On 3 August 2021, the UK Government launched its new flexi-job apprenticeship offer, allocating funding of £7 million over the next two years to establish flexi-job apprenticeship agencies. This change to how apprenticeships are managed and funded will allow apprentices to work with different employers, and in different sectors, under more flexible working patterns. By making this change, the Government hopes to make apprenticeships more flexible in response to the changing working world.
What are apprenticeships?
Apprenticeships provide an opportunity for people embarking upon a new career to combine hands-on experience with related study, in order to gain specific skills and knowledge of a certain job or industry.
An apprentice is someone aged 16 or over who is carrying out a work-based training programme (an ‘apprenticeship’) which offers on-the-job training together with nationally recognised qualifications.
Apprenticeships can last for 1 to 5 years and are available in 1,500 occupations across 170 industries.
Why hire an apprentice?
Aside from helping to train the workforce of the future and improving their credentials as an employee, running an apprenticeship programme can provide businesses with a bespoke recruitment drive, allowing them to assess potential new employees while more experienced staff pass down their skills so these are retained within the business.
Organisations that provide off-the-job training (eg colleges and universities) can work with the business to ensure that the study element is more relevant for the particular job.
Although employers must pay their apprentices (at the current rate of the national minimum wage), certain government funding is available. Furthermore, there is no requirement for National Insurance Contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 on earnings below the higher tax rate.
All apprenticeships are arranged through the government’s apprenticeship service.
For more information, read Hiring an apprentice.
What are flexi-job apprenticeships?
Flexi-job apprenticeships are a way to make apprenticeships more flexible. By launching the flexi-job apprenticeship offer, the government is hoping to help employers overcome structural barriers to making greater use of apprenticeships.
The flexi-job apprenticeship is intended to offer support to businesses in different sectors, to invest in the skills they need to grow and develop, and to engage apprentices (and later staff) with diverse talents. The government also hopes that flexi-job apprenticeship will help provide a high-quality experience for apprentices.
The flexi-job apprenticeship is especially targeted at industries that cannot offer a long-enough apprenticeship placement with a single employer, for apprentices to meet the minimum 1 year period required of apprenticeship. For example, in the TV and film industry, most roles are freelance and tend to run for two to three months, making apprenticeships very difficult under the current model.
Flexi-job apprenticeships are designed to allow apprentices to work across a wide range of projects and with different employers, in order to gain the skills and experiences they need to complete their apprenticeship programme.
How will flexi-job apprenticeships work?
Employers who wish to take advantage of flexi-job apprenticeships can apply to be listed on the flexi-job apprenticeship agency register. Exiting apprenticeship training agencies can also apply provided they are of ‘good quality’.
Flexi-job apprenticeship agencies are organisations that employ apprentices and place them with different placement employers to complete all or part of their apprenticeship training.
Prospective flexi-job apprenticeship agencies need to be able to demonstrate that they:
- understand and meet the skills needs of their industry, sector or region;
- can offer a high quality of experience to prospective apprentices and placement employers; and
- can work towards financial sustainability in the coming years.
Successful applicants will be able to apply for funding from the £7 million grant sent aside by the government to support the start-up, development or diversification costs of new flexi-job apprenticeships agencies.
Applications to the flexi-job apprenticeship agency register opened on 3 August 2021 and closed on 6 October 2021.
Who can apply to the flexi-job apprenticeship agency register?
To be eligible to apply to the register, employers must:
- be a business registered in the UK with a UK business address
- have been trading for at least 12 months
- have an Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) registration number
- be able to evidence a strong connection to the industries, sectors, professions and/or geographies relevant to the apprenticeships the apprentices will undertake
- be able to employ and support flexi-job apprenticeship apprentices within 6 months of being listed on the register
For more information, see the government’s guidance for applicants on the Register of Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies.