Free Webinar: The Government Economic Service Degree Apprenticeship Programme
December 11, 2020
Join an exclusive webinar on Monday 14th December from 4pm-5pm with the Government Economic Service to find out about their Economist Degree Apprenticeship Programme, opening for applications the very same day.

With 70+ vacancies available, this is the chance for your students,
colleagues and parents & carers to find out how to apply
Book your place
Can’t attend on the day?
Don’t worry if you can’t attend on the day, please book a place using the button above and we will ensure you receive a copy of the recording and slides.
Vacancies information
Applications will be opening on 14th December 2020 for the Degree Economist Apprenticeship Programme with the Government Economic Service. 

With 70+ vacancies available, this is a brilliant opportunity to work in a central government department or agency on some of the most important social, environmental and economic issues our country faces.

You can also visit the GES Vacancy Snapshot profile for a deeper look into the scheme and to begin preparing for the application process.
Apprenticeships Register Reopening April 2021 At The Earliest

The Education and Skills Funding Agency closed the register to new bids on April 15 to “review our future approach” and a digital apprenticeship service “road map” (shown below) was tweeted on Thursday and reveals their current timeline.

Under a column for April to June 2021, the road map says there will be a “new service for providers to apply to join the register online”.

Free Webinar: Funding and Policy Update by C&G
November 10, 2020

Thursday, November 12th, 2020 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM GMT

This free webinar will be a short and sharp update on the recent changes to the AEB and Apprenticeship funding rules and some of the policy announcements that have been made since early September, including the announcements about further post 16 qualification reforms.

City & Guilds aim is to support you with information that will enable you to plan your strategy effectively, so you can support more people to develop the skills they need to progress into a job, on the job and onto their next job.

Register Here

Video: Harnessing the Power of Apprenticeships
October 8, 2020

The following was shared. by TrainingZone and may be of interest to employers thinking about recruiting an Apprentice.

Could apprenticeships be the key L&D ingredient for organisations and employees striving to adapt to fast-changing job roles and skills requirements? This roundtable discussion shares best practice insights from the experts on how to make the most of this learning pathway.

For organisations striving to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, grow internal talent in flexible ways, and move beyond traditional hiring routes, apprenticeships could be the answer. 

But how can you measure the real impact of this learning solution and uncover its true business value?

This roundtable discussion, brought to you by The Open University, offers insights from an expert panel of learning and development professionals who are passionate about apprenticeships and the impact they make in the workplace.

What’s covered?  

The expert panel focused on four key areas:

  1. Measuring impacts on individual apprentices
  2. How to measure impacts on the business
  3. How apprenticeships can diversify the workforce
  4. Demonstrating the value of apprenticeship programmes

Watch now…

Who is on the panel?

  • Viren Patel, Director, Business Development Unit at The Open University
  • Dave Oxley, Apprenticeship Programme Manager at DHL UK
  • Anne Ashworth, Head of Employee Apprenticeships at Pearson
  • Sarah Farley, Future Careers Lead and former apprentice at Unilever
  • Lucy Hunte, National Programme Manager – apprenticeships at Health Education England
  • Kate Kelly, Learning & Development Manager at Public Health England
  • Chair, Martin Couzins, Corporate Learning Journalist

Want to find out more about apprenticeships?

If you’re looking to embed or make better use of apprenticeships in your talent development provision, visit The Open University’s Apprenticeships page or download this guide on ‘How to spearhead talent growth and bridge the skills gap through apprenticeships.’

Three Free Ways to Access Apprenticeship Support and Resources
September 9, 2020
The Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge for schools and colleges programme (ASK) is back for the new academic year with a blended delivery model, meaning you can access face-to-face or virtual support, or a mix of both!
Our short explainer film is a great place to start, especially if you don’t have much time. The film gives a helpful overview of the new ASK 2020-21 blended offer and how to access it – and all in under 1.5 minutes! Once you have an overview, it’s time to get some more details with our new brochure…
Browse the ASK 2020-21 brochure to find out about the wide range of free support available to you. Once you’ve browsed, you can then book a planning meeting with your local delivery partner to discuss how they can best support your school or college.
Join our short orientation webinar ‘Understanding the ASK offer for 2020/21‘ to get a feel for the new activities on offer and how to access them. The 30min webinar is tomorrow (Thursday 10th September) at 3.45pm – don’t worry if you’re not available, register anyway and we’ll send you the recording.
National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 Open for Entries

Calling all apprentices, employers, and individuals who champion apprenticeships – as the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are now open for entries.

The National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 logo.
  • Open for entries between 1 and 25 September 2020
  • New for 2020, national and regional ceremonies broadcast online
  • Apprentice employers, apprentices and apprenticeship champions from all sectors and levels are encouraged to enter

Back for their 17th year, the National Apprenticeship Awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the apprentices and employers who have gone above and beyond, in spite of the challenges faced during this pandemic.

Entries to the awards are open until 25 September 2020 and this year’s winners will be recognised via virtual ceremonies. These ceremonies will also champion employers, apprentices and apprenticeship champions from all sectors – from engineering, digital, healthcare and science, to beauty, manufacturing and education are invited to enter the awards.

Peter Mucklow, Director of Apprenticeships, Education and Skills Funding Agency said:

We are pleased to announce that entries to the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are open. It is important that we continue to recognise the employers of all sizes, apprentices and those who champion apprentices during this unprecedented time.

I have been delighted by the on-going commitment from employers, recognising the many benefits apprentices bring and ensuring they can continue their studies.

We are excited to announce that for the first time, the winners and highly commended will be announced at regional and national virtual ceremonies. This will allow an even wider audience to celebrate the success, commitment and investment in apprenticeships, and the impact they have. I am personally very much looking forward to being part of these exciting new online ceremonies.

Categories for the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are:
Employer of the Year categories
  • SME Employer of the Year (for organisations with 1 to 249 employees)
  • Large Employer of the Year (for organisations with 250 to 4,999 employees)
  • Macro Employer of the Year (for organisations with 5,000+ employees)
  • Recruitment Excellence (the winner is selected from Employer of the Year award entries, and will be awarded to an organisation that has recruited a diverse and high quality apprenticeship workforce).
Apprentice of the Year categories
  • Intermediate Level (level 2)
  • Advanced Level (level 3)
  • Higher or Degree Level (level 4 or higher)
  • Rising Star1 (nominated by their employer, this award recognises apprentices that have made impressive progress in their career to date, and have the potential to go even further).
  • Apprentice Champion (recognises individuals who go ‘above and beyond’ to champion apprenticeships. The nomination is made by a colleague or contact who recognises an individual’s ‘champion’ credentials).

In 2019, Invotra was crowned the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT Award for National SME Employer of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards.

HR Director, Alison Galvin, explained at the time:

Invotra are overjoyed to have won the national award. When you invest your time in people and support them as they grow, you end up with loyal, hardworking individuals who are a huge asset within your business. It’s truly wonderful to be recognised for our hard work to champion apprenticeships and our dedication to investing time into mentoring and developing these valued team members.

Entries to the awards close on 25 September. Regional ceremonies will take place between 2 and 6 November, with the national ceremony taking place on Wednesday 25 November.

To enter the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020, or to sign up to our mailing list, please visit:

Follow @Apprenticeships on Twitter and the National Apprenticeship Service page on LinkedIn to keep up to date with all the latest awards information.

  1. Please note: The Rising star will not include a public vote this year due to the condensed format of the awards. 
End to ESFA Funding Subcontracting Brokers

Article by Billy Camden published in FE WEEK

Using brokers in subcontracting deals will be a “serious breach” of funding rules next year, the government said today as it announced the first steps to clamping down on subcontracting in FE.

Training providers have also been told to publish a “rationale” for subcontracting, their management fee structure and a list of subcontracting partners on their websites by October 31.

The measures were outlined in new subcontracting guidance for 2020/21, published today by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Last month, the ESFA released its response to a consultation that was run earlier this year and proposed major changes to subcontracting.

The agency wants to see a “significant reduction” of the practice in FE and will roll out strict measures, such as volume caps, over the next three years.

For academic year 2020/21, the ESFA said today that the use of brokers to source a subcontracting partner is “not permitted and will be treated as a breach of contract/funding agreement”.

“By brokers we mean where a third-party matches, for a fee, a provider with an unused allocation with a provider that can secure enrolments of learners to utilise it,” the agency explained, adding that they have “strengthened our levers to act and will do so where we find cases of provision being subject to brokerage”.

FE Week has reported on multiple cases of brokers cashing in on last minute subcontracting deals in recent years.

In March we revealed on how a learner find firm was attempting to broker a subcontracting deal for 16 to 18-year-old trainees who had already completed their placement at football clubs.

The only other change coming into force next year is a requirement for “all providers to publish a clear educational rationale for their subcontracting position on their website alongside their management fee structure and a list of subcontracting partners”.

The guidance states that directly funded institutions should “set out in their organisation’s strategic aims their reason for subcontracting, which must enhance the quality of their student offer”. The rationale “should be signed off by governors and boards and published on their website”.

The ESFA said they expect this information to be published by 31 October 2020 and it should be “easy to navigate to from the front page of the organisation’s education and training web pages”.

Other reforms will be introduced in 2022 and 2023.

10 Famous People Who Were Apprentices
June 30, 2020

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries, originally in manual trades such as stone masonry, painting and plumbing.

They’ve come a long way and below are some familiar faces who started out their careers as an apprentice.

Jamie Oliver – Like many chefs, Jamie started his career as a catering apprentice. After leaving school with only two GCSE qualifications, his apprenticeship has definitely helped him to succeed in his chosen career.

Sir Ian Mckellan – Sir Ian didn’t go to a drama school like most other big-name actors, but instead he completed a three-year apprenticeship at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.

Karen Millen – The famous designer started her career as an apprentice, studying at the Medway College of Design in Rochester. She also sold t-shirts to her friends on the side, before opening her first shop.

Stella McCartney – Like Alexander McQueen, McCartney started her fashion career as an apprentice tailor with Edward Sexton on Savile Row. Read more

All Employers to Drop PhD Apprenticeship Plans

The following is the text from a letter sent by Gillian Keegan MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education 


The Secretary of State for Education wrote to you on 26th February 2020 to ask you to undertake a formal review of the Senior Leader Level 7 apprenticeship standard. I want to thank you for the work that you and your staff have carried out on this review.

Higher and degree level apprenticeships continue to form an important part of our skills and education system, providing people of all backgrounds with a choice of high-value vocational training alongside traditional academic routes.

As the Secretary of State set out in his recent letter to you regarding the Senior Leader standard, it is important that levy funds are supporting those that can benefit most from an apprenticeship, such as those starting out in their careers or helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get ahead. While we do not yet know the full impact of the Coronavirus, our priority is ensuring that apprentices and employers can continue to access high quality training, both now and in the future.

I do not believe that using levy funds for Level 8 apprenticeships, which could result in a PhD, provides value for money, nor are they in the spirit of our reformed apprenticeships system.

Therefore, I am writing to inform you that after careful consideration the Department will not fund apprenticeships at Level 8. As the powers to take decisions on standards development and approval reside with the Institute you will wish to consider whether you continue to invest resources in the development of apprenticeships at this level.

I know that the employers currently developing Level 8 apprenticeships were informed in the summer of 2019 that funding for these standards could not be guaranteed, due to the need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of employers and apprentices at all levels in a way that is financially sustainable and delivers good value for money.

I am aware that the employers involved have worked hard developing not only these Level 8 apprenticeships, but also a range of apprenticeships at lower levels that have contributed to the success of our reforms. I want to thank them for their continued commitment to this vital programme.

I am copying this letter to Antony Jenkins, Chair of the Institute. Yours sincerely,

Gillian Keegan MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills

A spokesperson for the IfATE said:

“We accept the decision and will not support the development of level 8 standards at this time.

“We would like to thank the trailblazers for their hard work on the proposals. The institute has been as upfront and informative as possible with them on the funding issue. We requested policy guidance from the DfE and it is appropriate that this has now been issued.”

ViewPoint: Assessing the Apprenticeship Levy Three Years On
June 2, 2020

By Sarah Rowan / HRMagaize

This year marks the third anniversary of the government’s apprenticeship reforms, and with each passing year, we’ve seen the commentary on it evolve. 

From the initial drop-off in starts, to the looming expiration date of levy funds, the quality of the standards on offer and now to the lack of available funding for SME apprenticeships.

Given that the 2017 shake-up of the system was the most significant in a generation, such teething problems are to be expected. The current levy is a tax on organisations with a payroll of more than £3 million, requiring them to pay 0.5% of their wages bill into an apprenticeship fund, with the money needing to be used within 24 months. 

Last March, as that two-year expiration date approached for the first time, concerns were raised about the amount of levy funds still left unclaimed.

At the time £3 billion of levy funding had yet to be used and was due to expire at a rate of £120 million per month. This clearly was the impetus employers needed and it led to a 15% increase in apprenticeship starts in 2018/19. 

However, the most recent figures are less than encouraging. In the first quarter of the 2019/20 academic year, new starts were down 4.7 per cent to 125,800 from 132,000 in the same quarter the year before.

Despite this downturn in new starts, apprenticeship funding is running out – at least for non-levy payers. Under the current system, a levy-paying business can transfer up to 25% of its funds to other non-levy paying SMEs in its supply chain.

The government had envisaged that this would create enough funding to supplement the cost of apprenticeships for SMEs, but recent research by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) found this not to be the case.

On average, apprenticeship providers are turning down approaches from 40 SMEs per month due to lack of funds. In designing the system this way, the government seems to have underestimated how much of their entitlement levy-payers would actually use and what they would spend it on.

The most recent HMRC statistics for August to October 2019 reveal that ‘starts’ on level six (degree-equivalent) and level seven (masters-equivalent) apprenticeships have risen 49.4 per cent since the same quarter in 2018/19 and are now nearly five times higher than the same period in 2017.

Consider that a level seven, MBA-style apprenticeship can cost up to £27,000 and you start to uncover some of what’s at the root of the funding shortfall.

“The fact that it’s running out of money actually means that it’s working well,” says Anthony Impey, founder of business ISP Optimity and chair of the Federation of Small Business’ (FSB) skills and apprenticeship policy group.

David Hare, director in the talent solutions team at Grant Thornton, agrees: “What we’ve seen is that the uptake of apprenticeships has perhaps been a bit higher than the government initially anticipated. There is more spending going on in the system that the budget had allowed for.”

That may be the case, but the dramatic increase in the degree-level apprenticeships certainly prompts speculation as to whether employers are using their funds in the right places; is such spending going to help organisations meet their future skills needs, and, crucially, what role does HR have to play in influencing how that money is spent?

Hare says that skills shortages have prompted employers to take action and many are coming alive to the fact that apprenticeships can be a good solution for this. But he also acknowledges that there will have been some pressure from finance directors to ensure the money is spent before it expires.

“The dilemma is that the system incentivises employers to look at how they can reclaim their levy funding,” says Ben Willmott, head of policy at the CIPD. Tom Richmond, founder and director of educational think tank EDSK, believes that this model has led to an explosion of ‘fake apprenticeships’.


A 2020 report by EDSK claims that over £1.2 billion of levy funding has been allocated for apprenticeships which, prior to 2017, wouldn’t have been classed as such.

“In many respects, employers have responded rationally to the incentives created by the government. For levy-paying employers, they are keen to re-label their existing training courses as ‘apprenticeships’ to draw down their own levy contributions as quickly as possible,” comments Richmond.

“For non-levy employers, the small pot of money reserved for them operates on a first-come-first-serve basis, so they are understandably keen to use up the available funding before someone else does.”

According to Willmott, the rebadging of existing, and often expensive, training programmes undermines the ambition of the apprenticeship system, and makes them a “proxy for all workplace training”.

But Mark Dawe, chief executive of AELP, argues that overall, the commitment by levy payers to spend their funds is predominantly a good thing. “My view is that the more levy payers engage, the more they’re showing everyone the power of apprenticeships, the better,” he comments.

David Phillips, interim managing director of skills credentialing at City & Guilds says that fundamentally we just need to trust that employers are making the right choices for their organisations.

Impey, who also chairs the Department of Education’s Apprenticeship Stakeholder Board, agrees: “We can’t create a system, which is based on giving employers control…and then turn around to employers and say, ‘we know we gave you a choice, but I’m afraid you’ve been making the wrong choice’.”

But how does HR know what the ‘right choice’ is for their organisation? “HR should have a very good strategic understanding of the skills that they have and that the organisation needs, in order to succeed,” says Willmott. “That way decisions around investment in skills are not purely tactical and are not made simply to utilise levy funding.”

Upskilling the Workforce

The key to getting this workforce planning right is to resist the temptation to solely focus on immediate skills gaps, says Sebastian Tindall, head of L&D at Vitality. “For us, the pressure has never been to spend the money at all costs but rather invest it wisely to get the best out of our people,” he comments.

Andy Moat, people director of B&Q, agrees that sometimes the incentive to spend the levy funds can be a distraction for employers. “We’ve fallen into the trap in the past of treating government funded learning like a KPI and chased a target, at the expense of the learning experience,” he says.

The retailer has recently seen 123 employees complete its level three retail team leader apprenticeship and has bigger plans. By May 2020 B&Q aims to have 1,100 of its employees on apprenticeships, across 28 standards that encompass all of its business functions. “We were determined not to repeat the same mistake, so we are very much focused on quality not quantity,” adds Moat.

At both Vitality and B&Q, the majority of apprenticeships have been delivered at level three but they’ve also each invested in higher-level apprenticeships too. 

“A lot of people will assume that when you invest in an MBA-style apprenticeship, you’ll be doing it for an executive with 15 years of experience and they don’t need it,” comments Tindall. “But it’s a viable alternative to university for a young person. They’ll build experience, get none of the student debt and draw a salary.”

Vitality currently spends about 80% of its levy on level three standards, with approximately 20% portioned off for specialist and higher-level training. It’s a balance that works for them, says Tindall, and allows them access to niche skills such as actuarial science, which is key in their industry.

While these employers might have made the strategy work for them, there are many other non-levy payers who have yet to feel the benefit of the 2017 reforms, despite now having access to the digital apprenticeship service (DAS).

Impey says that while opening up the DAS to SMEs is a really positive move, it creates another crisis to navigate because there’s not enough funding.

Furthermore, because of concerns about affordability, the government has limited each SME to three apprenticeship starts. “I would describe that as having an unsatisfactory situation for the last three years to an unacceptable situation in the future,” remarks Impey.

SME Impact

It’s a stark contrast to the apprenticeship landscape prior to 2017, when SMEs accounted for the majority of apprenticeships. The current situation could have wide-ranging consequences both for the organisations themselves and the communities they’re based in. 

“The impact on small businesses is that they’re not able to grow. They’re not able to respond to changes in the marketplace brought on by automation and digitisation, and it risks stifling their productivity,” says Impey.

And while large organisations tend to cluster near big cities, SMEs are based everywhere, meaning their impact is, arguably, greater. “Small businesses are great agents of social change because they have this footprint that is truly nationwide.

“They are embedded in their local community, suppliers are local, customers are local and so are employees,” adds Impey. “If the government is genuinely committed to a strategy of ‘levelling up’, then enabling small businesses to train and develop their staff is really, really important.”

Pre-coronavirus, there were expectations across the industry that the March budget would bring a much-needed cash injection, allowing SMEs to take full advantage of their access to DAS. The AELP, for one, has called for the further allocation of £1.5 billion pounds.

“We don’t really care where the money comes from,” says Dawe, “But that money is needed, just to bring things back to where they were for SMEs prior to 2017.” Any such boost will surely only be a temporary fix for what is fundamentally a design flaw, but many stakeholders caution against further reform.

Phillips says that what is needed is patience and persistence to make the current system work. Impey agrees: “It’s quite important that we don’t look at what’s happening in the apprenticeship system as a system failure. It’s actually to do with market demand exceeding the funding available.”

From the HR perspective, Tindall believes that the levy system has made L&D more effective. “The money is sitting there, and the only consideration is how to allocate that money fairly,” he comments. “If we said that three or four years ago, you would think: ‘we’d love to be in that situation’. We are in that situation now and yet people are calling for reform.” 

It’s unlikely that calls to overhaul the system will subside anytime soon. The CIPD has long argued for reform with its own research showing that 53% of levy-payers would prefer a wider training levy compared to 17% whose preference is for an apprenticeship levy.

Sandra McNally, director of the education and skills programme at London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, says that some degree of further reform is inevitable. “It is a good idea to have a policy that incentivises firms to take on apprenticeships,” she says. “But this is not enough to address the skills deficit in Britain.”

With many employers now using the levy for that very purpose, it has resulted in a marked shift in demographics. Apprenticeship starts by over-25s have increased by 44.8% since the 2017 reforms, while starts by those under 19, have fallen by 12.8%.

Moat argues that everyone should be able to take advantage of the levy. “There’s a tendency to assume apprenticeships are just for younger candidates, but I strongly believe that apprenticeships should be available to everyone, from those who have just left school to people who have been in the workforce for many years, including older workers,” he told HRmagazine. 

“We have one of the most age diverse apprenticeship schemes in the industry, with apprentices aged from 20 to 61-years-old.”

But McNally notes that while we do need to focus on reskilling and upskilling, not every employee will require the extensive training that an apprenticeship provides. “It would be useful to consider ways of incentivising [reskilling] that go beyond apprenticeships,” she comments. “One possibility would be to extend research and development tax credits to [include] training, which is done in Austria.”

There are further lessons to be drawn from abroad, McNally says, noting a proliferation of apprenticeship standards in the English system. The Institute of Apprenticeships website currently shows 710 standards, where Germany has 320 and Switzerland has just 240.

Richmond also points to this and believes the Swiss and German systems focus on quality where the English one offers quantity, often at a lower skill level. “No other country would allow these courses into their apprenticeship system,” he claims.

Despite the impact on SMEs, Impey – a long-time apprentice employer himself – advises against reforming the system at the moment. “I think the question around funding is much, much bigger than ‘how do we make apprenticeships affordable?’ It’s ‘how do we respond to this new economy?’,” he comments.

“In the modern global economy, talent is your most important infrastructure. It’s the engine of the economy. Having the right skills investment and the right lifelong learning system in place is almost the most important infrastructure consideration that we need to make now.”