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Apprenticeship reforms: A round-up of what’s changing

22 March 2016

The government has ambitious targets to increase the number of apprentices to three million in England by 2020. In a previous article, we outlined the government’s vision for apprenticeships which includes employers feeling that they have full ownership of apprenticeships, designing and owning the content of all apprenticeship standards and assessments.

Here we summarise some of the key reforms that have been announced so far.

New apprenticeship standards, created by employers

Now:  For every type and level of apprenticeship, there is an apprenticeship framework. This document outlines the qualifications that need to be completed, as well as any other requirements of the apprenticeship. Frameworks are used by employers of apprentices and training providers, to ensure that all apprenticeship programmes are delivered consistently and to agreed standards. 

What’s changing? Groups of employers, known as Trailblazers, are being invited to come together to write new apprenticeship standards. These will replace the existing frameworks. They are being written for specific occupations. So where there is currently frameworks for accounting and marketing, for example, new standards are being written for occupations such as Professional Accountant and Junior Content Producer. Trailblazer groups are being asked to write clear descriptions (no longer than two sides of A4) explaining what the apprentice will be doing and the skills required of them. This does not have to include a specific qualification.

Details of standards that have been written and standards that are in development can be found here.

Guidance on how to apply to develop an apprenticeship standard can be found here.

End-point assessments and grading to be introduced

Now:  Currently, to be successful in an apprenticeship, all elements of the framework (including qualifications relevant to the role they are doing) must be completed. Currently apprentices do not get graded at the end of their apprenticeship.

What’s changing? All apprenticeships will include an end-point assessment which the apprentice must pass in order to successfully complete their apprenticeship. The newly created apprenticeship standards (see above) will contain details of what form this assessment will take. In some cases, it may be exam based, in others it may be a practical demonstration or an interview. The end-point assessment must be carried out by an independent organisation that is eligible to do so (i.e. it is on the register of apprentice assessment organisations). The end-point assessment is there to judge whether or not the apprentice is ready to transition from apprentice to a fully competent member of staff. Employers will select which end-point assessor they use.

Employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million to pay a levy

From April 2017, employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million will pay into an apprenticeship levy. The payment will be taken via PAYE at a rate of 0.5% of the employer’s wage bill. There will be a £15,000 fixed annual allowance for employers to offset against their levy payment. 

For example:

  • An employer has a wage bill of £5,000,000
  • Their levy sum would be 0.5% x £5,000,000 = £25,000
  • Taking into consideration their allowance of £15,000, their annual levy payment would be £10,000

The money paid into the levy will be made available to employers via a new Digital Apprenticeship Service account (see below). Employers will be able to use this money to pay for the training of apprentices. Details on exactly how the monies will be transferred are yet to be announced.

Guidance on the levy can be found on the government website here.

The introduction of a new Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS)

A new online portal will be launched that will enable employers to:

  • access funding to pay for the training of apprentices
  • select an apprenticeship training course
  • choose the training provider or providers they want to deliver the training
  • post apprenticeship vacancies

The Digital Apprenticeship Service is due to be available by January 2017.


If you would like to talk to someone about how the apprenticeship reforms will affect your business, please contact The GC Business Hub on 01452 563403 or email to arrange a meeting.

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