‘How long does an apprenticeship take?’ is one of the most frequent questions we get from employers engaging with this type of training from the first time.

And while the short answer is ‘between one and six years’ - there’s a number of issues that can affect how long an apprenticeship will last.

In this guide, we’ll provide an in-depth look at the factors that can influence the length of stay on your apprenticeships and help you determine how to get the best value for money when choosing which standards to pursue.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

The length of an apprenticeship depends on the standard being undertaken and these are put into brackets depending on their Level.

While there’s no set amount of time to complete an apprenticeship (since they can differ wildly in terms of content) they need to last a minimum of a year. Here’s a brief breakdown of how long various apprenticeship levels will take to complete: 

The apprenticeship reforms and apprenticeship length

The Apprenticeship Levy and associated reforms that came into force in April 2017 have further complicated the issue.

In order to make apprenticeships more appealing to employers, the government has ushered in much greater flexibility in terms of both course content, how it’s delivered and over what period.

The reforms aim to change apprenticeships from something typically reserved for young people in manual trades into a world-class vocational system that stands as a truly viable equivalent to academic qualifications all the way up to degree and masters level.

As such, they’ve put much more power in the hands of employers to ensure they get beneficial training that provides a tangible boost to their business. However, the reforms have also necessitated a minimum of 20 per cent ‘off-the-job’ training to bolster the quality of apprenticeships and ensure they can stand on an even footing with their academic counterparts.

Other issues that can affect the length of an apprenticeship

Deferment: If you take on an apprentice and for some reason they need to delay their training
- it’s possible for them to defer. This will obviously have a apprenticeship lengthsknock-on impact on the length of stay, however, funding for the Apprenticeship will also cease during that time.

Functional skills: If apprentices don’t meet the minimum requirements in terms of their GCSE grades, they will need to undertake functional skills training, for English, Maths and ICT which can’t be counted as part of the 20 per cent off-the-job requirement.

Employers taking on Apprentices with functional skills needs could opt to increase the length of their training, but there’s an obvious cost implication for doing this - since the set amount of funding they get will be spread across a greater time period.

The government does supply providers with a bit of extra funding to support functional skills needs, but there is the risk that both parties will favour candidates who don’t require additional training in this area.

APL/RPL: Accredited Previous Learning (APL) and Recognised Previous Learning (RPL) are prior qualifications or learning that can reduce the course content an apprentice will need to tackle and thus cut the amount of time it’ll take them to complete their training.

The government recommends that prior training and competencies be taken into account in cases where Apprentices hold an existing qualification (e.g. a certificate in first aid) or have undertaken previous unaccredited learning (e.g. taking a first aid course that didn’t provide a qualification) that covers an element of their standard’s curriculum.

And you?

The length of Apprenticeships can be a tricky issue for employers that are new to the field to get to grips with, so if you’ve got any questions about the topics we’ve covered above - be sure to get in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter.

And if you’re looking for bespoke advice on upskilling your existing employees or taking on new apprentices, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of Levy experts or read our free Apprenticeship Levy guide:

Download ebook →