The University of Essex is keen to support both new and existing employees to complete apprenticeships. An apprenticeship, which must last for a minimum of 12 months, combines hands-on work with the opportunity to train and obtain qualifications. At least six hours a week (20% of a 30 hour working week) is set aside for off-the-job training, some of which can be spent at a university, college, or training provider. The rest of the time is spent applying knowledge and skills in the workplace.

As an institution, we currently have spare unallocated funding available. It can only be used to pay for staff apprenticeship training and assessment, whether that is to help to upskill existing employees and/or to fill vacancies (through recruitment of a new apprentice). Any application for consideration would need to meet funding eligibility criteria and have full line management support.

Apprenticeships can provide an amazing opportunity to diversify the workforce; bring in, nurture, and manage new talent; improve productivity and staff retention; and succession plan.

Many people think of apprenticeships as entry level and trade-based courses, but this couldn’t be further from today’s reality. Apprenticeships are for everyone regardless of their age, work experience or job level, so let me bust some common myths and introduce you to the facts.

Myth Vs Fact

 “Apprenticeships are only entry level – they are for low skilled people”

Fact: Apprenticeships are available from Level 2, which is equivalent to a GCSE, right through to Levels 6 and 7, which are equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some apprenticeships may also offer additional professional qualifications, such as ACCA, CMI and CIPD. 

“Apprenticeships are only for young people”

Fact : Apprenticeships are available to people of all ages and anyone over the age of 16 living in England can apply. There are different entry requirements depending on the industry, job role and apprenticeship level.

“Apprenticeships cannot be used for existing staff”

Fact : Apprenticeships can be used to upskill and/or retrain employees of any age, as long as the apprenticeship is giving them new skills to enable them to achieve competence in their chosen occupation.  Many of our current employee apprentices are existing staff making the most of funded apprenticeship opportunities to upskill, whilst working towards a national recognised qualification and, in some areas, professional membership too. 

"Apprenticeships have to involve one day off a week, spent in college”

Fact : Off-the-job training does not have to involve one day a week spent in college. Other forms of training can count towards the minimum 20% requirement. For example, in-house training to develop skills, attendance at conferences/network events, shadowing, evidence gathering, and completing course assignments. Off-the-job training can be delivered in a way and place that suit the employer and the provider, allowing the apprentice to learn the new knowledge, skills and behaviours required. The style and timing of learning is very varied – it could be a block of time or online to fit in with work patterns and sometimes employees don’t actually have to be off site at all. 

“Apprentices are poorly paid”

Fact : The national minimum apprenticeship salary for new entrants is currently £4.81 per hour for the first year of the apprenticeship.  However, the University of Essex’s apprentice rate is higher than this.

If you are an existing member of staff undertaking an apprenticeship you will remain on your current pay grade.  However, both the line manager and individual must be fully committed to complete their apprenticeship through to End Point Assessment.  Most apprenticeships take between one to four years to complete (dependent on age, prior skills and apprenticeship type/level and sector).

“It isn’t possible to do an apprenticeship and work full time”

Fact : Apprenticeships are a vocational way to train and are completed alongside your job.  The training and assessment elements of apprenticeships are fully funded.  However, you may need to complete some of the academic work in your own time and be prepared to travel for some of the off-the-job training requirements.

“Apprenticeships are only for the construction or trade industry”

Fact : This isn’t the case and hasn’t been for a long while.  There is a wide breadth of apprenticeship training across all areas of our workforce, such as finance, IT, business administration, customer service, management, HR, marketing, technicians, project management, to name but a few. You can search the Institute for Apprenticeships website to see what is available. It is constantly being updated as new standards come online every month.

“Apprenticeships are low quality training options”

 Fact : Changes to funding, minimum requirements and the development of occupation-focused standards by employers and trailblazers have driven up the quality of apprenticeships. 

Discover more

You can find out more about Employee Apprenticeships on the Staff Directory, or, if you have any questions, please do contact me.