Here are some of the usual questions we have been asked while discussing the apprenticeship levy with our clients.  We’ll add to them as new questions arise.


What’s the difference between new apprenticeship standards and old apprenticeship frameworks?

The old apprenticeship frameworks normally comprised a set of qualifications, often based on NVQs and Diplomas.  They usually ran into many pages and were quite complex to unravel.  New apprenticeship standards are written on just a few sides of paper and are designed to be far more job specific.  The way they are assessed is also significantly different, with new standards being assessed at the end of the training period, whereas old frameworks had a continuous assessment model.


Who has designed apprenticeship standards?

These have been created by a group of employers.  The group members are commonly referred to as Trailblazers.  The Trailblazers in hospitality, for example, included organisations such as Hilton Hotels, Green King, McDonald’s, Whitbread, British Institute of Innkeeping and several others.


Are apprenticeship standards actual qualifications?

Most new apprenticeship standards are not qualifications but, instead, are a set of quality statements that demonstrate someone has the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to perform a specific job role. There are some exceptions to this where qualifications form part of an apprenticeship, but this is no longer the norm.


Does NCAL still work with old apprenticeship frameworks?

We’ve made a decision to look forward, not backwards.  So, apart from looking after those apprentices who are finishing off their apprenticeship frameworks, we are only working with new apprenticeship standards.


Do my apprentices need English and maths qualifications?

Yes. The normal expectation is that apprentices will need to work towards English and maths at level 2.  Some apprentices have this already from school but, for those who don’t, your training provider will help them to achieve it during the course of the apprenticeship.  Some apprenticeship standards also require qualifications in IT, but this is not the case in hospitality.


Can I spend my organisation’s levy by using several different training providers?

Yes.  The idea behind the new apprenticeship arrangements is that you, as the employer, can choose who you want to work with.  This might mean that you select one training provider for one type of apprenticeship and another for a different kind.  The choice is yours, but you can only contract with training providers who are approved to work with levy paying employers, like NCAL.


Why do I need a contract for apprenticeships?

This is one of the new rules introduced to coincide with the arrival of the levy.  Previously, contracts have been voluntary but it is now a mandatory requirement of funding to have a contract in place with your training provider.


How does my levy fund get paid to a training provider?

As a levy paying employer, you have a digital  Apprenticeship Service account that has already been set up for you. You should already know how to access this and you should have signed the agreements therein to allow your levy to be spent.  In general, money is transferred to your training provider by following the procedures in the Apprenticeship Service.  You stay in control of the money but both you and the training provider have to follow certain steps to arrange its release.  All funds are closely monitored by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and are subject to rigorous audit.


How do I know how much is in my levy fund?

You’ll be able to log into your digital Apprenticeship Service account and see your balance.  You can also see how much you have spent and how much the government has chipped in.


What happens to my levy fund if I don’t spend it?

The levy fund is spent on a first in first out basis and has a shelf life of two years.  If you don’t spend it within that period, you lose it and it will be distributed elsewhere.


Can I get any of my levy fund back?

There’s no way you can directly access your levy fund unless you wish to become an Employer Provider.  In short, this means you act as your own training provider for the delivery of your apprenticeships.  You can also act as a subcontractor to your training provider who can, under the right circumstances, buy your apprenticeship training services up to a maximum of £100,000 per year.  NCAL has a policy of always submitting any delivery models that involve subcontracting back to an employer to the Education and Skills Funding Agency for approval.


How do my apprentices get assessed?

This is one of the key differences between the old frameworks and new apprenticeship standards.  Apprentices learn and train for the agreed period and then, once they are ready, are put forward for assessment, commonly known as end point assessment.  This involves a completely independent assessment organisation who will usually assess an apprentice using a variety of methods, such as a project or demonstration, a professional discussion, a test and an observation or two.  Each apprenticeship standard lays down the rules for end point assessment, and these are not negotiable.


How much do I have to pay for an apprenticeship?

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) sets a funding cap for each apprenticeship standard, which is the maximum it will allow to be spent from your levy fund.  However, you can negotiate upwards or downwards from this cap depending on respective roles and responsibilities between you and your provider. Any agreement over and above the cap will be paid for by your organisation outside of the levy arrangements, but must still be formally declared to the ESFA.


How much does end point assessment cost?

This depends on the apprenticeship standard.  You’ll agree a contract with an independent assessment organisation (your training provider will help you with this).  As a general rule of thumb, you should not pay more than 20 per cent of the total apprenticeship cost for end point assessment.


How do I know what training to give my apprentices?

This depends what the apprenticeship standard requires.  The best starting point is to sit down with your training provider and examine the standards to see what needs to be done.  Your organisation is likely to be covering some of the requirements already.  You can agree how the responsibility for training is divided between you and the provider.  It is possible that all of your training needs should be delivered by your provider. 


How do I know how well my apprentices are progressing?

Each training provider will have their own systems for tracking apprentices progress.  At NCAL, we use software called iLearner, which is managed by iCQ, an independent end point assessment organisation and awarding organisation.  This enables us to closely monitor progress and provide you with reports at intervals to suit you.  Alternatively, we can give you direct access to iLearner so you can dip in at any time.


Will Ofsted want to inspect my organisation?

Ofsted will only inspect your organisation directly if you are an Employer Provider.  If you work in partnership with a training provider, it is the provider that Ofsted inspects.  However, it is likely that Ofsted will want to get feedback from you and your apprentices about the experience, so you should expect to get involved and cooperate to a certain extent.


What happens if an apprentice leaves part way through the programme?

The digital Apprenticeship Service allows for you and your training provider to update an apprentice’s situation and, if necessary, remove them from the programme.  It’s important to keep the details of your apprentice up to date, so that your levy fund is only spent on legitimate training.  If someone leaves, the levy stops paying your provider for that person at the point of their departure.  You do not get any refund for training and time already delivered.


Can my apprentices still do a qualification even if the standards don’t require it?

Yes, as long as the levy fund is not used to purchase these qualifications.  In other words, this would be a commercial arrangement between you and your training provider.


Can I use the levy fund to develop an apprenticeship programme?

No, there are strict rules about how the levy can be used and the design and development of a programme is not a permitted expenditure.


Can I use the levy fund to pay for apprentices’ time or travel?

No, this strictly forbidden by the funding rules.


What is a Commitment Statement?

The apprentice, employer and training provider each signs a Commitment Statement, which is a general agreement and understanding about how each party will work together to help the apprentice achieve their apprenticeship.  This is a mandatory document that must be kept up to date and reissued if any changes occur.

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