Knowledge Centre

Welcome to Strive Training’s Apprenticeship Knowledge Centre, where we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy.

When it comes to the ever-changing and often confusing world of apprenticeships there is a lot to cover. We have been as comprehensive as possible, but if you find you have a question we have not answered, please get in touch today.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is an on-the-job training programme that allows employers to train students for specific roles. In return, the apprentice receives a wage along with training, which can lead to a nationally-recognised qualification such as an NVQ or QCF.

Who can do an apprenticeship?

In the United Kingdom anyone aged 16 years or above can become an apprentice. There is no upper age limit and the apprentice can already be an employee of the company. The apprentice needs no formal qualifications to enrol on their apprenticeship. Additionally, the apprentice cannot already be in full or part time education.

What are the benefits of apprentices for my business?

In addition to being greatly beneficial to the apprentice, the advantages apprentices bring to businesses are huge. In fact, businesses have as much to gain as the apprentice themselves.

Firstly, apprentices are a proven way to recruit and retain new staff, as well as upskill or retrain existing employees. This can help you address skill shortages in your workplace and build an accomplished and qualified workforce.

Apprentices can also help future-proof your business, by providing you with a loyal and motivated employee who is ready to prove themselves. They will learn skills and knowledge tailored directly to your business through on-the-job training, and – by training in the latest trends and technologies – can bring both enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the workplace, which in turn can increase productivity and bring a competitive edge to your business.

Taking on apprentices is also good for your business’s public image, with two thirds of the public perceiving businesses that take on apprentices as ‘contributing to society and providing opportunities for young people’, according to a 2015 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Can graduates participate in an apprenticeship?

IYes – funding is now available for apprenticeships for graduates, regardless of their age or experience. However, the apprenticeship they undertake must be significantly different to the previous qualifications they hold, meaning new skills are learned.

What qualifications will apprentices gain?

Although it ultimately depends on the sector, level and type of apprenticeship, apprentices will often work towards a nationally-recognised National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and/or other professional qualifications.

What levels of apprenticeship are available?

There are several levels available, as detailed below:

  • Level 2: Intermediate Level Apprenticeship
  • Level 3: Advanced Level Apprenticeship
  • Level 4: Higher Apprenticeship (Foundation Degree level)
  • Level 5: Degree Apprenticeship

Strive Training currently offer Levels 2, 3 and 4 apprenticeship training, and will soon be moving into Level 5.

Are apprenticeships available for existing employees?

Yes – you can use an apprenticeship to up-skill your existing employees. Any employee can become an apprentice, regardless of age or qualifications. However some restrictions do apply – employees on an apprenticeship:

  • Must commit to remaining an employee for the duration of the apprenticeship.
  • Must not already be studying at college/school (part or full-time).
  • Must be contracted to work for at least 16 hours a week.
  • Must live in the United Kingdom.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

There is no set timescale as each apprentice and apprenticeship is different, although they will typically last between one and four years (no less than 12 months), depending on the level and qualification. In general, a Level 2 apprenticeship will usually take between 12 to 23 months, and a Level 3 apprenticeship can take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Do I have to employ my apprentice?

Yes – all apprentices must be employed. You are responsible for paying your apprentice’s wages and issuing their Contract of Employment. However, this does not imply continuous employment after the apprenticeship is completed.

What is a traineeship?

A traineeship helps prepare and develop young people aged 16 to 24 years-old lacking the work experience needed to undertake a job or an apprenticeship. It is a structured training programme designed to help the individual attain the necessary skills – including English, maths and practical work experience – to compete for an apprenticeship or a job.

What if I cannot find a suitable apprentice?

There are many options available to you, and Strive Training can both advise and help you find the right apprentice to fill your vacancy.

In some scenarios you may find an individual who you feel has potential, but is not ready for the job at this stage. If this is the case, a traineeship (see above) may be the best route to help develop them into an apprenticeship-ready candidate.

How much do apprentices get paid?

As an employer, you can decide how much to pay an apprentice, providing the figure meets the National Minimum Wage for apprentices. From April 2017, the National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £3.50 per hour – this applies to apprentices under 19, and apprentices aged 19 or over in their first year. If the apprentice is aged 19 and has completed their first year, they must then be paid the full National Minimum Wage. For the current governmental requirements, please speak to your Strive Training contact.

For existing employees, do their salaries change if they become an apprentice?

No – there is no reduction in an employee’s salary if they become an apprentice.

What happens if an apprentice goes on maternity, paternity or long-term sick leave?

An apprenticeship can be paused if an apprentice goes on maternity, paternity or long-term sick leave. The apprenticeship would resume when the apprentice returns to work.

Are apprentices entitled to holiday pay and sick pay?

Yes – apprentices are entitled to the same conditions as your other employees in similar roles.

How many hours can an apprentice work?

An apprentice must be offered a minimum of 30 hours of work per week, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. They are also not permitted to work more than eight hours per day.

Are they allowed to work on weekends or Bank Holidays?

Yes – an apprentice can work both weekends and Bank Holidays, providing their total working week is not more than 40 hours.

Must apprentices be full-time members of staff?

Not necessarily – part-time staff are able to participate in an apprenticeship, although it will naturally take the part-time apprentice much longer to complete the apprenticeship.

What happens if I am unable to fulfil my apprentice’s training?

Strive Training will work with you to adjust your apprentice’s training programme to reflect your work pressures. If you require, we can also help the apprentice find a new employer.

What if my apprentice leaves before their apprenticeship comes to an end?

From the last day of learning, all funding is stopped with nothing removed from your digital account. Strive Training will help you to find a replacement apprentice if you require.

What are the differences between Frameworks and Standards?

When the government reformed the apprenticeship system, one of the biggest changes was the introduction of new Apprenticeship Standards to replace existing Apprenticeship Frameworks. By 2020, all of the existing Frameworks will be replaced by new Standards.

These new Standards put employers back in control, as they are designed and developed with employers instead of by the government. This will lead to greater flexibility, with higher quality and more relevant training, regardless of the industry.

The main differences between the two systems is that Standards require apprenticeships to last for a minimum of 12 months, and have a new assessment process. Instead of assessing the work throughout the program, the new focus is on assessing the student’s work at the end of the apprenticeship. This has seen the introduction of an End Point Assessment (EPA).

How do End Point Assessments (EPA) work?

An End Point Assessment (EPA) is separate to any other assessment undertaken during the apprenticeship, and is the final test that will define whether or not the apprentice will receive their apprenticeship completion certificate. It is designed to allow a student to demonstrate a complete knowledge of the skills and behaviours needed to effectively carry out the role they have trained for.

The EPA will naturally vary depending on the apprenticeship, and therefore there is no standard one-size-fits-all examination. However each EPA will have an independent assessor, will be graded (Pass, Fail, Excellence, or Distinction), will be taken under exam conditions, and will involve some or all of the following aspects: multiple choice tests; observed practical skills tests; professional interview with an independent assessor; workplace projects; and/or completion of an evidence portfolio/logbook.

Who can deliver an EPA?

The EPA can be delivered by awarding organisations, training providers or employers, providing they are approved Apprentice Assessment Organisations (AAO) that are registered with the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Can the apprentice re-sit a failed EPA?

Yes – if an apprentice fails part or all of their first EPA they can re-sit the assessment. Employers can discuss arrangements for re-sits with the AAO. These re-sits are subject to extra charges (which vary depending on the apprenticeship), and should only be attempted after extra training is arranged.

What happens at the end of an apprenticeship?

After celebrating the achievement, you can assess the options available to both yourself and your apprentice.

There are many avenues for progression. One route is to extend the programme to include further training towards a higher-level apprenticeship.

You can also offer the apprentice full-time employment, especially if they have become skilled and committed workers over the course of the apprenticeship. If this is the case, normal employment rules will apply.

If there is no progression opportunities within the business for the apprentice, they can leave your business with at least one year of work experience. If this is the case, you must help the apprentice to find new employment.

What is the levy?

On 6 April 2017 the government introduced a new apprenticeship levy for businesses in the UK with a payroll over £3 million. The money raised from this new tax will go into a national treasury pot, where it will be reinvested in apprenticeships by covering apprenticeship training fees. The purpose of the levy is to encourage businesses to take on more apprentices, with the government’s ultimate aim to fund three million apprenticeships in the UK by 2020.

Do I need to pay the levy?

It depends.

You do need to pay the levy if you are an employer in the UK in any sector with a gross annual payroll of £3 million or above. Employers meeting these requirements must pay 0.5% of their wage bill into the levy pot. The government tops up this amount by an additional 10%. (Example: a £10,000 levy bill will result in you having £11,100 to spend on apprenticeships, accessible through a new digital account).

You do not pay the levy if your annual payroll is less than £3 million (around 98% of all employers). Businesses too small to be levied will be funded 90% of apprenticeship training costs by the government.

Does the £3 million payroll include bonuses and pensions?

Yes – the payroll includes everything in National Insurance Class 1, meaning that both bonuses and pension payments are taken into consideration.

What if I am a small business with less than 50 employees?

Small businesses with less than 50 employees are likely to receive 100% of apprenticeship training costs – providing the apprentice is a 19 to 24 year-old care-leaver, or is 19 to 24 years of age and has a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan. If this is not the case, the smaller business will pay 10% of the apprenticeship training costs, with the remaining 90% co-funded by the government. 16 to 18 year olds are fully funded.

What can I spend the levy on?

Employers can spend their levy funds on any level of apprenticeship training and assessment via an approved training provider such as Strive Training. You can also use the levy for the apprenticeship training of existing staff of any age, providing they are learning new skills through a new role, a promotion, or added responsibilities.

What happens when I use up my levy payment?

If you have spent all of your levy allowance, but still want to train more apprentices, the government will continue to fund 90% of apprentice training costs.

How is the levy being taken?

The levy is collected monthly by HMRC, reported and paid via the PAYE process alongside income tax and National Insurance. This means that payment will be collected any month when your wage bill is over £250,000.

If I don’t use the levy, can I have the money back?

No – you are not able to have the money back and are not allowed to carry over any unused allowance into the next tax year.

What if I pay too much?

If you are aware that you have paid too much into the levy for whatever reason, overpayments can be claimed back in the same way as other PAYE overpayments.

Can the levy be used in Wales, Ireland or Scotland?

While the levy applies to employers across the UK, only employers in England will receive funding. For other employers, a £0.5 billion portion of the levy will be allocated to devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. These individual governments will decide how the funds are spent.

How long is the levy pot usable for?

Funds received will stay in an employer’s digital account for 24 months, then it will expire.

What is a funding band?

From April 2017, the government categorized all apprenticeships – both Frameworks and Standards – into 15 funding bands. Each funding band has its own individual upper limit (for example: Band 1 is £1,500; Band 8 is £6,000; and Band 15 is £27,000). These upper limits determine how much levy funding or government co-investment can be used to pay for apprenticeship training.

The government decide the worth of the qualification based on factors such as training costs, what is involved in the apprenticeship, and the assessment of the programme. The upper limit means that employers are not permitted to spend their entire funding on a single apprentice, which encourages businesses to take on more apprentices. However, an employer is permitted to invest their own funds (aside from the levy or government co-investment) on further training.

What is the Digital Apprenticeship System?

Launched in April 2017, the Digital Apprenticeship System is the online administrative portal where employers can access their levy funds and find training providers. In this digital account you will see the levy funds available to spend on apprenticeships as well as payments to training providers leaving the account automatically.

The system will also provide details of training providers in your area that offer the apprenticeship you desire, allowing you to approach and negotiate training costs.

How do I pay a training provider for apprenticeship training?

If you are paying the levy, after an apprenticeship has been started, monthly payments will automatically be taken from your digital account and sent directly to the training provider.

If you are not paying the levy, you must contribute 10% towards the cost of training and assessing your apprentice. The government will pay the remaining 90% of the training costs directly to the training provider (up to the funding band maximum).

Can my business become an apprenticeship training provider?

Yes, this route has been successfully taken by some companies. Becoming an apprenticeship training provider will allow you to deliver your own apprenticeship training while drawing funding back into the organisation.

However, taking this route means you will be subject to Ofsted inspections and the added administration that comes with being a training provider.

Which apprenticeships does Strive Training offer?

At Strive Training our focus is on the food and drink and healthcare sectors.

Food and Drink

We offer apprenticeships in virtually any area of the food and drink industry, from practical hands-on roles, to management, administration, logistics and sales. We are also now expanding into the hospitality sector.


(Health care apprenticeships allow learners to showcase their practice whilst building a sound theoretical knowledge to underpin this. The learning programme contains modules to support everyday tasks but allows learner choices to specialise in a particular sector.

While our list of apprenticeships is extensive, if you find that we do not cover the specific apprenticeship you are looking for, we will endeavour to create an apprenticeship specifically for that role. Find out more about the apprenticeships we offer.

Does the £3 million payroll include bonuses and pensions?

Yes – the payroll includes everything in National Insurance Class 1, meaning that both bonuses and pension payments are taken into consideration.

What types of employer do you work with?

We work with both levied and non-levied employers of all shapes and sizes – from the smallest family businesses to huge national companies.

Are you a registered provider of apprenticeship training?

Yes – Strive Training is a recognised provider of apprenticeship training and is listed on the Skills Funding Agency’s Register of Training Organisations.

Can I use your apprenticeship training to recover my apprenticeship levy?

Yes – all of our apprenticeship training is compliant with the apprenticeship levy. Strive Training will work with you to develop a programme that will allow you to recover 100% of the amount you pay to HMRC if you are levied.

Can my business access government co-funding through you?

Yes – through Strive Training non-levied businesses can access training using co-funding from the Skills Funding Agency. We can also offer the same co-funding for levied businesses who have used up their levy funding.

Can you help me recruit new apprentices?

Yes – we have a great success rate in helping businesses across all sectors find the right apprentices.

How do I start the apprenticeship process?

Get in touch with us! Apprenticeships can be complicated to get to grips with, but with Strive Training you do not need to become an expert. You can continue with the important job of running your business, while we sort out the procedures, funding and recruitment involved in an apprenticeship.

Can I contact you to ask further questions?

Of course – we’d love to hear from you and help answer any further questions or concerns you have. You can give us a call on 0800 180 4841, send us an email, or get in touch via our contact form.