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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 (ie an ‘apprenticeship’) that 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 individuals’ credentials as employees, 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 to a particular job.

Although employers must pay their apprentices (at the current rate of the national minimum wage or higher), certain government funding is available. Furthermore, there is no requirement for National Insurance (NI) Contributions on earnings below the higher tax rate for apprentices under the age of 25.

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. Flexi-job apprenticeships aim to: 

  • help employers overcome structural barriers to making greater use of apprenticeships

  • offer support to businesses in different sectors, helping them to invest in the skills they need to grow and develop and to engage apprentices (and later staff) with diverse talents

  • 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 one-year period required of apprenticeship, and/or

  • rely on short-term contracts or other non-standard employment models

For example, in the TV and film industry, most roles are freelance and tend to run for 2 to 3 months, making traditional apprenticeships very difficult.

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 do flexi-job apprenticeships work?

Flexi-job apprenticeships are available to employers and apprentices in 2 ways:

  • with the support of an approved flexi-job apprenticeship agency (FJAA)

  • without using an FJAA

Flexi-job apprenticeships with an FJAA

Flexi-job apprenticeship agencies are approved organisations that employ apprentices and place them with different host employers to complete all or part of their apprenticeship training. The Register of flexi-job apprenticeship agencies provides details of approved FJAAs.

An FJAA is responsible for recruiting and employing apprentices and then placing them with host employers. Because the FJAA is the apprentice’s employer, the agency is responsible for all aspects of employing the apprentice in addition to making arrangements for the apprenticeship. Examples of the FJAA’s responsibilities include:

  • paying the apprentice (even when they’re between placements)

  • working with host employers to ensure the apprentice is making progress

  • making sure apprentices carry out all off-the-job training

  • arranging relevant placements with host employers and supporting the apprentice while they’re between placements

  • managing the apprentice and addressing any HR issues

Host employers will be charged a fee by the FJAAs, which typically covers the apprentice’s wage, any relevant NI and pension contributions and the agency’s fees.

Flexi-job apprenticeships without an FJAA

Businesses can also offer flexi-job apprenticeships directly, without involving an FJAA. To do this, they should take part in the portable flexi-job apprenticeship pilot, which is currently only running across certain apprenticeship standards and training providers (ie employers).

As part of the pilot, apprentices are responsible for securing their own placements. Apprentices who take part in the pilot:

  • carry out several shorter contracts

  • contract directly with multiple employers

  • must be supported by the employers

  • can pause and resume their learning as and when needed

An employer who takes part in the pilot commits to a providing 3-month apprenticeship contract as a minimum.

For more information on the pilot, see the government’s guidance.

If you have any questions about taking on an apprentice or about flexi-job apprenticeships, Ask a lawyer.

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