How can my organisation get involved? (England)

There are seven steps which your organisation can take in order to employ apprentices, including working with training providers and understanding the apprenticeship levy.

On set of Flowers © Sister Pictures 2018

Why take on an apprentice?

If your organisation is big enough to recruit and employ staff, apprenticeship training can work well. Apprenticeships provide a cost-effective solution to developing staff and businesses.

Recruit new talent

Apprenticeships allow employers to reach a wider selection of people and recruit based on factors that are outside of previous experience, qualifications or connections. This allows them to recruit on the attitude of the apprentice– with the benefit of tailored training to get the apprentice up-to-speed.

Did you know?
Graduates are eligible for apprenticeship training which means it isn’t a choice of ‘graduate vs non-graduate’, but employing the person you feel most able to develop the practical skills, knowledge and behaviours you need.

Upskill existing staff

Many people leave an organisation if they can’t see a clear career path or don’t receive training to keep their knowledge up to date. 

Apprenticeship training is not just for new recruits but can be used to help existing staff develop the skills to progress into more senior positions or to specialise.

Did you know?
A third of employers offering apprenticeships use them to train existing staff*. Apprenticeship training runs from GCSE level up to master’s degree level, so there is plenty of opportunity to fit a training programme around existing staff development needs.   

*Apprenticeships evaluation 2017: employers, IFF Research

Experience the benefits of employing an apprentice

96% of the employers using apprenticeships to recruit and train staff say their business has benefited:

  • 83% say they provide the skilled workers needed for the future
  • 80% say apprenticeships reduce staff turnover
  • 76% say they increase overall productivity
  • 59% say that training apprentices is more cost-effective than hiring skilled staff

*CEBR The Benefits of Apprenticeships to Business, 2015

Build a more inclusive workforce

The screen industry must have diversity at its core to reflect society, enhance creativity and continue to produce world-class content.

Creative organisations with a diverse workforce gain new ideas and ways of working by drawing on a wider range of experiences.

Apprenticeships can support you develop a more inclusive workforce. As paid, long-term positions, apprenticeships provide steady income, job security and an opportunity to learn a job inside out and this can appeal to many people from less affluent and diverse backgrounds than more traditional entry-routes into the screen industries.  

Did you know?
Diamond is a cross-industry approach to tackling diversity and championing inclusion in the screen industries through collecting diversity data on programmes commissioned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. Diamond aims to answer the key questions: 'who is on TV' and 'who  makes TV?' as part of a strategy to enhance creativity, increase world class programming and to remain relevant to audiences both at home and internationally. 

Understand your commitment

Apprenticeships are not a quick fix. If you’re looking to give your staff training in only one or two elements of their job, apprenticeships are not the right route. However, if you want to recruit and develop staff with a comprehensive package of training, they are proven to work very well.

Below is your commitment:

  • Apprenticeships last at least a year, often longer
  • You must work in partnership with a government-approved training partner
  • You must give your apprentices at least 20% of paid time in off-the-job training
  • Be prepared to pay towards some of the training costs (either through your levy pot or up to 5% of the apprenticeship training costs)
  • Assign a mentor and line manager to support progress

Seven steps to get started

The process of employing apprentices is very similar to employing regular employees. Follow the seven steps below to get started.

1. Identify skills gaps

If you need to recruit for a role or want to promote an existing member of staff, consider apprenticeships as an option. By defining your skills needs and searching available apprenticeship standards, you can match roles you are recruiting for to available standards. This will allow you to draw down funding for training staff and can support you in recruiting and building talent, and can be especially useful with job roles that are difficult to recruit for.

2. Find apprenticeship training providers

If you offer an apprenticeship opportunity, you will work in partnership with a government-approved apprenticeship training provider. This could be a college, private training provider, university or even your own (government-approved) internal training team.

To find apprenticeship providers who deliver relevant apprenticeship standards, visit the government’s Find apprenticeship training service. Remember that apprenticeship standards can sometimes have different names from the job roles you are looking to recruit for, so it is worth reviewing the available standards to find a suitable match.

Understand the role of the training provider

Training providers are the apprenticeship experts and will lead you through the process. They are responsible for the compliance of the apprenticeship programme, the government paperwork and will work with you to design a training programme that fits yours and the apprentice’s needs.

They usually deliver most of the off-the-job training that supports your staff member to become more productive and competent during their apprenticeship programme. 

Training providers also support you with recruitment, selection, interviewing and making sure your apprentice is motivated on programme.

3. Contact training providers

Training providers can help you through the process of organising apprenticeships and recruiting apprentices. They work in a similar way to a recruitment agency, and it is worth calling several training providers to explain the role you’re looking to recruit for and ask how their apprenticeship programme could help.

It is worth understanding the types of training they can provide, and what counts as off-the-job training, to best define your own requirements and see how training can fit in with the day-to-day operation of your business.

What counts as off-the-job training?

Some employers are concerned that paying an apprentice whilst they are off-the-job for 20% of their paid time will not make an apprenticeship programme affordable to run. Yet this is often down to a misunderstanding of the off-the-job training criteria.

Off-the-job training can include training that you would deliver to any member of staff to get them up-to-speed. If it’s supporting apprentices learn new skills and is relevant to the apprenticeship standard, it counts towards the quota.

The government definition of off-the-job training is “training which is received by the apprentice for the purpose of achieving the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the apprenticeship standard.”

Types of off-the-job training

  • Attending formal sessions at an apprenticeship training provider’s premises
  • Attending external training sessions, with other (non-apprenticeship) training organisation
  • Attending trade shows or going on industry visits
  • Training on specialist equipment or software
  • Online or distance learning
  • Writing assessments and competing assignments
  • Training from colleagues to show new ways of working
  • Shadowing staff
  • Skills competitions
  • Mentoring others
  • Role play or simulation practice
  • Apprentice meetings

A government-approved training provider will work with you to identify how you need the training to be delivered so it works for your circumstances.

Examples of off-the-job training employers might deliver

An edit assistant of a post-production company must be able to use file transfer software to pass the post-production operator apprenticeship standard. When they start in the role, their line manager shows them how to use file transfer software to deliver assets to external clients. This counts as off-the-job training.

A camera assistant of a production company must be able to select equipment and materials suitable for each photoshoot to pass the photographic assistant apprenticeship standard. It is likely they will pick up these skills shadowing a more experienced camera operator. This counts as off-the-job training.

There are lots of training providers to choose from, so do speak to more than one before choosing the right training partner for you.

Did you know?
Most apprenticeship training is delivered at the employer’s premises or online. It doesn’t have to be carried out a day a week or in weekly blocks at a training providers premises, although these models have their benefits.  Be open-minded when you talk to providers and find out why they deliver the way they do before deciding what suits your circumstances.

4. Money and motivation

Apprenticeships can make a lot of financial sense for your busines. Understanding the costs and benefits of hiring an apprentice, such as how much you can afford to pay and who will line manage the apprentice, will ensure you get the best from your investment.

If you are required to pay into the apprenticeship levy, or struggling to recruit staff, there is an added incentive to make apprenticeships work for your organisation and access training funds.

Understanding the apprenticeship levy

The government asks large businesses to pay an apprenticeship levy. This is 0.5% of annual payroll costs over £3 million. This means if you have an annual payroll of £5 million, your annual apprenticeship levy contribution is £10,000.

The purpose of the levy is to encourage large businesses to employ and train staff on apprenticeship programmes. The business paying the levy gets first refusal on using their levy contribution to train apprentices, but if it isn’t used it supports other businesses pay for apprenticeship training.

Did you know?
Apprenticeship levy contributions are only ringfenced for 24 months. This means a levy-payers contribution from January 2020 will be taken out of its levy pot in January 2022 and then used to subsidise the costs for other businesses that are offering apprenticeship opportunities.

If you don’t use it, you will lose it.  

What’s the difference between levy and non-levy payers?


  • Pay the apprenticeship levy if the organisation has an annual payroll of more than £3 million
  • Approximately 2% of businesses in the UK pay the levy
  • Levy-payers pay 90% of the apprenticeship training costs
  • The government tops up levy accounts by 10%

Non-levy payers

  • Don’t pay the apprenticeship levy if the organisation’s annual payroll is less that £3 million
  • Approximately 98% of businesses in the UK don’t pay the levy
  • Non-levy payers pay just 5% of the apprenticeship training costs (plus VAT in some circumstances)
  • The government pays the remaining 95% of the costs

Transferring levy funds

Levy-paying organisations that are unlikely to spend all their levy funds can transfer 25% of their funds to other businesses. This can be to any business (levy or non-levy) or a government-approved Apprenticeship Training Agency. This is often used as a form of corporate social responsibility to help supply chains, charities or small businesses access training, where they can’t afford to pay the 5% training costs.

What are the costs and benefits?


Training Costs
You must pay towards the cost of the apprenticeship training (either through your levy funds or 5% of the contribution).

The cost of training can be anywhere from £1,500 to £27,000.

This means if you’re a non-levy payer you can access up to £27,000 worth of staff training for £1,350.

Off-the-job wages

You must pay apprentices for the 20% of the time they are off-the-job. 

The off-the-job training apprentices receive is your investment in them. It is aimed at making them more productive. Statistics show that, on average, apprentices generate an annual return of £1,670 whilst they are in training and far more once they have completed.


Good apprenticeship programmes use mentors to check the apprentice is on track, support them throughout and give constructive feedback.

Consider this person’s time away from their job, but remember, this staff member is learning new skills too – such as delegating, communication and managing staff.

Attrition rate

Not all employees work out; the same is true for apprentices.

Remember they don’t have previous experience in the role, so the job might not be what they expect. Make some allowance for attrition and support in the early weeks

Company costs

There may be additional costs specific to your company.

This could be an increase in insurance for taking on unqualified workers, expenses for overnight off-the-job training, etc.

Think about your individual business.



Reduced recruitment costs

Save money and time in recruitment costs by recruiting for talent and training for skill, rather than searching for the finished article. This isn’t just advertising costs, but HR time and recruitment fees, too. 

Reduced wages

It’s acceptable to pay a training wage that recognises an apprentice is not the finished article just yet.

The apprenticeship minimum wage is £3.90/hour, but most employers pay more.

The important thing is to demonstrate the opportunity your apprentices is working toward, and reward apprentices financially when they are up-to-speed. 

No Employer’s National Insurance

If you’re likely to employ apprentices under the age of 25 you won’t have to pay Employer NI contributions.

If you paid an apprentice £16,000 a year, that’s more than a £1,000 saving.

Include sector qualifications

Apprenticeships can include training towards industry-standard qualifications or chartered status if the training supports the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to pass the programme.

This can be a huge saving if you had intended to pay for this training at full cost.

Additional incentives

Employers are given £1,000 for employing 16-18-year-old apprentices.

The same financial incentives apply to employers that take on 16 to 24-year-old care leavers or those with a disability that have an Education and Health Care plan.

5. Choose the right provider

It is important that you can build a long-term relationship with the training provider and that they can support you in developing your workforce. Feeling comfortable with how training will fit into your day-to-day business activity, and what the value of training will be in upskilling your workforce, is key to choosing the right partnership.

For most organisations, employing an apprentice directly and working with a government-approved apprenticeship provider is the simplest way to get an apprenticeship programme up-and-running.

However, if you are large enough to have your own internal training team, there are other alternative models you may want to consider.

Understanding alternative models

1. Employer-provider

You can become a government-approved apprenticeship training provider in your own right and be responsible for the off-the-job training your apprentices receive. Your internal training team will deliver the apprenticeship training in line with government requirements and your staff can be paid for this activity.

However, this is usually done by organisations that employ more than 1,000 people, as it is not your core business, and resourcing and setup costs are intensive. You will also be subject to Ofsted inspections and ESFA audits.

Examples from other industries include Barclays, NHS Trusts, Rolls Royce, Royal Air Force, Virgin. 

2. Supporting provider

For companies that have their own training team, but do not wish to be responsible for Ofsted grades or government compliance – there is an option to become a supporting provider.

In this scenario, you still work in partnership with a government-approved apprenticeship training provider, but your internal learning and development staff can formally deliver elements of the training plan and be paid for their time doing this. 

Examples from other industries include Digital Skills Partnership, John Lewis, Toyota, Walkers Snack Food.

6. Sign an agreement with the training provider

Once you’re happy you’ve found the right partner, sign a service agreement with the provider and they will support you through the remaining steps, such as:

  • Supporting you with your government apprenticeship account
  • Writing a job description and personal specification
  • Advertising, sifting vacancies and even interviewing with you
  • Creating a bespoke training plan for you and your apprentice
  • Working through any questions or queries you might have

What is the Commitment Statement?

Before the apprenticeship programme begins, you’ll sign a commitment statement. This clearly outlines the responsibilities of the employer, training provider and apprentice and will even cover who will deliver which elements of the 20% off-the-job training requirement. This means you can be sure you’re signing up to a programme that is realistic, will help your staff develop and work with your business processes and resources.

7. Employ your apprentice

Once you have chosen your training provider, you can work with them to recruit your apprentice. Training providers will often have experience of recruiting apprentices and will be able to help you through the process. Unlike usual recruitment processes which often rely on past employment to demonstrate ability,  you’re not expecting the apprenticeship candidate to be the finished article. Apprenticeships allow you to recruit for potential and aptitude, supporting you to:

  • diversify your workforce
  • develop new talent
  • upskill existing staff

Once the apprentice is ready to start and the first few training sessions are booked in, you can see them become a competent and productive member of your team.

It’s important that you identify real jobs that need filling and monitor the impact the training is having on apprentices and your business. Over time, you can use this insight to work with the training provider to tweak the programme.

To find out more about apprenticeships and how they can work for your organisation please download our booklet 'A practical guide to apprenticeships'.