Confusion over what constitutes ‘off-the-job’ training could be stopping employers from providing apprenticeships.
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) is calling for the government to review its rules on apprenticeships off-the-job training requirements.
The apprenticeship levy funding scheme went live on the 1st May and means that employers can draw down funds from their personal account in order to pay for apprenticeship training. In order to qualify, employers must agree to a number of rules, one of which states that employers must provide ‘off-the-job’ training. This is not unusual but there is some confusion about how organisations will do this.
According to government guidance, employers must provide training which is off-the-job and makes up “20% of the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across the apprenticeship”. This means that trainees must be allowed training time, to the equivalent of one day a week, within their normal working hours. Apprentices are already allowed time to re-sit English and Maths to Level 2 within their contracted working hours, and the extra time burden could mean that smaller firms will struggle.
The government has defended its position, saying that off-the-job training does not mean that trainees have to receive training elsewhere (at college for example), provided the training is not done as part of a trainee’s normal duties. For example, apprentices might spend time doing on-line training, attending role-play workshops or shadowing a colleague. Careful recording of this is necessary if employers are to evidence their commitment to the apprenticeship levy scheme.
In its research, the AELP suggests that in reality more than a third of off-the-job training occurs at the trainee’s work-station and only 13% of off-the-job training happens entirely away from the workplace. As the 20% rule is non-negotiable, there is a risk that employers will treat it as a tick-box requirement and the quality of training will decline.
While the government has a duty to provide clarity, it is important that employers fulfil their responsibility and ensure that staff are well prepared to train and assess their apprentices. By investing in training for trainers, organisations can only benefit as they ‘grow their own’ and avoid the pitfalls of an imperfect system. ATDirect is committed to equipping trainers with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful, and to maintain standards not only within their industry but in training itself.