Apprenticeships and 20 per cent Off-the-Job Training explained …

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As experienced HR Apprenticeship providers, we are often asked by employers about the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement and how this will affect their business.  The policy, which requires apprentices in all sectors to spend overall one fifth of their working time on learning activities, is cited by many as being the single biggest barrier to Apprenticeship recruitment.  This need not be the case.  Much of the concern is as a result of confusion about what off-the-job training actually means and as leaders in HR and L&D, we want to change that perception.

It’s true that 20 per cent off-the-job training is core to an apprentice’s development helping them to improve their skills and knowledge which, in turn, leads to a more proficient and capable workforce. However, it is also true that the definition of off-the-job training is more flexible than many business leaders realise.

Apprenticeship Myths

One of the most common misunderstandings among employers about the off-the-job training requirement is that it must be delivered by a provider in a classroom.  This is not the case.  The Department for Education’s top five Apprenticeship Mythbusters published this year, confirmed that off-the-job training can be at the apprentice’s usual place of work, or at an external location.  As long as it is directly relevant to the Apprenticeship framework or standard it can take place anywhere including at the apprentice’s desk or workstation.

Another key concern is that the apprentice will spend a lot of time away from the workplace. While achieving competency at work does take time, according to DfE guidance, the 20 per cent can be delivered flexibly, for example, as part of each day, one day per week, one week out of five or as block release.  This flexibility is reflected in our current Apprenticeship programme with a large retailing group. We know there are peak times when the organisation does not want their apprentices off-the-job, so we have taken this into account when designing their programme.

Programmes Tailored to Company Needs

Employers should be reassured that there are a variety of ways to deliver off-the-job training from a day release programme to a more blended learning approach which could include both online learning and workshops. Coaching at work to teach the apprentice new skills which are part of the Apprenticeship standard and specific work-based projects can also be included.  There is no single right way and an experienced training provider will work closely with an employer to give them the confidence to interpret the regulations in a way that works for both the apprentice and the business. They will tailor a programme to the company’s needs and cater more for individual working environments along with organisational cultures, policies and values.

Investment in a Better-Skilled Workforce

Approved as a main RoATP provider in January 2018, Watson Martin works both with companies which pay into the levy and in collaboration with other training providers to deliver HR and L&D Levels 3 and 5 Apprenticeship programmes nationally. We have also recently launched our Level 5 HR public Apprenticeship scheme in Central London which supports individual employees who want to follow the HR Apprenticeship study route.

Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to not only attract new talent but to train existing teams.  All the available data indicates the schemes improve staff retention, loyalty and job satisfaction.  Rather than believing the off-the-job training will take away 20 per cent of your apprentice’s time at work, see it as an investment to developing a better-skilled workforce in the future!

To find out more about the Watson Martin HR and L&D Apprenticeship programmes or to book a consultation please contact our specialist advisers on 020 7932 2760 or email

What off-the-job training includes:

  • The teaching of theory for example lecture, role playing, simulation exercise, online learning or manufacturer training.
  • Practical training such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments in working hours.

Off-the-job training does not include:

  • English and Maths (up to level 2) which is funded separately.
  • Progress review or on programme assessment needed for an apprenticeship framework or standard.
  • Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours including evenings and weekends.