Here are some frequently asked questions for managers.

Manager FAQs

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy is a Government initiative to increase the level of investment in skills and training. It applies to employers across the UK with a paybill in excess of £3 million. The College will be required to pay the Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017. Our payment will be in the region of £1.8 million for this coming year and it will increase in line with the increase in our pay bill. We will be able to draw on our Levy payment to fund training for apprentices, who may be new staff or existing employees.

What is an apprenticeship?

There is a tendency to associate the term ‘apprenticeship’ with training for younger people who are new to the workplace. While this remains a very important activity, apprenticeships are available for staff at any stage of their working life and Imperial is committed to providing our staff with these opportunities. We recognise that the term ‘apprenticeship’ is not the most appropriate for, say, someone who has been at work for ten plus years, but we will use the Government’s terminology in these early days. The important thing to remember is that an apprenticeship is a job with an accompanying skills development programme. It combines hands-on, workplace experience with formal, off-the-job training. 

An apprenticeship should last for a minimum of 12 months and an apprentice must spend at least 20% of their time (or 42 days a year) on off-the-job training. In order to draw on funding from the Levy, training must be delivered by an accredited training provider and the apprentice must work towards an approved Framework or Standard. The apprenticeship may involve a formal qualification and will usually include an end-point assessment of the apprentice’s knowledge and practical capabilities.

What are the benefits of having an apprentice?

Apprenticeships are an excellent way to develop the skills we need for the future, building our talent pipeline. They bring new skills and perspectives into the organisation, provide an opportunity for existing staff to re-train or gain formal qualifications as they progress in their careers and allow senior staff to pass on knowledge. Our established apprenticeship schemes are building vital pipelines of talented staff: technicians to support the work of our world-class workshops; maintenance technicians to keep our buildings and facilities running smoothly; and early years professionals to care for the children of staff and students. The Apprenticeship Levy will make funds available centrally for apprenticeship training and end-point assessment, so there has never been a better time to think about taking on an apprentice!

What job roles can an apprenticeship be in?

Apprenticeships are traditionally associated with sectors like construction and engineering, but there are now hundreds of different apprenticeships across a wide range of professions, from business administration to chartered management to laboratory support. Apprenticeships are also available at a range of levels

ApprenticeshipLevelEquivalent educational level
 Intermediate  2  5 GCSE passes at grades A* to C
 Advanced  3  2 A level passes
 Higher  4, 5, 6 and 7  Foundation degree and above
 Degree  6 and 7  Bachelor’s or master’s degree

 The Apprenticeships Project Team can help identify apprenticeships for specific job roles.

What are Apprenticeship Frameworks and Standards?

Following recent Government reforms, the design of apprenticeships is changing. Apprenticeship Frameworks, the traditional, multi-occupational apprenticeship structures developed by sector skills councils, are being phased out and replaced by Trailblazer Standards. Trailblazer Standards are occupation-specific and, most importantly, designed by groups of employers based on the specific skills, knowledge and behaviours their organisations require. Unlike Frameworks, Trailblazer Standards do not have to include qualifications (although in some cases they still do) and the focus is on end-point assessment of the apprentice’s knowledge and practical skills. Live lists of approved Frameworks and Standards are available at GOV.UK and the Apprenticeships Project Team can also advise.

Imperial College is a member of the Higher Education Employer Trailblazer group, which is working to develop new Standards for the Higher Education sector. The initial focus of the group has been on academic professionals, university administrators and funding managers, but work is now also underway on a Standard for university technicians. More information will be shared as the work of the Trailblazer group develops.

What is off-the-job training?

An apprentice must spend at least 20% of their time (or 42 days a year) on off-the-job training. Off-the-job training is defined by the Skills Funding Agency as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of the apprenticeship. It 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. It can include:

  • the teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training);
  • practical training (for example shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions);
  • learning support and time spent writing assessments/ assignments. 

There is some flexibility around how the training is delivered (this may include regular day release, block release and special training days/workshops). However, training which takes place outside the apprentice’s normal working hours cannot count towards the 20%.

Can an existing employee do an apprenticeship?

Yes, and the College is particularly interested in encouraging managers, and their staff, to consider the benefits of access to new learning and skills that an apprenticeship could bring. With the approval of their line manager and department, an existing employee can do an apprenticeship and their training can be funded from the Apprenticeship Levy, provided that:

  • they are working towards an approved Apprenticeship Framework or Trailblazer Standard
  • they are studying with an accredited training provider
  • their training lasts for at least 12 months
  • they will spend at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training
  • the content of their training is materially different from any prior qualification or a previous apprenticeship
  • they will attain skills in Maths and English as part of the apprenticeship (if they do not have GCSE at grade A* to C already at the outset).

The employee’s job title would not change (they would only be an apprentice for the purpose of the Apprenticeship Levy) and there would not be any change to their terms and conditions.

Are there any minimum entry requirements?

Entry requirements depend on the level of the apprenticeship and the Framework or Standard that the apprentice will follow. Entry to intermediate apprenticeships (at level 2) generally require Grade C or above at GCSE in Maths and English. If the apprentice does not have grade C or above at GCSE in English and Maths, they will need to attain these (or a Functional or Key Skills qualification) as part of their apprenticeship. Government funding is available to support this.

The Apprenticeships Project Team can provide specific advice on entry requirements for different apprenticeships.

Can an individual with prior qualifications do an apprenticeship?

The Levy can be used to fund apprenticeship training for an individual at the same level, or at a lower level, than a current qualification, but only if the apprenticeship will allow the individual to acquire substantive new skills. The content of the training must also be materially different from any prior qualification or a previous apprenticeship.

What are the costs associated with taking on an apprentice?

Funding from the Apprenticeship Levy is available for apprentice training and end-point assessment, but salary costs are borne by the department. Existing staff who become apprentices stay at their existing pay grade. Rates of pay for new apprentices depend on the apprenticeship level. More details are available from the Apprenticeships Project Team.

What happens at the end of the apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships for new staff are offered as fixed-term contracts that are long enough for the apprentice to complete their training successfully. On completion, the apprentice will have the opportunity to apply for other positions within the College. There is no guarantee of an open-ended post on completion of an apprenticeship, but the College has a good record of retaining apprentices. For existing staff who draw on the Apprenticeship Levy to undertake training and development, there is no change to terms and conditions.

Can internally-delivered courses be funded by the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy can only be used to fund training delivered by approved training providers as part of a Framework or Standard. The College is not currently acting as an ‘employer-provider’ (i.e. an accredited provider of apprenticeship training to its staff) so the Levy cannot be used to pay for training delivered internally (e.g. by the Learning and Development Centre or Educational development Unit). This may change in future and is being considered by the Apprenticeships Project Team.

Although internal courses do not attract Levy funding, they can complement the apprenticeship training delivered by the approved provider.

What support is available to departments?

The Apprenticeships Project Team provides support and guidance to departments who are considering developing an apprenticeship. They can advise on the Apprenticeship Levy, help identify appropriate Frameworks or Standards and liaise with training providers. Where apprenticeships are new roles rather than training opportunities for existing staff, the team will also help develop a job description and manage the recruitment process.

The Learning and Development Centre offers a range of training that you might find useful, see their webpages for details, or contact the Apprenticeships Project Team.

How can I find out about training providers?

The Apprenticeships Project Team can help to identify an accredited training provider for a particular Framework or Standard.

Where can I find out more?

Please contact the Apprenticeships Project Team for further information on apprenticeships at Imperial and the Apprenticeship Levy. 

You might also like to access the Department of Education’s useful series of webinars on apprenticeships, available here.

How can I find out about recovering Levy costs from research funders?

Detailed guidance on funding is available from the Research Office