What's involved?

Apprentices are aged 16 or over (there is no upper age limit) and combine working with studying for a work-based qualification within a framework or the new set of standards - from Level 2 up to degree level and even master’s level.

They can be new or existing employees.

Ultimately, apprenticeships are designed to equip individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours they need for specific job roles, future employment and progression.

An apprentice has to be employed with a contract of employment from the start of their apprenticeship and it must be of sufficient length for them to complete their programme and end-point assessment.

On completion, they must perform tasks confidently and completely to the industry standard.

Levels of apprenticeships aligned to academic requirements:



Equivalent educational level



 5 GCSE passes



 2 A-level passes


 4, 5, 6 and 7  

 Foundation degree and above


 6 and 7

 Bachelor’s or master’s degree


What training is involved?

Apprenticeships involve two forms of training:

  • On-the-job – working with a mentor to learn job specific skills in the workplace
  • Off-the-job (at least 20%) – training in the workplace, through ‘day release’ at college and/or tutors visiting off-site premises, e.g. relevant training days or workshops, enrichment, attendance at events and masterclasses

How long does an apprenticeship last?

Apprenticeships require a minimum of 30 hours per week, including any off-the-job studies, and can last from one to four years, depending on the level of qualification and timeframe set by whoever developed the apprenticeship. 

All apprenticeships must last at least 12 months from the start date and some apprenticeships require considerably longer timeframes.

What about wages?

You must pay apprentices at least the minimum apprenticeship wage rate

The apprentice must be at least:

  • school leaving age (16) to get National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage
  • aged 25 to get National Living Wage - minimum wage will still apply if aged 24 and under

Current rates

These rates are for National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage from 1 April 2017. Higher rates for apprentices are encouraged, wherever possible.


 25 and over



 Under 18


April 2017








Apprentices can be paid the apprenticeship rate rather than the age rate if they’re both:

  • aged under 19
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship 


An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship can be paid a minimum hourly rate of £3.50 from April 2017.



An apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship must be paid a minimum hourly rate of £7.05 from April 2017.


What about National Insurance?

An employer does not have to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions on their earnings if their apprentice is aged 16-24 and is paid below £827 a week.

This is a big saving for many employers as most apprentices earn below this level. The average apprenticeship wage is £257 per week for Level 2 and Level 3.

Will I receive funding?

  • You may be eligible for a £1,000 apprenticeship16-18 year old incentive payment. This is designed to ensure 16-18 years olds are still able to obtain apprenticeships
  • In some local authority areas, there may be special arrangements to support 16-24 year old apprentice recruitment
  • The Government provides the funds to cover the full cost of the mandatory training required to complete the framework or standard for an apprentice aged 16-18 when you employ under 50 full time members of staff and are not part of a larger group
  • If you employ above 50 full-time members of staff, the government funds apprenticeship since May 2017 in two ways:
  • If you have a pay bill in excess of £3 million, you will fund your apprenticeship programmes through a levy on your pay bill based at 0.5%, although the government will give you a £15,000 allowance annually into your Digital Account. 
  • If you do not have a pay bill above £3 million and are not part of a group which does and you employ above 50 full time members of staff, you will pay 10% of the Apprenticeship national funding band - your fee will range from £150 - £2,700 depending on where your selected apprenticeship programme sits in the national funding bands.

What terms and conditions are apprentices entitled to?

As apprentices are employees, they are entitled to the employer’s normal terms and conditions:

  • Paid holidays including Bank Holidays
  • Sick pay
  • Benefits you offer e.g. childcare voucher schemes
  • Support you offer e.g. coaching or mentoring

You must pay their apprentice for all their time on their apprenticeship, to include time spent training or studying for a relevant qualifications or standards, at work and off-site.

Interested in discovering more about how we can help with your apprenticeships? Contact us: