We know that younger workers have been particularly hard hit by job losses through the pandemic. It therefore probably comes as no surprise that apprenticeships are receiving a lot of attention from the Government as part of its action to reinvigorate the UK economy.

Apprenticeships can play a vital part in industry in offering opportunities to individuals to increase their knowledge and get valuable on-the-job experience. There are now various changes ahead which both organisations who already use apprentices and those who’ve not done so before should know about.

Flexi-job apprenticeships consultation

As part of the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan for growth, a consultation has been taking place on a flexi-job apprenticeship scheme. The proposed scheme aims to support the growth of apprenticeships in targeted industries that may not be able to offer long enough placements for apprentices to meet the government’s duration requirement of 12 months.

The consultation launched on 20 April 2021 to seek views from industry and other interested parties on how the scheme might work. It ran for six weeks, closing on 1 June 2021.

The stated aim of the proposed new scheme is to open even more careers to apprentices in sectors where otherwise short-term and project-based work are the norm. If adopted, it would enable an apprentice to work across a range of projects and with different employers to gain the full skills and experience they need to complete their programme.

The consultation set out two visions for flexi-job apprenticeships:

Portable apprenticeships

Currently, apprenticeships offered under the framework system are at least 12 months long, so some sectors with flexible employment patterns and short-term roles, such as agriculture, construction and creative, have found it challenging to create enough opportunities for apprentices.

However, if the scheme is adopted the intention is that employers would be able to offer more flexible apprenticeship opportunities. Employers would be able to take apprentices on even though they could not employ them for the whole programme and apprentices could pause and resume their apprenticeships between projects, with funding stopping and starting as needed. It would mean, for example, that an apprentice in the creative sector could work across a host of entertainment platforms such TV, film and theatre to give them maximum exposure and the opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge across different productions.

The consultation confirms that through 2021-22, Government will continue to work closely with employers in the creative and construction sectors to design and test portable apprenticeships.

Flexi-job apprenticeships

Under this model, Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) would provide an option of continuously employed apprentices who are loaned out at a charge to other employers.

The purpose is to support employers who wish to take on an apprentice but the ATA acts as the apprentice’s employer (and therefore has responsibility for managing the apprenticeship) and places them with an employer who will be approved and regulated through the ATA.

There are a number of successful ATAs already in existence and the consultation reports that creative industries are also already looking at developing their own versions of the model.

The proposals around flexi-job apprenticeships aim to develop a system for apprenticeships which will overcome the challenges faced by certain sectors and in doing so meet the demands of employers and provide high-quality learning experiences for apprentices, whilst doing so within a financially sustainable framework.

What’s next?

As announced in the 2021 Budget, a flexi-job apprenticeship fund will launch in July 2021. The Government will set out further details of the scheme in due course, which is intended to boost apprenticeships in sectors with varied and flexible models of employment.

Employers will be invited to bid for a share of a £7 million fund to create and test new flexi-job apprenticeship schemes, with the first approved flexi-job apprenticeships expected to start in January 2022. The £7m fund will be available across 2021/2022 and 2022/2023.

Skills Accelerator programme

These plans will be further supported through a new Skills Accelerator programme launched by the Department for Education, which aims to build stronger partnerships between local employer groups, such as Chambers of Commerce, colleges and other providers to make sure communities are getting the training needed to meet local skills gaps. Those interested will have access to a £65 million fund to develop and deliver plans in pilot areas in 2021/2022.

Additional funding

Alongside the flexi-job apprenticeship consultation and new Skills Accelerator, work is ongoing with business of all sizes to support them to offer more high-quality apprenticeship opportunities, so employers and individuals can access the skills they need to succeed.

To help with this, the Government is already offering cash incentives for employers of £3,000 for each new apprentice they take on until the end of September 2021. This is in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive payment the Government provides for all new 16-18 year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan.

The Chancellor has also pledged an additional £126 million to support traineeships, funding work placements and training for 16 to 24 year olds. Employers who provide trainees with work experience will continue to be funded at a rate of £1,000 per trainee; you can find more information about the scheme here.