Hire an apprentice in England

On set of Flowers © Sister Pictures 2018

Hiring an apprentice can be a great way for you to find new talent for your company, grow your team in a cost-effective way, give a young person an opportunity to develop their career and support the long-term grow and sustainability of the screen industries. 

The overwhelming majority - 96% - of employers with apprentices say their business has benefited as a result.

There is funding for apprenticeships and specialist training providers to deal with most of the paperwork. However, it can seem difficult to navigate apprenticeship rules when your way of working doesn't necessarily fit into the nine-to-five model. This doesn't mean that apprenticeships cannot work for your company or production. 

ScreenSkills offers advice and guidance on understanding the new apprenticeship standards in England, the Apprenticeship Levy, best practice when hiring apprenticeships in the screen industries and advice on where to find training providers to handle the administration for you.

Understanding the apprenticeship standards

Apprenticeships are based on what are now called 'Apprenticeship Standards'. These standards:

  • are set by employers
  • define what a fully confident and competent person in that occupation should be able to do
  • define the minimum requirement for an apprentice to be assessed as fully competent in that occupation
  • define the outputs of an apprenticeship (in terms of competence) rather than the inputs (guided learning hours, etc.)
  • are assessed so that competence is confirmed through an employer-defined 'end-point assessment'
  • award a grade to apprentices who pass.

The Apprenticeship Standards have been designed to be relevant and applicable to employers across a wide variety of sectors and sizes and are designed to be appropriate, relevant and feasible in a range of different contexts  -  while also ensuring consistency.

See current screen industry Apprenticeship Standards

Funding support

When you take on an apprentice, you can get funding from the government towards paying for that apprentice's training. This funding does not cover the cost of an apprentice's wages, but rather the cost of the training you buy from a training provider and the cost of the assessment of your apprentice at the end of their placement. 

If your organisation pays the Apprenticeship Levy and you have enough money in your levy pot then the whole cost of training will be covered for you. If you are not paying the levy, then around 90% of training costs will be subsidised for you. The only caveat is that there is a cap on the maximum amount of funding that can be allocated to any one apprentice. For screen industries apprenticeships, this figure currently sits at between £9,000 and £12,000, depending on the nature of the apprenticeship. 

Understanding the Apprenticeship Levy

If your annual salary bill is more than £3m then you must pay an Apprenticeship Levy of 0.5% on the amount your salary exceeds that £3m. If you pay the Apprenticeship Levy and you don’t take on apprentices, you are basically just paying an extra tax. So you might as well make use of the money you have paid.

The money you pay sits in your own levy account and can be accessed through the new digital apprenticeship service, This allows you to spend your available funds on apprenticeship training. Funds appear in your account monthly and the government applies a 10% top-up. These funds can only be used for training and assessment of apprentices.

If you don't spend all the money in your levy pot, you can transfer a maximum of 25% of it to one or more organisations, for example in your supply chain. The total transferred cannot currently exceed 25% of your available levy funds. 

Understanding the rules of taking on an apprentice

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship reforms, some employers have expressed uncertainty about the apprenticeship rules. Below, we have tried to set out as simply as possible what those rules are:

1. 20% off-the-job training
Off-the-job training must amount to 20% of the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across the whole apprenticeship. Some employers have expressed concerns about that, but it seems that these concerns are due to a lack of understanding, at least in part, about what the requirement means in practice. Off-the-job training does not have to mean time spent in a classroom, nor does it have to mean the traditional day-release model (which is not feasible for many screen productions). Off-the-job training simply means the time when the apprentice is not doing their usual work. This may include:

  • teaching on theory (lectures, role-playing exercises, online learning)
  • practical training (shadowing, industry visits, working in a different team to expand their experience, boot camps, study time)
  • time spent with a mentor.

It cannot include English and maths classes (which must be funded separately), progress reviews or on-programme assessment required for the Apprenticeship Standards or training which takes place outside the apprentice's paid working hours. 

2. Minimum 12-month contract
All apprentices must have a contract of at least 12 months with their employer. Due to the nature of production schedules, this restriction can pose a barrier to hiring apprentices and so ScreenSkill is currently exploring a scheme where an organisation called an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) could employ the apprentice and you would only have to offer short placements. However, until that is in place, you will have to offer a minimum 12-month employment contract to any apprenticeships you hire. 

Mythbusting: debunking some common apprenticeship myths

Myth one: Do I have to send my apprentice to college one day a week?
The short answer is no. There is a so-called ‘20% off the job rule’ but that does not automatically mean day release. It could be day release, it could be on block release, you can even decide to do some of the 20% off the job training yourself. The bottom line is it is up to you. 

Myth two: Hiring an apprentice will mean a lot of bureaucracy for me
Not if you partner with the right training provider! A good training provider will offer you a range of services, including:

  • Helping you develop a job description for your apprentice
  • Working with you to find the right ‘apprenticeship standard’
  • Shortlisting candidates, based on your requirements
  • Working with you to develop what is called the ‘apprenticeship agreement’ which sets out how long you’ll employ them for, the training you’ll give them, their working conditions and the qualifications they are working towards
  • Working with you to decide how you want the classroom-based element of the training to work day release, block release, boot camps etc)

Finding an apprentice

If you are just starting the process of finding an apprentice for your company, talk to a training provider. A good provider will be able to:

  • discuss your requirements and design a suitable programme for you and your apprentices
  • offer you support in the recruitment process
  • deal with most of the bureaucracy of hiring an apprentice.

Only providers registered with the Education and Skills Funding Agency can deliver Apprenticeship Standards. Search the Gov.uk register for a training provider who suits you. 

Queries on apprenticeships

If you have further queries, please email apprenticeships@screenskills.com