Apprenticeship frameworks

This information is designed for use by union reps. If you are an apprentice, see our Information and resources for apprentices.

What are Apprenticeship frameworks?

An Apprenticeship framework:

  • is a document that covers all the statutory requirements for an Apprenticeship programme in England or Wales
  • is used by colleges, employers and training providers to make sure that all Apprenticeship programmes are delivered consistently and therefore to national standards, no matter where in England and Wales the Apprenticeship takes place
  • includes the names of all qualifications and what each qualification is worth (its 'credit value')
  • gives guidance on how to get on to an Apprenticeship programme, the time it will take and career paths available after an Apprenticeship.

How many frameworks are there?

There are more than 250 frameworks on offer covering more than 1,200 job roles. The number is constantly growing as new frameworks are developed in different sectors. You can find Apprenticeships in everything from photo imaging, dental nursing, floristry, footwear and leather goods, telesales and beauty therapy to more traditional Apprenticeships such as construction and engineering.

Many frameworks are available as Advanced Apprenticeships and some are available as Higher Apprenticeships. Apprenticeship frameworks are devised and accredited by issuing authorities – organisations designated by the Secretary of State to issue Apprenticeship frameworks for a particular sector. There is only one issuing authority for each occupational sector.

From 6 April 2011 Apprenticeship frameworks in England must meet the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE).

For a comprehensive and up-to-date list of Apprenticeship frameworks available, check the Apprenticeship frameworks: live list.

How long do Apprenticeships last?

Apprenticeship schemes can last different lengths of time depending on the framework, employer, provider or level. However, the TUC recommends that all Apprenticeships should last at least a year for Level 2 schemes, while schemes in some sectors and at advanced and higher levels should be significantly longer. When negotiating the duration of Apprenticeships, union reps might want to consider the following issues:

  • An international comparison in 2010 of Apprenticeship schemes found that "in all Apprenticeship countries except Australia and England most Apprenticeship programmes take three years to complete or, in the case of Ireland, four years. In Australia, 'traditional apprenticeships' last for three years with traineeships lasting on average for one year. In England the average for all Apprenticeships is between one and two years."
  • Towards the end of 2011 there was a considerable amount of negative publicity around so-called 'short Apprenticeships', with examples including 16-week programmes offering an Apprenticeship in catering or hospitality, or a retail scheme offering a six-month, part-time, £2.60/hour Apprenticeship – which just happened to coincide with the Christmas retail period.
  • The TUC has also expressed concern about the increased numbers of adult Apprenticeships being taken on by existing staff over short durations, which appear to be little more than accreditation of prior learning. The TUC has worked with employers, media and other learning organisations to take a firmer stance on these short Apprenticeships, not just out of concern for the apprentices involved but also due to a wider worry about the increasing damage being done to the public perception of the 'Apprenticeship brand'. The Skills Minister, John Hayes, has announced that from August 2012 all Apprenticeships for 16- to 18-year-olds must last for at least 12 months and must entail a rigorous period of job-relevant learning and the practice of new skills. He subsequently announced that the National Apprenticeship Service will look into whether this requirement should extend to older apprentices.

Apprenticeship Agreements

The requirement for an Apprenticeship Agreement between an employer and an apprentice, under the Apprenticeships Skills Children and Learning Act 2009, came into force on 6 April 2012. An Apprenticeship Agreement is required at the commencement of the Apprenticeship for all new apprentices who start on or after that date. The Apprenticeship Agreement must state that the apprentice will be undertaking an Apprenticeship in a particular skill, trade or occupation.

Next: Levels of Apprenticeship