as long as it’s not part of their normal working duties. Off-the-job training can cover practical training such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attending competitions.

On-the-job training helps an apprentice develop the specific skills for your company and they should be supported by a mentor.

Once an apprentice completes their apprenticeship they should be able to demonstrate that they can perform tasks confidently and completely, to the standard set by industry.

There are various levels of apprenticeship available.

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 5 GCSE passes
Advanced 3 2 A level passes
Higher 4, 5, 6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree
Who can become an apprentice?

Individuals can apply for an apprenticeship if they’re over the age of 16 and spending at least 50% of their working hours in England over the duration of their apprenticeship.

You can offer apprenticeships to new employees or use them to grow talent among your current employees. Apprenticeships equip individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviour they need for specific job roles, future employment and progression.

How much do I need to pay an apprentice?

For an apprentice who is a new employee in your company, you’ll need to pay the legal minimum rate of pay, although you can pay more.

  • Apprentice rate: If they’re aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, they’ll be paid the national minimum rate for apprentices
  • National minimum wage: If they’re aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they’ll receive the national minimum wage for their age
  • National living wage: If they’re aged 23 and over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they’ll be entitled to the national living wage
Apprentice 18 to 20 21 to 22 23 and over
April 2021 (current rate per hour) £4.30 £6.56 £8.36 £8.91

For an apprentice who’s already one of your employees, you’ll continue to pay them their current salary.

To check the latest minimum wages and rates, click here

How long does an apprenticeship take?

An apprenticeship can vary in length from a minimum of 12 months up to 4 years in some cases for a level requiring highly specialist skills.

What if my apprentice already has qualifications?

As long as they gain substantive new skills and the content of the training is materially different from any previous training or apprenticeship, they can undertake an apprenticeship programme at a higher, equal or lower level than the qualification they already hold. Apprentices with existing qualifications will not be excluded from the payment of incentives.

How will I benefit from employing an apprentice?

There are many benefits to you as an employer:

  • An apprentice develops skills relevant to your company
  • Increased productivity levels
  • Improved employee satisfaction and morale
  • A reduction in turnover
  • Lower recruitment costs
What are my responsibilities?

As an employer, you must have a genuine job available with an employment contract long enough for the apprentice to complete their apprenticeship. An apprenticeship can vary in length from a minimum of 12 months up to 4 years in some cases for a level requiring highly specialist skills. You must pay their wages and the role must help them gain the knowledge, skills and behaviour they need to achieve the apprenticeship, with your support.

You select a training provider and confirm the total price for the cost of training and assessment. For an apprenticeship standard, this should include the cost of the end point assessment (EPA) which must be agreed with the provider selected from the EPA register.

You need to have:

  • An apprenticeship agreement in place with your apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship
  • A commitment statement signed by you, your apprentice and the training provider

If you pay the apprenticeship levy and use the apprenticeship service, you will need to have:

  • A contract for services with their main provider
  • An apprenticeship in place for at least one year
  • The apprentice on the correct wage for their age, for the time they’re in work, in off-the-job training and completing further study
  • Apprentices who are paid a wage consistent with the law for the time they’re in work and in off-the-job training. Updates on progression and average weekly hours and changes to working patterns must be logged and checked with the training provider
How does an apprentice complete their apprenticeship?

When the full programme has been completed, you, your apprentice and your training provider will decide if the apprentice has achieved the right levels of the required knowledge, skills and behaviours and that they’re competent. If you’re all in agreement, your apprentice will be submitted for the End Point Assessment (EPA) which is completed by an external awarding body. They’ll carry out the assessment and provided your apprentice has achieved all the requirements, they’ll be awarded their apprenticeship certificate.

What happens after the apprenticeship has been completed?

As an employer you can offer the apprentice a permanent position in your company although you’re not obliged to do so. Many employers do keep on the apprentice, particularly as they’ve invested significant time and energy in them and in return they have a highly skilled individual who knows and understands their company well.