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Recruit an apprentice

Higher and degree apprenticeships provide an excellent opportunity for your organisation to develop a highly skilled and qualified workforce. They are an effective way to attract and retain motivated and talented employees, address any skills gap and grow your business.

How do apprenticeships work?

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship provides an opportunity for someone to work and earn and a salary, whilst studying. The Institute for Apprenticeships’ Quality Statement states:

“An apprenticeship is a job with training to industry standards. It should be in a recognised occupation, involve a substantial programme of on and off-the-job training and the apprentice’s occupational competence should be tested by an independent, end-point assessment. Apprenticeships are employer-led: employers set the standards, create the demand for apprentices to meet their skills needs, fund the apprenticeship and are responsible for employing and training the apprentice. But the needs of the apprentice are equally important: to achieve competence in a skills occupation, which is transferable and secures long term earnings power, greater security and the capability to progress in the workplace”.

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) is an independent public body that works with employers to develop apprenticeships. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is an executive agency responsible for funding apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are available at different levels and have equivalent educational levels. An intermediate apprenticeship is level 2 and equivalent to GCSE level study, and an advanced apprenticeship is level 3 and equivalent to A level study. Apprenticeships have now been developed at level 4 and above and degree apprenticeships provide a new route into higher education. A higher apprenticeship is level 4 or above and is equivalent to foundation degree level study or above. A degree apprenticeship is level 6 or above and is equivalent to bachelors degree level study or above.

To determine what level apprenticeship might be suitable for your business, please get in touch with our Apprenticeships Team:

How have apprenticeships been reformed?  

Even if you have previous experience of recruiting apprentices, it is worth nothing that apprenticeships have been significantly reformed in recent years.

This is as a result of the Richard Review (2012), an independent review on what apprenticeships should be and how they could meet the changing needs of the economy. Doug Richard made a number of recommendations on simplification and on placing employers in the driving seat.

Since the general election in 2015, apprenticeships have been a major government priority to improve skills and productivity in the UK. In order to support this, the government have made significant changes to what apprentices do, and how apprenticeships are funded.

In December 2015, the UK Government published its plans for Apprenticeships in England up to 2020. Some of the key things to come from the reforms include:

  • A government target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020
  • Apprenticeship frameworks being replaced by apprenticeships standards
  • Changes to the way apprenticeships are funded
  • Changes to the way apprentices are trained and assessed

What is the difference between an apprenticeship framework and an apprenticeship standard?


Apprenticeships frameworks are primarily qualification-focused, with the main aim being to achieve a competency-based qualification (e.g. an NVQ) and a technical qualification (e.g. a BTEC).

The findings of the Richard Review (2012) indicated that it was possible for an apprentice to achieve all qualifications in a framework but not necessarily have the right skills to carry out their job. The implication was that many apprentices required further training from their employer.

In a framework, apprentices are assessed throughout their apprenticeship and need to obtain a number of qualifications during it. Doug Richard highlighted that once apprentices had completed a unit, it would be marked as complete and they would not always need to demonstrate the skill again. As there was no overall end assessment, the risk was that apprentices were completing their apprenticeships within being checked to see if they have had developed the right skills to do their role.


A new standards-based approach was launched in 2013 – with funding and infrastructure proposals announced in 2015 and a start-date of April 2017. ‘New’ apprenticeships are defined as a minimum 12 months of ‘quality employment’ combined with training and study, with at least 20% off-the-job learning.

An apprenticeship standard contains a list of the skills, knowledge and behaviours an apprentice will need to have learned by the end of their apprenticeship. Standards are occupation-focused, as opposed to being qualification-led. The learning happens throughout the apprenticeship and the apprentice is assessed at the end by way of an end-point assessment. They need to prove that they can carry out all aspects of their job.

After the review of apprenticeships in 2012-13, the government noted that they needed to respond to the needs of employers, who knew what they wanted from employees and were best placed to describe what skills, knowledge and behaviours an apprentice would need in order to be successful in a particular job role.

How are apprenticeship standards developed?

Groups of employers known as ‘trailblazers’, are developing standards for their relevant occupations, with the support of the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA).

Apprenticeship standards are based on occupations and an occupation must meet certain requirements for the IfA to agree its development as an apprenticeship standard. If the IfA agree that an occupation is suitable for an apprenticeship standard, the second stage is to develop the occupational standard. An occupational standard is a short document that describes what someone who is competent in the occupation does – ‘duties’, and the ‘knowledge, skills and behaviours’ (KSBs) required to carry out the duties competently; along with any qualifications that must be taken and alignment with professional recognition if applicable.

The third stage is to develop an end-point assessment plan to test competence against the occupational standard. Finally, an apprenticeship will be allocated a funding band, which represents the maximum government or levy funding an apprenticeship can attract. If the apprenticeship costs more to deliver than this, training providers and employers negotiate, and employers can agree to pay more and pay the difference.

An apprenticeship is ‘approved for delivery’ once the occupational standard and end-point assessment plan are agreed and the funding band is confirmed. The standard, end-point assessment plan and funding band are published on the Institute for Apprenticeships website when approved. You can use the Apprenticeship Finder to find a list of all apprenticeships in development and approved for delivery.

Why should we get involved in apprenticeships?

What are the benefits of taking on an apprentice?

There are numerous reasons to develop your staff using apprenticeships, some of which are:

  • Cost effective way to train staff- utilise your levy funds and/or take advantage of co-investment
  • Recruit new talent- apprenticeships provide an alternative recruitment route enabling you to reach out to a wider talent pool
  • Upskill existing workforce- both academically and in terms of skills development
  • Meet your business needs- apprenticeships are developed by employers and apprentices are trained to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviour required for a specific job role
  • Be assured of quality of training and competence to do the job- apprentices are independently assessed to confirm they can actually perform in the occupation in which they have been trained
  • Increase staff loyalty and retention- apprentices are typically very motivated and hardworking
  • Future planning- ensure your staff have excellent progression routes and train the future leaders of your business
  • Up-to-date knowledge and skills- apprentices put what they learn into practice, and can ensure the business is updated on the latest theories, techniques and technology
  • Improve productivity- for all the reasons outlined above

What support will the University provide?

We will work in partnership with you throughout the apprenticeship and whether you have been involved in apprenticeships before, or are recruiting an apprentice for the first time, these are some of the things you can expect from us:

  • Support in understanding the apprenticeship reforms and requirements
  • Support in identifying apprenticeship opportunities
  • Support in understanding the funding arrangements, and setting up payments
  • Support with recruitment and ensuring eligibility
  • Induction processes to support you and your apprentices
  • Regular review meetings to discuss how apprentices are progressing
  • An invitation to support the review and development of our courses, and the development of new apprenticeships
What will it cost us to take on an apprentice?

How are apprenticeships funded?

Even if you have had apprentices in the past, it is worth nothing that apprenticeships have been significantly reformed in recent years.

One of the reforms has been to the way in which apprenticeships are funded. You can get help from the government to pay for apprenticeship training, and the amount you get depends on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy or not. From 6 April 2017, you will pay the levy if you’re an employer with a pay bill over £3 million each year.

If you are not paying the levy, you will share the cost of training and assessment with government, and this is called ‘co-investment’. Government will pay a minimum of 90% towards to the cost of apprenticeship training, up to the funding band maximum, and you will pay the remaining amount.  

Some employers are entitled to additional payments or extra support from the government, and our Apprenticeships Team will be able to advise you about this. 

You can find out more about changes to apprenticeships funding, as well as the levy and co-investment by visiting GOV.UK.

What can we use levy/co-investment funds for?

You can only use funds to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment for apprentices that work at least 50% of the time in England, and only up to the funding band maximum for that apprenticeship. If the costs of training and assessment go over the funding band maximum, you will need to pay the difference with other funds from your own budget.

You cannot use funds to pay for other costs associated with your apprentices (such as wages, statutory licences to practise, travel and subsidiary costs, work placement programmes or the setting up of an apprenticeship programme). You must pay apprentices at least the apprenticeship national minimum wage, and levy/co-investment funds cannot be used to pay wages.

You cannot use funds to pay for other kinds of training or courses; for example, you cannot sponsor a member of staff to undertake a traditional degree course at the University. If you wish to do this, you will need to pay the full costs of the course, with no use of levy funds or co-investment from government.

For more information about what you can and cannot use levy and co-investment funds for, please read the apprenticeship funding rules.

How are costs actually paid to the University?

Whether you are paying the levy or not, you do not pay for the full costs of an apprenticeship upfront, but rather pay these monthly for the duration of the apprenticeship. The cost of an apprenticeship will include the end-point assessment, so you will know the total costs at the outset.

As well as reforming the way apprenticeships are funded, the government has introduced a new apprenticeship service. This is an online service which allows employers to choose and pay for apprenticeship training more easily. You can create an account to receive levy funds for you to spend on apprenticeships, manage your apprentices, pay your training provider and stop or pause payments to your training provider as necessary. At present, this service can only be used by levy-paying employers but there are plans to allow non-levy payers to utilise this service in the future.

If you are paying the apprenticeship levy, you will report and pay your levy to HMRC through the PAYE process. Once you have chosen an apprenticeship and training provider, and agreed a price, you can add the details of your apprentices in the apprenticeship service. Once the apprenticeship training has started, monthly payments will be taken from your service account and sent to the provider. You will see funds entering your account each month after you have declared the levy to HMRC, and funds leaving the account each month as you pay for training. If you don’t have enough funds in your account to pay for training in a particular month, you can take advantage of co-investment, sharing the remaining cost of training and assessment with the government. The University will invoice you in any months where this is necessary.

Employers will make co-investment payments where their levy funds have run out, or where they are non-levy paying. If you are non-levy paying, you will agree a schedule for payments with the University and typically, the University will invoice you monthly. The government will fund a minimum of 90% of the training costs, with you funding the remaining 10%. The costs are spread over the duration of the apprenticeship, with the University receiving a small amount each month.

What is involved in taking on an apprentice?

What steps are required for someone to join an apprenticeship programme?

Generally speaking, the process will work as follows:

1. You identify an opportunity to take on an apprentice and want to find out more
2. You contact us and we consider your eligibility for funding support and conduct a training needs anaylsis
3. We discuss the terms of our agreement and negotiate the costs of any apprenticeship training
4. We support you to recruit an apprentice, ensuring apprentice eligibility and compliance with the apprenticeship funding rules
5. We conduct an individual needs analysis against the apprenticeship standard and degree programme
6. Apprentice completes a formal application to the University and University makes an offer for the relevant programme
7. We develop an individual learning plan for the apprentice, taking into account any prior learning and experience, any additional support needs and any English and maths support required
8. We work in partnership to finalise the contract documentation; Apprenticeship Agreement, Commitment Statement and Written Agreement prior to enrolment
9. We support you in setting up payments via the digital account or co-investment
10. We work with you to ensure a thorough induction for the apprentice
11. We work in partnership to hold regular review meetings to ensure successful progression and completion
12. We work with you to prepare the apprentice for the end-point assessment

How do we take on an apprentice?

How do we determine if there is an opportunity?

The first thing you need to consider is if there is an opportunity to utilise apprenticeships to upskill your existing employees, or fill any skills gaps in your workforce by recruiting new staff. You can recruit a new member of staff as an apprentice, upskill an existing member of staff if you have someone in mind, or ask for expressions of interest internally if you have a position in mind but several potential candidates. Our Apprenticeships Team can support you in identifying suitable opportunities.

If you identify a job role you would like to recruit an apprentice to, you should check if there is a related apprenticeship standard approved for delivery. To do this, you can use the Apprenticeship Finder on the Institute for Apprenticeships website. You will find a list of all apprenticeships in development and approved for delivery, and can search based on various criteria.

If an apprenticeship is approved for delivery, you can then search for apprenticeship training providers who are delivering the standard. If the University of Suffolk is delivering the apprenticeship you have in mind, please do get in touch with our Apprenticeships Team to discuss further: We can support you through the process and ensure the best outcome for your business.

Who can be an apprentice?

There are very few limitations to who you can recruit as an apprentice. An apprentice:

  • Must be aged 16 or over
  • Can be any age over 16- there is no upper age limit
  • Can be a new or current employee
  • Must have a genuine job as defined in the apprenticeship funding rules
  • Must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the apprenticeship funding rules
  • Must have a contract of employment long enough for them to complete their apprenticeship
  • Must work a minimum of 30 hours a week, or still meet the funding rule requirements where they work less hours than this
  • Must sign an Apprenticeship Agreement with you, which confirms the individual employment arrangements
  • Is entitled to the same benefits as other employees
  • Must understand their commitments, both to you and the University

What criteria must an apprentice meet in order to be accepted by the University?

In order for someone to enrol on an apprenticeship with the University, they must secure an apprentice position with an employer, meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the apprenticeship funding rules, and meet the University’s academic entry requirements for the relevant course. We must also have a signed contract with their employer outlining the apprenticeship training we will be delivering.

All of our apprenticeships will have academic entry requirements, which an apprentice will need to meet.  However, we are committed to ensuring an inclusive approach to people aspiring to higher education and aim to provide higher education to anyone with the potential to benefit. We therefore accept students with a wide range of educational experiences and qualifications, and will consider someone who does not meet the stated criteria if their prior experience and qualifications are equivalent. Admissions selectors treat each application to the University individually and use their professional judgement in assessing the academic potential of individual candidates.

Entry requirements are reviewed annually and published, and we have an Admissions Policy which outlines our approach and processes.

English and maths requirement

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who are responsible for apprenticeships, state that all apprentices must have Level 2 English and Maths qualifications by the end of their apprenticeship. Whilst the University can apply for additional funding to deliver this training where apprentices do not have such qualifications on entry, it is important to be aware of the implications of this.

If you had an apprentice who required this training, you would need to allow them reasonable time to complete this, and this would be on top of the 20% off-the-job training required under the apprenticeship funding rules. The apprentice would need to be prepared to undertake this training in addition to the course requirements, and this could put them under substantial pressure without sufficient support. In many cases, English and Maths qualifications are ‘gateway requirements’, meaning that they must be achieved prior to an apprentice starting their end-point assessment. There would therefore be the risk of an apprentice not completing their apprenticeship if they failed to achieve Level 2 English and Maths.

For these reasons, the University will normally require all apprentices to have Level 2 English and Maths before they start their apprenticeship, but we will discuss individual circumstances with employers and apprentices.

What if a potential apprentice has prior qualifications or experience?

An apprentice can be funded to undertake an apprenticeship at the same or lower level than a qualification they already hold, if the apprenticeship will allow them to acquire substantive new skills and the content of the training is materially different from any prior qualification or previous apprenticeship.

If a potential apprentice has a degree but in an unrelated field with no overlap in content, they can be funded on an apprenticeship. If they have prior learning or experience which appears similar to that which they would be required to attain for the apprenticeship, the relevant course team at the University will need to consider this in detail and map their prior learning to the relevant standard.

How do we recruit an apprentice?

First and foremost, an apprentice is an employee, so you need to recruit the best candidate for your business and the role. If you have identified an opportunity to recruit an apprentice, and we are delivering the relevant apprenticeship, our Apprenticeships Team will support you through the recruitment process. We will work with you to determine your needs and the extent to which you would like us to be involved in the process.

If you would like to recruit a new member of staff, we can help you to develop the job description, shortlist candidates and interview, depending on your needs. We will advertise vacancies on our website, and will add these to the national ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ service website. We will also utilise our links with schools to promote any vacancies and encourage applications from suitably qualified individuals. If you would like to invite applications internally, we can support this process in a similar way.

You may have identified an existing member of staff who, with further education and training, could be developed to support your workforce needs and growth plans. If so, then an apprenticeship might provide the opportunity for you to upskill this member of staff. If you have a particular member of staff in mind who you are keen to enrol onto an apprenticeship, we will meet with you and the apprentice to discuss what is required, and to check eligibility under the apprenticeship funding rules.

What apprenticeships do the University of Suffolk offer?

Current provision

The University is currently delivering the following Apprenticeships:

Apprenticeships in development

We are committed to working with you to ensure the University works for business and employers, continuing to have a demonstrable economic impact and supporting business growth.

We work with employers to identify skills gaps, implement workforce development plans and to develop apprenticeship programmes to support this.

At present, we are working on the development of apprenticeships in the following areas:

  • Social Work
  • Policing
  • Cyber Security
  • Level 7 Leadership and Management
  • Other areas to be confirmed

If you would like to discuss your business needs and ways in which you can work with the University, please get in touch with our Apprenticeships Team:

Apprenticeship provision at our Partner Colleges

We work in partnership with three local Further Education Colleges located across Suffolk and Great Yarmouth to offer the opportunity for students to study at their local college and obtain a recognised University of Suffolk award. This unique partnership is known as the Learning Network.

The University is delivering apprenticeships at level 4 and above. If you are interested in recruiting apprentices below Level 4, or in apprenticeships the University is not delivering, we would advise you to speak to our partner colleges about their apprenticeship provision:

To find out more about our Learning Network, please visit our website.

Get in touch

In order to discuss your needs and find out more about our apprenticeships, you can contact our Apprenticeships Team on: or 01473 338016.