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Apprenticeships in the North East

Information provided by North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP)

Supporting North East businesses in recruiting apprentices

This section aims to help businesses to understand different types of apprenticeship, how apprenticeship reform is likely to affect them, and the nuts and bolts to consider when planning to recruit apprentices. 

Over the past few years the government has embarked on a large-scale programme to reform the way apprenticeships are delivered and funded in England. 

The government will double the annual level of apprenticeship spending between 2010-11 and 2019-20 to £2.5bn, which will be funded by the new apprenticeship levy. The levy will be paid by employers with a pay bill of over £3m from April 2017.


What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a real job with training. It's a way for individuals to earn while they gain valuable skills and knowledge in a specific job role. Apprenticeships are available in 1,500 occupations across 170 industries. Businesses of all sizes and sectors in England can recruit an apprentice and they can last anything from 12 months to 4 years.


How do they work?

A training organisation - college, training provider or university, will work closely with you to ensure that the apprenticeship offered is the most appropriate for the individual's job role, while reflecting individual employer and learner needs. To complete the apprenticeship, the apprentice must perform tasks confidently and completely to the standard set by the industry.


Who are they for?

Individuals over the age of 16, living in England and not in full time education can apply for an apprenticeship. Employers can offer apprenticeships to new entrants or use them to grow talent from among current employees.


To find out more about the difference between apprenticeships and degress, read our interview with John Widdowson.

Apprentices can bring many advantages to your company, not least the fresh ideas and flexibility they offer your business.


These businesses have already recruited apprentices as part of their workforce - check out why they thought apprenticeships were the right path for them:



Gateshead-based ITPS have been offering ICT apprenticeships since 2002 and have since helped 36 young people kick-start their careers in industry. The ICT and data centre service recently partnered with the Northern Skills Group, to secure a new generation of apprentices.



Nifco is a global plastic component supplier based in the North East that works with a network of automotive manufacturers. Established in 1967 in Tokyo, Nifco has expanded into 17 countries with more than 35 production plants and four R&D Centres. It employs 600 people and is committed to its own apprenticeship programme. 


We spoke to Rob Dodds, apprenticeship co-ordinator at Unipres, to find out more about the process for hiring an apprentice.

Six steps for hiring an apprentice



In addition, apprenticeship training agencies (ATAs) recruit, employ and arrange training for apprentices on behalf of employers. To find out more about ATAs and the ATA framework go to the ATA web page.

Thanks to the Department for Education for providing this excellent infographic about how to find the right training provider:

There are various levels of apprenticeship available, choose which works best for you dependent on the needs of your business.


Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A Level
Higher  4,5,6 & 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 & 7 Bachelor's or Masters degree


Thank you to Pearson for their Handy Guide to Apprenticeship Reform, which summarises how apprenticeships are changing and how this may impact on businesses, as follows:

The current reform is a result of the Richard Review (2012) which made a number of recommendations on simplification and on placing employers in the driving seat. In October 2013 the first employer groups were formed as ‘Trailblazers’ to design new English apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches. All new apprenticeship standards will be designed by employers, around singular occupations, and will include:

  • End point assessment
  • A holistic element to end-point assessment
  • Grading where possible
  • Assessment that covers theoretical and practical elements
  • No formal requirement for qualifications
  • ‘Mastery mechanism’ – with a single approach to assessment against the standard
  • English and Maths – ambition for GCSEs although Functional Skills is still ‘appropriate’
  • Minimum 12 months’ duration
  • Minimum 20% off-the-job training
  • Use of technology in design, delivery and assessment.

The reform forms part of broader changes to the apprenticeships system including:

  • Changes to the funding rules, methodology and introduction of Levy
  • Government 3 million target in this parliament
  • Legislation to protect the term apprenticeship in the Enterprise Bill.

The overall direction of travel remains unchanged, with employers leading on setting standards and specifying the assessment approach; however there have been substantial announcements on policy and implementation.


The Apprenticeship Levy was first announced by the government in the 2015 summer budget. It seeks to bolster the UK’s productivity by creating and funding three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 and came into force in April 2017. Click the links or scroll down for more information

Does the Apprenticeship Levy affect me?

All UK-based employers who pay their employees more than £3 million each year will be required to pay in 0.5% of their total pay bill into the Levy, although it’s expected that 98% of organisations in the UK won’t have to pay anything.


How much will the Apprenticeship Levy cost?

If you qualify for the Levy, you’ll need to pay in 0.5% of your annual pay bill to the fund via HMRC’s PAYE (Pay As You Earn) scheme. However, qualifying organisations will also be subject to a £15,000 allowance that can be offset against their payments.

Connected companies and group organisations that, separately, may not meet the qualifying criteria may still have to pay if their group’s total annual payroll surpasses the £3 million mark.

Find out how much your business needs to pay into the Apprenticeship Levy


Is the Apprenticeship Levy just another tax I’ll have to pay?

While the Apprenticeship Levy will cost qualifying organisations money, businesses will be able to get out more than they pay into the levy through a 10% top-up of funds from the government to spend in England on apprenticeships.That means for every £1 that enters your digital account to spend on apprenticeship training, you get £1.10.


How do I recoup the money I pay into the Apprenticeship Levy?

The funds you pay into the Levy, plus the government’s 10% top-up, will be added to your Apprenticeship Service Account, which can be used to take on new apprentices, or pay for training for existing staff.

Once you have paid the apprenticeships levy through the PAYE system administered by HMRC, you will be given access to a new digital apprenticeship service account. Through this account, you will be able to select apprenticeship training, choose your training provider and assessor and pay for training.

Providers are paid directly by the government after it’s verified that your training has been completed and if you don’t use the funds in your Apprenticeship Service Account, they’ll expire after 24 months.


What if I don’t pay the Apprenticeship Levy?

Unfortunately, if your organisation falls within the scope of the Levy, you don’t have a choice. HMRC will have the power to assess companies and if deemed necessary, impose penalties for non-compliance.  Employers can be penalised for a wide range of Levy-related issues, including:

  • Failing to keep up-to-date and appropriate records
  • Errors on Levy-related returns
  • Failure to provide these returns
  • Late payments.

What can I use my Apprenticeship Levy funds for?

While the term ‘apprenticeships’ may put you in mind of taking on a very young person in an entry-level role, your Levy funds can also be used to upskill your existing staff in a variety of ways. more detail


Can I use Levy funds for training that isn’t apprenticeship-based?

Unfortunately not. However, a wave of new apprenticeships are being introduced to cover a broad scope of training - including disciplines like marketing, HR and management (more detail).


How many apprentices will my Levy payment get me?

This will be largely dependent on the amount you’ll pay into the Levy and the type of training you’re looking to procure.


As of April 2017, both new Apprenticeship standards and existing frameworks are split into 15 funding bands - each of which will have an upper limit on training costs (these will range from £1,500 to £27,000).  more information


How will funding for young apprentices change?

Companies with fewer than 50 employees are able to forgo any training costs when taking on 16 to 18 year old apprentices.

Employers that arent paying into the Levy (as well as Levy-paying emplouers that have used up all their funds) will still be able to procure training under a co-investment scheme. This means your organisation will have to pay 10% towards the cost of training, with the government taking on the other 90%.

Employers with fewer than 50 people working for them will be able to train those who are aged 16 to 24 who have previously been in care of the local authority or who have a local authority education, health and care plan, at no cost.


How do I find an approved training provider?

Both Levy-paying employers and smaller organisations can search for suitable apprenticeships and identify approved training providers who can deliver that training through the Skills Funding Agency website.


Will the Apprentice Levy affect public sector organisations like schools?

All public sector employers that meet the necessary criteria will fall under the scope of the Levy, with a few exceptions. This is likely to affect multi-academy trusts, large stand-alone schools and maintained schools, whose designated employer is the local authority.


Public sector organisations also have to comply with the government’s public sector apprenticeship targets, which will require them to employ the equivalent of 2.3 per cent of their workforce as apprentices per annum.


How will the Apprenticeship Levy affect small employers?

The Apprenticeship Levy ensures that employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million contribute 0.5% of their payroll to a fund that’ll be used to generate three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.


Check if your business needs to pay the Apprenticeship Levy

However, even if your organisation won’t need to pay towards the Levy, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the funding pot to meet your workforce development needs.


Unlike Levy-payers, organisations who don’t meet the threshold won’t need to register for an Apprenticeship Service Account to pay for their training. However, post-2018, plans are in place for the government to roll out the Apprenticeship Account Service to smaller companies, but they have promised there’ll be ample time and preparation to support this.

More information on how the levy affects smaller employers


Are there restrictions on who the Apprenticeship Levy can support?

Unlike the current system, under the Apprenticeship Levy, there are no barriers to eligibility based on the qualifications of a potential candidate. This means employers can utilise apprenticeship training, whether they’re taking on new entry-level staff, or seeking to upskill their existing staff.


Do I need to set up an Apprenticeship Account Service if I am a smaller, non-levy paying employer?

Yes - smaller employers still need to register with the Apprenticeship Account Service to procure their training (when it becomes available) and use the system to select an appropriate apprenticeship from either existing SASE (Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England) frameworks or the new Trailblazer standards, which are being rolled out to replace them. more info


The Apprenticeship Account Service will also contain a register of approved training providers, which are the only organisations that can be used to procure Levy-funded training.



The government website hosts a range of useful information about the Apprenticeship Levy.

If you have any questions you can contact the apprenticeship employer helpline

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 08000 150 600

Denis Heaney

Enterprise Co-Ordinator

North East Local Enterprise Partnership

[email protected]

0191 338 7420

Tagged under Apprenticeships