Apprenticeships Toolkit

A resource for union negotiators and reps

How to use this toolkit

This digital toolkit is a resource for union reps and ULRs who are negotiating with employers on Apprenticeships or who are approaching an employer to discuss the possibility of taking on apprentices. The factsheets provide concise information on a range of topics related to Apprenticeships.

Printed toolkits are available too and in these the factsheets can be taken out and given directly to an employer if information on a specific topic is required. Printed toolkits can be ordered from [email protected]

Useful TUC resources

For more information about the TUC’s work on Apprenticeships please email [email protected] or call 0207 079 6920.

This title may also be made available, on request, in accessible electronic formats or in Braille, audiotape and large print, at no extra cost.

Apprenticeships Toolkit. A resource for union negotiators and reps

Click on the image above to open the toolkit

Apprenticeships Toolkit. A resource for union negotiators and reps
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Negotiating and bargaining on Apprenticeships

The government has committed to substantially increase the number of Apprenticeships. Therefore, it is crucial that union reps and officers negotiate with employers to set up high-quality Apprenticeships.

Apprentices should have contracts of employment for at least the duration of the training period

Trade unions support and represent apprentices in a number of ways, from recruitment and organising, to pay bargaining, learning and skills, equality and diversity and health and safety. Unions will have their own negotiating approaches on Apprenticeships. Some will include Apprenticeships in learning agreements, some will draw up specific Apprenticeship agreements and others will treat apprentices like any other category of worker.

Apprenticeships are required to meet government minimum standards. These include: a minimum duration of 12 months, employed for 30 hours per week (this can be reduced to a minimum of 16 hours to accommodate part-time apprentices, for example, but only in exceptional circumstances); an English and maths requirement; and minimum requirements around on and off the job training. Apprentices have the same statutory rights as other employees. Unions will often negotiate higher quality Apprenticeships that far exceed these minimum standards.

The TUC Charter on Apprenticeships ( outlines the key principles that should underpin an Apprenticeship and includes the following points:

Contract of employment – Apprentices should have contracts of employment for at least the duration of the training period. Ideally an Apprenticeship should lead to a guaranteed job.

Decent pay and conditions (see the Pay sheet) – One in seven apprentices are not receiving the minimum wage to which they are entitled1. These are unlikely to be apprentices in unionised workplaces as unions will negotiate fair wage rates for their apprentices. Wage rates should progress incrementally as apprentices begin to increase their skill levels. If percentage rates are negotiated, they should start as high as possible and progress by time served or competencies achieved, rather than by age. In industries such as construction with nationally agreed apprentice pay, ensure the local employer is complying with that agreement.

High quality training – (See also the High Quality Training sheet). Union negotiators will want to ensure that Apprenticeship programmes in their workplace identify a clear programme of training, including sufficient time spent o the job, such as in college, in dedicated training centres at the workplace, or in private study.

Access to a trade union – Apprentices have the right to join a trade union. Apprentices are often young people with little experience of the workplace or trade unions. Union reps should negotiate with employers to make sure that the union has the opportunity to speak to apprentices when they start work.

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Equality and diversity (see also the Equality sheet) – A good Apprenticeship programme should include strategies to ensure that Apprenticeships are accessible to the widest possible demographic.

Health and safety (see also the Health & Safety sheet) – Apprentices must be able to learn new skills in a safe environment. Apprentices are especially vulnerable to health and safety risks as they are working in unfamiliar environments, often with unfamiliar equipment. Safeguarding employees from physical or mental harm is a major priority for unions and unions should ensure that the importance of health and safety is a priority in any Apprenticeship scheme.

No job substitution – It is vital that unions negotiate to ensure that apprentices are not used for job substitution as a way to save on wage costs, and that they are recruited to fill genuine skills shortages and that employers plan for future skills gaps.

Mentoring (see also the Mentoring sheet) – The role that mentoring plays in supporting apprentices successfully to complete their training, and to progress in their career, has been a crucial aspect of a quality Apprenticeship experience for centuries. Union engagement in Apprenticeships at the workplace level should involve some form of mentoring of apprentices by union representatives.

It is vital that unions negotiate to ensure that apprentices are not used for job substitution

Apprenticeships – working across the union

All union reps have roles to play in ensuring that Apprenticeship schemes are high quality. Stewards have a clear role to play in ensuring that apprentices are included within collective bargaining negotiations over terms and conditions.

ULRs have statutory rights to promote learning or training with their colleagues and to work with their employers and local providers to ensure all the workforce can take up the opportunities. ULRs can help to ensure that the training aspect of the Apprenticeship is of sufficient quality.

Health and safety representatives can work to ensure that the workplace is suitable for apprentices, in terms of equipment, environment and culture.

Reps of any kind could take on a mentoring role within the Apprenticeship scheme.

If some of these roles are not present in the workplace, the introduction and support of apprentices would be a good opportunity to recruit to these posts.

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Making the business case

There is strong evidence2 that Apprenticeships are a good prospect for investment in terms of returns to individuals, businesses and to government.


  • The lifetime benefits for adult apprentices at Level 2 and 3 are very significant, standing at between £48,000 and £74,000 for Level 2 and between £77,000 and £117,000 for Level 3 Apprenticeships. Higher apprentices could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared to those with L3 vocational qualifications.
  • Eighty-five percent of all age apprentices included in the Apprentice learner survey 2014 said their ability to do the job had improved, and 83 per cent of those apprentices said their career prospects had improved. Eighty-nine per cent of apprentices were happy with their Apprenticeship experience.
  • Apprentices on higher level, good quality Apprenticeships – those with a Level 5 qualification – will earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group, taking home close to £1.5m over their career3.


  • Eighty-two percent of employers said that they were satisfied with their Apprenticeship programme.
  • Seventy percent of employers included in the Apprentice employer survey 2014 reported that Apprenticeships improved the quality of their product or service.

The economy as a whole – Apprenticeships deliver productivity and growth

  • The National Audit Office Report, published in February 2012, demonstrates the high level of return to investment delivered by the Apprenticeship Programme, indicating that adult Apprenticeships deliver £18 of economic benefits for each pound of government investment. The government estimates are even higher, at £28 for each pound of government investment.
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The Apprentice levy and other developments

The government has committed to delivering three million Apprenticeship starts over the course of this parliament. In the last parliamentary period there were 2.2m Apprenticeship starts, so there will be a substantial increase.

Employers will be able to recoup their levy contribution if they take on apprentices

The Apprenticeship levy

The UK government will collect an Apprenticeship levy from all eligible employers (both private and public) in April 2017. Employers will pay the levy at a rate of 0.5 per cent of payroll from the point where their payroll exceeds £3m. There will be a £15,000 fixed annual allowance for employers to offset against their levy payment. It is anticipated that the levy will raise £12bn over the course of this parliament.

Employers will be able to recoup their levy contribution if they take on apprentices. The levy can be used to fund apprentices aged 16 and over. Apprentices can be new entrants or existing employees.

Employers will be able to use their funding (up to a cap which will depend upon the standard or framework that is being trained against) to cover the costs of an apprentice’s training, including English and maths, assessment and certification. It will not be possible to use levy funds to cover any costs other than those training and assessment costs listed above. Overheads, supervision costs and apprentices’ wages must not be funded by the levy.

The levy will be collected by HMRC. Individual employers’ funding for Apprenticeship training in England will then be made available to them via a new Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) account. Employers will be able to use this to pay for training for apprentices. The service will also support employers to identify a training provider, choose an Apprenticeship training course and find a candidate.

So, the DAS will enable employers to:

  • select an Apprenticeship training course
  • choose the training provider or providers they want to deliver the training
  • post Apprenticeship vacancies.

Funding caps will be set which limit the amount of levy funds an employer can spend on training for an individual apprentice. The cap will vary according to the level and type of Apprenticeship (for example, more expensive, higher quality training is likely to have a higher cap).

Apprenticeship levy example

Employer of 250 employees, each with a gross salary of £20,000 would pay:

Pay bill: 250 x £20,000 = £5,000,000

Levy sum: 0.5 per cent x £5,000,000 = £25,000

Allowance: £25,000-£15,000 = £10,000 annual levy payment

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Genuine industrial partnerships, including all stakeholders within an industry, are needed to design and deliver high quality Apprenticeships as is the case in other European countries.

Employers can only spend their levy funds on Apprenticeship training delivered by an approved provider.

Employers in England who pay the levy and are committed to Apprenticeship training will be able to get out more than they pay in to the levy through a top up to their digital accounts. The government will apply a 10 per cent top-up to monthly funds entering levy paying employers digital accounts, for Apprenticeship training in England, from April 2017.

The introduction of the levy will undoubtedly lead to the creation of new Apprenticeships. This is a good opportunity for unions to become involved at the inception of Apprenticeship programmes and to negotiate high quality opportunities.

Apprenticeship public sector targets

The government has introduced an Apprenticeship target for public sector organisations with over 250 employees.

The target will require public sector organisations to work towards employing 2.3 per cent of their workforce as apprentices.

The Institute for Apprenticeships

A new independent body, led by employers, called the Institute for Apprenticeships, will be established. Its proposed role is to monitor the quality of Apprenticeships. The institute’s role will be to advise on setting funding caps and approving Apprenticeship standards and assessment plans. It will be established in 2016 and will be fully operational by April 2017.

The TUC has said that the Institute should involve key stakeholders, including trade unions to ensure apprentices are properly represented in the new structure. Genuine industrial partnerships, including all stakeholders within an industry, are needed to design and deliver high quality Apprenticeships as is the case in other European countries.

More details on all these latest Apprenticeship developments can be found at


Traineeships are a government skills initiative, which aim to help young people develop the skills they need to get on to an Apprenticeship.

A traineeship is an education and training programme with work experience. Designed to help young people aged 16 to 24 who don’t yet have the appropriate skills or experience, traineeships provide work preparation training, English, maths and work experience.

Trade union involvement is essential to ensure that young people are not exploited and that they are given a genuine chance to progress to an Apprenticeship. The TUC has developed a Traineeships Charter4 to help reps and officers who become involved with Traineeships.

Further information on Traineeships can be found at:

Pay for apprentices

Apprentices should be paid a fair wage for doing their job, albeit one involving extensive periods of education and training. There are clear legal, moral and business reasons for employers to pay apprentices a decent wage.

Apprentices should also receive the same benefits as other employees such as pension contributions, subsidised canteen and leisure facilities

The last detailed survey5 of apprentice pay revealed that among Level 2 and Level 3 apprentices the mean basic pay was £6.79 an hour, and the median £6.31. Among higher apprentices on Level 4 and Level 5 provision, the mean pay was £11.63 an hour, and the median £9.68.

Shockingly the survey also revealed that around one in seven (14 per cent) apprentices are not receiving the minimum wage they are entitled to, despite the fact that the rates for apprentices are already substantially lower than the main adult rate.

As their skills develop, apprentices’ pay should increase accordingly. They may also get additional money for essential books, clothing or equipment. Apprentices should also receive the same benefits as other employees such as pension contributions, subsidised canteen and leisure facilities.

National minimum wage


At present in England, apprentices over the age of 19 are entitled to the national minimum wage after they have completed the first 12 months of their Apprenticeship.

Those under the age of 19 or in the first twelve months of their training are currently entitled to an Apprenticeship national minimum wage which is £3.30 (March 2016). This will rise to £3.40 from October 2016.

Apprentices should be paid for time spent training off the job as well as the time they spend in the workplace. The minimum wage entitlement for apprentices will also cover Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Why paying more pays off

There is a clear link between Apprenticeship completion rates and pay. Completion rates improved from 24 per cent in 2001/02 to 63 per cent in 2005 when the minimum pay rate for apprentices was introduced. Completion rates currently stand at 70 per cent.6

Apprentices who are paid a fair wage are more likely to complete their Apprenticeship and stay on with their employer afterwards.

Checklist for negotiators

  • Apprentice pay rates should reflect the job being done.
  • If percentage rates are negotiated, they should start as high as possible and progress by time served or milestones reached, rather than by age.
  • In industries such as construction with nationally agreed apprentice pay, ensure the local employer is complying with that agreement.
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Health and safety and working time

Apprentices must be able to learn new skills in a safe environment. Union health and safety representatives can play an essential role in supporting apprentices and ensuring that they have a safe and healthy working environment during their Apprenticeships.

The workplace can be a dangerous place, in which tragic and fatal accidents sometimes occur. Young people are particularly vulnerable in a working environment, especially when they are new to the workplace, and may have specific health and safety requirements.

Health and safety risks to apprentices are increased where employers and providers look to misuse the Apprenticeship programme to save money, rather than offer a young person a supportive, high- quality training experience.

The law

Under the Health and Safety and Work Act 1974 young workers should receive at least the same protection as other workers. However, there are some legal provisions that apply specifically to workers aged under 18.

More information can be found at and the joint TUC and LSC publication Apprenticeships: a short guide for union safety reps


When talking to an employer about taking on apprentices, you should make sure you cover the following points:

Risk assessment

Has the employer done a full risk assessment on all aspects of the apprentice’s job before they start, taking into account the apprentice’s lack of experience?

Induction training

Is health and safety covered in the induction training and is it appropriate to the kind of work that the apprentice will be doing?


Are supervisors trained and competent to supervise a young person and are they given enough time to do so?


Is health and safety an integral part of the training that the young person receives?

Protective equipment

Is the apprentice issued with appropriate protective clothing and equipment at no cost to them?


Is the Apprenticeship training and any injuries relating to apprentices being monitored by the employer?

The role of the union health and safety representative

Unionised workplaces are safer workplaces. Union health and safety representatives and negotiators are likely to be aware of the general potential hazards in their workplace and the measures that should be taken to protect their members’ health and safety. They are ideally suited to be both messengers and champions for the health and safety agenda within a workplace. They can help support an apprentice’s needs within a specific workplace and help ensure a safe and healthy working environment.

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Where they are present, union safety representatives work with stewards and union learning representatives to ensure that health and safety is core to any Apprenticeship scheme

Where they are present, union safety representatives work with stewards and union learning representatives to ensure that health and safety is core to any Apprenticeship scheme. Often this means making sure that the employer has done a full and sufficient risk assessment on all aspects of the proposed work of the apprentices before they start, and that these take into account the lack of experience and lack of awareness about possible risks.

The best protection for apprentices is to become members of trade unions and for workplaces to have strong trade union organisation, including the involvement of union reps in assessing and preventing health and safety risks.

Key working time rights for apprentices under the age of 18

Young workers are entitled to:

  • two days off per week
  • a daily rest break of 12 consecutive hours (the break between finishing work one day and starting work the next)
  • a rest break of at least 30 minutes if the working day lasts more than 4.5 hours
  • a normal work quota of not work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week
  • an expectation of not having to work at night - however, there are some exceptions.

High-quality training

Apprenticeships are full-time paid jobs which incorporate on and off the job training. A good quality Apprenticeship should enable the apprentice to develop a range of high quality transferable skills that are recognised in a nationally recognised qualification on completion of their contract.

An Apprenticeship must include guided learning, assessment, training and monitored workplace practice, planned and agreed between the apprentice and their employer. All apprentices need to have a clear balance between time working, time learning while working, and time away from the work-station to study.

An Apprenticeship must not be delivered only by distance learning. Online and other blended learning activity can be included in the delivery of an Apprenticeship, if it contributes to the Apprenticeship framework and is appropriate.

Apprenticeship programmes interpret off the job training differently and the amount of time spent in college varies from one Apprenticeship framework to another and from one employer to another. Some frameworks typically involve one day’s release per week to attend college, others as little as half a day per fortnight. Some colleges send tutors to the workplace so much of the learning takes place at work.

In the meantime, union reps should consider the following points of best practice when negotiating Apprenticeship programmes:

  • “Off workstation” should mean either college-based or access to a quiet area to work in the workplace which is away from the distractions and demands of the job.
  • The provider should be consulted about the amount of time that the apprentice will be required to spend in college as well as the time recommended for study in the workplace.
  • The employer should also give consideration to allowing time off for both the apprentice and their mentor to meet for mentoring sessions and informal discussions.

The government has put in place minimum standards relating to training (please see Minimum Standards sheet for further information):

  • 280 hours guided learning: guided learning is the time spent developing technical skills, knowledge of theoretical concepts and practical skills on the job whilst being guided. Apprentices must spend at least 280 hours in ‘guided learning’ in their first year.
  • 100 hours or 30 per cent (whichever is greater) of all guided learning must be delivered off the job. Clear and verifiable evidence must be provided of all learning undertaken.
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Widening Apprenticeship access to under-represented groups

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Unions have a crucial role to play in redressing this balance and ensuring that women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups are not discouraged from taking up Apprenticeship opportunities.

There are a number of practical reforms that should be considered, such as improving careers guidance, amending recruitment practices and providing further childcare support for parents that are undertaking Apprenticeships.

Some points to suggest to your employer:

  • Consider what reasonable adjustments they could make and what support services they could make in order to make their Apprenticeship programmes accessible to disabled people.
  • Encourage applications for Apprenticeships from under- represented groups – consider how marketing and recruitment strategies could reach a wider audience.
  • Use more targeted recruitment by working with community groups and media outlets that work closely with under-represented groups. Tackle workplace discrimination and discriminatory recruitment practices that exclude women/BME candidates.
  • Review recruitment and selection criteria to ensure they don’t exclude or discourage under-represented groups.
  • Consider giving all “atypical” applicants who meet the minimum selection criteria an interview, and consider using positive action to address under-representation.
  • Carry out equality and diversity training for managers and others involved in recruitment
  • Introduce flexible working for all young people.
  • Ask current apprentices and employees from under-represented groups to act as role models or “champions”.
  • Target particular groups by holding recruitment days at community events.
  • Look for training providers who are actively involved in training atypical apprentices, and have incorporated their views in the design, development, review and delivery of Apprenticeships.
  • Targeting information at parents of young people from disadvantaged groups will also help to address their under-representation.
  • Try to ensure the composition of the workforce reflects the local community.
  • Set up an equal opportunities policy.
  • Check whether any workforce training and development plan has an equal opportunities clause.
  • Check that training provided to the staff involved in running the Apprenticeship programme includes training on equal opportunities and its application to recruitment.
  • Put in place steps to monitor the outcome of Apprenticeships to ensure that people from under-represented groups gain access to long-term employment opportunities.
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Mentoring is an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers and it is particularly useful for young apprentices as it helps them acclimatise to the workplace and gives them additional support.

Mentoring is a good way of supporting and improving communication between the employer and apprentice, often giving apprentices ‘a voice’

There is evidence that mentoring programmes lead to improved Apprenticeship completion rates.12

However, many organisations, employers and even providers are unclear as to what mentoring is, and how it can be used effectively to support apprentices to complete their Apprenticeship successfully and progress to further learning and success at work. The TUC has developed an interactive, online learning module that helps to explain what mentoring involves and provides further signposting to useful materials. Visit this site for further information

Traditionally, mentoring is the long-term passing on of support, guidance and advice. In the workplace it has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. Mentors rely upon having had similar experiences to gain an empathy with the mentee and an understanding of their issues.

Mentoring leads to a number of benefits, not just to the mentee but to the mentor, employers, training providers and the union alike.

What is mentoring for?

It is used specifically and separately as a form of long-term tailored development for the individual which brings benefits to the mentee, mentor and organisation. Mentoring provides the mentee with an opportunity to think about career options and progress.

Mentors can give advice, help a new employee orientate into the workplace, provide Information, Advice and Guidance relating to the learning and training aspects of the Apprenticeship and work with the apprentice and employer to ensure that problems are resolved quickly and do not threaten the Apprenticeship.

Mentoring can help apprentices and new employees adopt soft employment skills such as time-keeping and prioritisation and helps manage the transition from school or college environment to the workplace.

Mentoring is a good way of supporting and improving communication between the employer and apprentice, often giving apprentices ‘a voice’.

Mentors play an important role in passing on skills and knowledge, with many employers in traditional Apprenticeship frameworks viewing the mentor as critical in supporting the ‘learning through doing’ process. This process is also seen as two-way, with experienced members of staff benefiting from fresh insight and up-to-date knowledge.

What can be discussed?

Mentoring differs from the typical support offered from a line manager. For example, it allows young workers and apprentices to discuss issues that they may not feel comfortable speaking to management about with a trusted mentor who can offer them valuable support.

What is its purpose?

It focuses as much on trusted support, personal development and soft employment skills as it does on professional development. Personal issues can be discussed more productively.

12 The Role of Mentoring in Supporting Apprenticeships, Andy Hirst, Christina Short and Sini Rinne of Cambridge Policy Consultants, Research Paper 20, April 2014
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A mentor should be someone from outside the apprentice’s reporting hierarchy at work. A ULR or workplace rep is often well placed to mentor apprentices.

How does it work?

The form that mentoring takes may differ depending on the mentee involved – a student may need different support to an apprentice, for example with the focus shifting from pastoral care to professional development.

Why is it important?

Mentoring plays an important role in motivating apprentices to persevere with their training through to achievement of their qualification.

Why is it different from other support?

The purpose is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.

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A mentor should be someone from outside the apprentice’s reporting hierarchy at work. A ULR or workplace rep is often well placed to mentor apprentices.

It is also essential that issues between mentor and mentee are confidential.

An employer considering taking on apprentices should give consideration to allowing for training and time off for mentors within the company. Union reps often have training and experience of mentoring type skills through their union role. For example, many will already have experience of the following mentoring skills:

  • active listening
  • questioning
  • building rapport
  • offering constructive feedback
  • setting targets
  • offering support and guidance
  • signposting
  • acting as a role model.

Mentoring overview

Career development and psychological support

Mutual learning with mentor passing on experience


Can be formal or informal with an internal or external mentor

Primarily on an individual level

Guidance on personal development and developing career path.

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English, maths and Functional Skills in Apprenticeships

Good literacy and numeracy skills are important for everyone, both those working and studying.

Following a recent OECD International Survey of Adult Skills, which highlighted the below-average levels of English and maths among adults and the very poor English and maths skills of young people in England, the government has focused on ensuring all young people and adults achieve Level 2 skills (equivalent to GCSE A*-C or pass mark 4-9 from 2017) and funding has been made available for this provision.

Embedding English and maths learning in Apprenticeships has been one of the tools the government has used to enable more people to achieve minimum standards as well as underlining the importance of literacy and numeracy at work.

Depending on the Apprenticeship programme the required level can be achieved through GCSEs or Functional Skills.


Apprenticeships include learning in English and maths up to Level 2. However, apprentices who already have GCSEs in English and maths at grades A*-C (or level 2 Functional Skills if aged 19+) do not have to continue studying these subjects.

Apprentices on Level 2 Apprenticeships must achieve Level 1 in English and maths in order to complete their Apprenticeship. This can be done either via GCSEs or a Functional Skills assessment.

Level 3 and 4 apprentices must achieve Level 2 in English and maths prior to taking their final Apprenticeship assessment.

Apprentices on Apprenticeships under the Trailblazer standards must study towards Level 2 and take the exam before completing their Apprenticeship.

GCSEs or Functional Skills?

The government has been keen to promote the use of GCSEs to meet the English and maths requirements in new Apprenticeships because they feel that GCSEs have good employer recognition. However, there is an increasing acknowledgement that Functional Skills should be considered as an alternative to GCSEs for people who find academic qualifications challenging.

With their contextualised and practical nature the Functional Skills are often thought to be a more appropriate and motivating approach for workplace settings. A recent review from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) showed that employers value practical skills in maths and English. They highlighted that employers who employed apprentices saw Functional Skills as a better match for their apprentices than GCSEs.

Besides the practical nature of Functional Skills they can also be assessed any time of the year. The opportunities for taking the GCSE tests are more limited; the exams are taken in June and re-sits take place in November.

If apprentices have completed their other learning it can be difficult to keep them interested and motivated with continuing English and maths learning until the chance to take the exam comes. And should they fail, there is a question of whether extra support to pass the re-sit is provided as well as any issues around time off to study. It is also questionable whether a learner who has failed GCSEs before can be motivated to try the same exam again and again.

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Union reps can be active in finding out how the English and maths learning opportunities have been arranged for apprentices, what the quality of provision is and whether there are any additional support


In England the government funds the cost of English and maths taken up to Level 2 for 16- to 24-year-olds as part of an approved Apprenticeship standard.

Apprentices who are over 24 can get fully funded English and maths learning up to Level 2 if a need has been identified or if they have not previously achieved Level 2 in English and maths. The funding rule in this case is the same as for all adults in England.

Employers do not need to pay for English and maths classes or courses in either case. The funding goes directly to the learning provider, such as a college.

With Trailblazers the funding rules are the same except that if English and maths at Level 3 is a requirement for completion of the Apprenticeship standard, it is funded from the joint employer/government contribution.

The funding arrangements will change when the Apprenticeship levy comes into effect from April 2017 but there are no suggestions that English and maths learning requirement will be removed.

Reps’ role

Union reps can be active in finding out how the English and maths learning opportunities have been arranged for apprentices, what the quality of provision is and whether there are any additional support needs. These can be discussed with the employer as well as any issues around time off to study. Also, where there are union learning centres on site or nearby they can be a helpful first point of contact if apprentices need help with their learning.

Unionlearn has published a guide to resources that reps can use to support learners develop their English and maths skills

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Frameworks and standards

Most apprentices will be covered by an Apprenticeship framework, but some may be covered by a newly designed Standard, which has been developed by a group of employers under the new “Trailblazer” process.

Trailblazers were established to give employers greater ownership of the Apprenticeship system and ensure that Apprenticeships meet the needs of businesses and the wider sector

There are over 200 different types of Apprenticeships currently available in England, through existing Apprenticeship frameworks, available in thirteen broad sector subject areas. Apprentices can receive qualifications ranging from those equivalent to five GCSE passes to those equivalent to a degree.

An Apprenticeship framework:

  • is a document which 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 (their “credit value”)
  • gives guidance on how to get onto an Apprenticeship programme, the time it will take and career paths available after an Apprenticeship.

New, employer-designed Apprenticeship standards are being developed to replace the current Apprenticeship frameworks. These will eventually replace existing Apprenticeship frameworks. This process has been underway since October 2013 when the first eight Trailblazers were launched, and there are now over 140 Trailblazers that have been collectively delivered. Once the process is complete, there will be over 350 new Apprenticeship Standards developed by Trailblazer groups of employers. Trailblazers were established to give employers greater ownership of the Apprenticeship system and ensure that Apprenticeships meet the needs of businesses and the wider sector.

It’s important for unions to be involved in the trailblazer process to ensure that the apprentice is represented in any discussions. Unions will be well placed to ensure that a standard is designed which will enable an apprentice to progress and develop high quality skills.

For example, Unite was heavily involved in developing a Trailblazer standard in the print sector.13 This ensured that Apprenticeships included rigorous training standards and relevant qualifications for apprentices. Unions were able to represent the workforce and sector to ensure that new entrant and existing staff could receive a quality, skilled Apprenticeship. The government has published additional guidance on Trailblazers.14

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In November 2014, a new type of Apprenticeship was announced: Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6-7)

Trailblazer process

A list of Trailblazer standards can be found at:

In November 2014, a new type of Apprenticeship was announced:

Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6-7). Employers, universities and professional bodies co-designed these new degrees combining university education and work experience. Forty-five of the new Trailblazer standards are Higher and Degree Apprenticeships. They are part of the Higher Apprenticeship programme but differ from Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4-7) in that they entitle apprentices to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree. In contrast, Higher Apprenticeships

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allow apprentices to study to degree level (NVQ Level 4 and above or a foundation degree) but do not incorporate a university degree. Course fees and training costs are funded by the government (two thirds) and employer (one third) so that apprentices can earn a university degree without paying tuition fees. In any other respect, they are similar to other Apprenticeship programme: apprentices earn a salary and gain experience in a relevant workplace. As of September 2015, these Apprenticeships are available in chartered surveying,electronic systems engineering, aerospace engineering, aerospace software development, defence systems engineering, laboratory science, nuclear, power systems, public relations, digital, automotive engineering, banking relationship manager, and construction.

Apprenticeships can be studied at different qualification levels:

  • Intermediate Apprenticeships lead to Level 2 qualifications, equivalent to 5 GCSE passes.
  • Advanced Apprenticeships lead to Level 3 qualifications, equivalent to 2 A-Level passes.
  • Higher and Degree Apprenticeships lead to Level 4 qualifications and above.
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Professional registration and Apprenticeships

Apprentices are the most likely group to take up professional registration. Often they are just starting out in their careers and have aspirations to achieve as much as they can.

For an apprentice, professional registration provides recognition of the skills, knowledge and experience developed on an Apprenticeship.

What is registration?

Registration shows a commitment to professional standards. It also helps with the development of further skills in the job role. It is a way of establishing the professional level of competence in the workplace. The competence is assessed by peers against internationally recognised standards of proven skills, knowledge and any formal qualifications relevant to the register.

For an apprentice, professional registration provides recognition of the skills, knowledge and experience developed on an Apprenticeship. Registered status not only acts as a goal for apprentices to aim toward and makes it easier to move between jobs once the Apprenticeship is complete but also offers a progression route from technician at Level 3-4, Level 5/6 and onto Chartered status at Level 7.

The Trailblazer frameworks (see Frameworks and Standards sheet) are apprentice standards and assessment plans that have been designed by a group of employers in a particular sector. These new apprentice standards focus on how an apprentice should demonstrate mastery of an occupation, and be aligned with professional registration requirements in sectors where these exist (for example, in engineering, science and accountancy).

This also gives employers confidence that their Apprenticeship programmes are high quality as they have been approved by a professional body. For the employer, successful registration in the end of the programme is also an opportunity to acknowledge and reward apprentices for their achievement.

For instance, a technician wanting to register joins the appropriate professional body and applies to register for EngTech, RSciTech or RITTech. The Engineering Council and the Science Council can help find the correct professional body and discuss the cost involved. BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT, is responsible for RITTech.

A professional body membership and registration cost for the first year can range from £70 upwards. For union reps this is an issue to discuss with the employer so that the apprentices are supported both financially and with the actual application process.

Reps’ role

Unionlearn recommends that reps actively ensure that any Apprenticeship programme in engineering, science and ICT offered by their employer meets the standards for the industry and that opportunities for professional registration are included within the Apprenticeship. Reps are advised to request that their employers allow the relevant professional body to approve the Apprenticeship programme.

Most professional bodies offer a free service to approve Apprenticeship programmes, and can help align them to the industry standards. Approved programmes help ensure the quality of the scheme and make it easier for an apprentice to gain registration once their Apprenticeship is complete.

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Additionally, some professional bodies offer free membership for apprentices and will also deliver free information sessions and workshops to help with becoming registered. Sessions like these can help reps engage apprentices and provide an opportunity to discuss how unions support apprentices. Contact the relevant professional body via the Science Council or the Engineering Council to find out more about joint working opportunities.

A number of reps are also taking on the role of mentoring apprentices. It is important that the mentors know how the application process works with the professional body the employer deals with and also that they know where to find more information and support for the apprentices.

Reps should:

  • investigate whether their employer’s Apprenticeship scheme meets the industry standard and is approved by the relevant professional body
  • make sure the apprentices in their workplace take up the opportunity to register, if their scheme is approved
  • challenge management to improve the Apprenticeship programme if it is not approved so that it meets the standards by making use of the free help available from the professional bodies
  • encourage apprentices to engage with the professional bodies, particularly if they run activities and networking events and provide resources that will help them develop their career
  • include professional registration in learning events organised in the workplace by union learning reps
  • negotiate with the employer for financial support for registration and professional body membership for apprentices.

Who are technicians and what do they do?

Technicians are the trained professionals who install, maintain and operate the equipment and technology each day that makes the UK’s engineering and science industries successful. They work in practically all industries from aerospace and the rail industry to higher and further education.

Typically, technicians are responsible for overseeing production and solving practical problems, but many also work in research and help their businesses to develop new products and processes.

Information is available from:

Unionlearn Technician Pathways project

Prospect RegTech project

Engineering Council


Science Council

Technicians Make it Happen

Government minimum standards for Apprenticeships

There are minimum standards that must be met by Apprenticeship programmes. The Skills Funding Agency has published a Statement on Apprenticeship Quality.15

There are basic requirements of Apprenticeship programmes.

The Statement on Apprenticeship Quality, published in May 2012, summarises the aspects of Apprenticeships subject to minimum standards:

  • a minimum length of 12 months
  • 280 hours guided learning: Guided learning is the time spent developing technical skills, knowledge of theoretical concepts and practical skills on the job whilst being guided – apprentices must spend at least 280 hours in ‘guided learning’ in their first year (this is the bare minimum and many high quality Apprenticeships would see far more hours dedicated to guided learning)
  • 100 hours or 30 per cent (whichever is greater) of all guided learning must be delivered off the job – clear and verifiable evidence must be provided of all learning undertaken
  • employed for 30 hours a week: Apprentices must be employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week, including time training away from the workplace. If an apprentice’s personal circumstances or if the nature of employment in a given sector make it impossible to work these hours, then an absolute minimum of 16 hours a week must be worked. In these exceptional cases, the total duration of the Apprenticeship is extended accordingly.
  • training to Level 2 in maths and English: Apprenticeships must offer training to Level 2 in English and maths or Functional Skills, if the apprentice does not already have these or equivalent qualifications
  • Apprenticeship Agreements: Apprentices must sign an Apprenticeship Agreement with their employer before the Apprenticeship begins. This is a contract stipulating the framework being followed and the skill, trade or occupation the apprentices is working in. It is not a legally binding contract, but without it an Apprenticeship completion certificate cannot be issued
  • specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE): SASE sets out minimum academic requirements that all frameworks must meet. This is a technical document written principally to guide organisations designing frameworks. It stipulates minimum qualification levels required of successful apprentices under the vocational, technical and key skills elements of the Apprenticeship. It also specifies standards of attainment

expected of successful apprentices, including “team working” and “creative thinking”. Further detailed information on the minimum contractual and operational standards required of Apprenticeships can be found in the SFA Funding rules for 2015 to 2016.

The TUC has published an Apprenticeship Charter that sets out the key principles of a high-quality Apprenticeship programme. See the following Factsheet (12) for this or your union’s own version.

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TUC Apprenticeships Charter

Unionlearn has developed an Apprenticeships Charter to assist union officers and representatives who are involved in negotiations around Apprenticeships.

Unionlearn is committed to the vision of high quality Apprenticeships as a skills development programme for the current and future workforce as we build a new, fair and prosperous economy. There are a number of principles which must be met in order to ensure that this vision is realised in a way that is beneficial to the apprentices, the employing businesses and the society as a whole.

Please note: This charter does not in any way impact or replace nationally or locally negotiated union agreements or frameworks.

We agree that an Apprenticeship should:

1. Be a job with a productive purpose

Apprentices should have parity of terms and conditions with all other employees. All quality Apprenticeships will have progression opportunities to genuine employment.

2. Be paid a fair rate

Apprentice rates should reflect the job done; if an apprentice does a full job they should be paid for it, or quickly progress incrementally to that point.

3. Ensure high quality training and clear individual development

Apprenticeship programmes must identify a clear programme of training that is relevant to the job and recognisable in the sector. Apprentices must be given sufficient paid time off the job to study in colleges, or in dedicated training centres at the workplace. On the job training should be fundamental to the Apprenticeship. There should be a clear system for supervision, support and mentoring, by appropriately trained work colleagues.

4. Involve the trade union at every level of the programme

Trade unions should have a constructive role in the development and delivery of the Apprenticeship programme. Unions will negotiate around aspects of the Apprenticeship, support apprentices and work with the employer to ensure the quality and success of the programmes.

5. Ensure apprentices have regular access to, and support from, trade unions

The union rep should play an integral role in supporting, developing and advocating for apprentices. Union representatives, especially union learning reps, are ideally placed to act as mentors to apprentices.

6. Be accessible to, and achievable by all

A good Apprenticeship programme will include strategies to ensure that Apprenticeships are accessible to the widest possible demographic and diverse spread of people. Particular attention will be given to enabling people from disadvantaged groups to take up any opportunities offered and support given to complete them successfully, thereby achieving the full benefit of Apprenticeship.

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Apprentices should be given sufficient training on health and safety, including relevant legislation, and the programme should be regularly reviewed from a health and safety perspective.

7. Be part of, and contribute to, a healthy and safe environment

Employers and unions should work together to ensure a safe environment. Particular attention should be given to the unique needs of apprentices and young workers. Apprentices should be given sufficient training on health and safety, including relevant legislation, and the programme should be regularly reviewed from a health and safety perspective.

8. A commitment from the employer to complement the workforce, not supplement it

Apprentices should not be recruited for job substitution, but to fill genuine skills shortages and plan for future skills gaps.

Apprentices should be employed by the employer, not as temporary or indirect labour.

Apprentices should be a key part of the workforce, and shouldn’t be seen as a way of reducing cost.

Please visit the unionlearn website for further information

If you need any additional support, please contact Matthew Creagh, unionlearn Apprenticeship Delivery Officer on 02074671215 or via email [email protected]