It’s the government’s avowed aim to put Apprenticeships on an even footing with academic qualifications and to this end, the forthcoming round of reforms will mandate a much stricter training and assessment regime.
One key facet of this is the necessity for apprentices to spend at least 20% of their time in ‘off-the-job’ training. However, questions still abound in terms of exactly how this should be carried out.
In this guide, we’ll get to the bottom of what off-the-job training entails, explore the available guidance on how to correctly carry it out and answer some common questions around how it works in practice.
Why is off-the-job training required?
The forthcoming Apprenticeship reforms seek to address the UK’s productivity
deficit by tackling growing skills gaps in its workforce. As mentioned, one key element of this plan is to put Apprenticeships on par with academic qualifications - in essence, offering a ‘two pathways, one outcome’ scenario, with the end result being a skilled workforce ready for employers to tap into.
One hurdle that the reforms seek to address is relatively low engagement
with Apprenticeship-based training. To this end, the government sought to improve the quality and assessment of Apprenticeships - as well as getting employers involved in designing new frameworks.
In its English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision document, the government set out the core principles of quality that would govern Apprenticeship training, namely:
- It is a job in a skilled occupation;
- It requires substantial and sustained training, lasting a minimum of 12 months and involving at least 20% off-the-job training;
- It develops transferable skills, and English and maths, to progress careers;
- It leads to full competency and capability in an occupation, demonstrated by the achievement of an Apprenticeship standard;
- It trains the apprentice to the level required to apply for professional recognition where this exists.
The onus is also on the employer to quantify what the off-the-job aspect of training entails and how it will be delivered - details of which must be outlined under new funding rules coming into force this May.
However, the lack of clarity around what off-the-job training entails has been a contentious issue for some time.
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) claimed the Department for Education and Ofsted had received many questions on the issue and offered help from its members on defining formal guidance.
"The 20 per cent off the job rule is a key, but crude, measure to ensure
there are quality Apprenticeships,” said AELP chief executive Mark Dawe.
He went on to claim that off-the-job didn’t necessarily mean ‘away from the workplace’ and in some cases, it was possible to carry out such training at a workstation.
Off-the-job training: What we know
In its guidance for employers, the government states:
“Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-today working environment and leads towards the achievement of the Apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.”
This fairly terse guidance has left some employers with questions and some providers wondering if they’re contravening funding rules by delivering certain types of training (e.g. e-learning) at the apprentice’s usual place of work.
As a rule of thumb, it’s viable to take into account the government’s aims with these new rules and adhere to these in principle. In this case, they seek to prevent apprentices being enrolled on programme of poor quality, where they aren’t permitted learning time away from the workplace - instead being a de facto full-time employee paid a lower wage corresponding to their Apprenticeship.
Under the new rules, employers must ensure their apprentices are
spending the requisite amount of time in off-the-job training. This applies whether they’re on a new-style Apprenticeship standard or extant framework (although the time spent in both off and on-the-job training are specified in this latter case).
Employees must pay their apprentices their regular salary (at least minimum wage) during off-the-job training, which can’t include any on-programme assessment required within the framework or standard they’re doing.
Off-the-job training must be carried out within working hours and can’t be considered as ‘homework’ the apprentice can do while off the clock. Traditionally, the way this has been carried out is with the apprentice either spending one day a week (or one week a month) spent at the training provider or a combination of on and off-the-job training with both the provider and employer.
Until a concrete definition becomes available, our guidance would continue to be to abide by the principle that off-the-job training serves - namely to enhance the quality of Apprenticeships and the qualifications they impart.
And if you’re looking for further information about the Apprenticeship Levy, be sure to download our free, comprehensive ebook guide: