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Learning at the Workplace – Overview of the UK Apprenticeship Programme

Apprenticeships are an example of work-based learning – genuine jobs with an accompanying assessment and skills development programme. The apprentice learns in the workplace, practicing and gathering new skills in a real work environment. Apprenticeships can be beneficial to both employers and apprentices, elevating skills levels in the workforce and promoting economic success.

In the UK apprenticeships are designed for individuals over the age of 16. To cater for different educational achievement, there are various different levels of apprenticeship available, ranging from Intermediate level (level 2) to Degree level (level 6 and 7).

Apprentices require at least 20% of their time on off-the job training although it is up to the employer and training provider how the training is delivered. Standards are regulated according to an apprenticeship framework.

Training can occur in many forms but can cover practical training such as:

  • Shadowing
  • Mentoring
  • Industry visits
  • Attending competitions

Apprenticeship Reforms in the UK

With the ambition to increase the number of high quality apprenticeships, the UK Government has reformed the way apprenticeships are delivered and funded in England. Apprenticeships are now more rigorous, better organised and more clearly honed to the needs of employers.

The reforms are intended to address the skills shortages reported by many industries and help keep the UK internationally competitive. Furthermore, the concern is to raise the opportunities for people to develop their talents and progress their careers.

Funding: The Apprenticeship Levy

The government has significantly increased the annual spending on apprenticeships. In April 2017, a new funding system, the ‘apprenticeship levy’ was introduced (a 0.5% tax on an employer’s paybill above £3 million a year). This is estimated to raise £2.8 billion in 2019-20. At the same time it is introducing more generous subsidies for employers training apprentices in England


With this extra financing the government is committed to 3 million apprenticeships starting between 2015 and 2020.


Recent legislation has changed the minimum English and maths requirement for people with a learning difficulty or disability. The intention is to make more achievable the completion of an apprenticeship for those who are able to meet all the requirements to be fully competent in their role, but who may struggle to achieve the qualifications normally required in English and maths.

National Apprenticeship Week

National Apprenticeship Week ran from 5 to 9 March 2018 in which employers and apprentices came together from across England to celebrate apprenticeships and encourage more people to choose apprenticeships as a pathway to a future career.


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