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We’ve seen plenty of recent media coverage about apprenticeships. Yet amid a flurry of announcements, employers could be forgiven for having lost track of what’s available now and what’s coming next. So if you already have apprentices on the payroll – or you’re planning to add more soon – here’s the current state of play.

What rewards are available for taking on apprentices?

Back in July, the Chancellor’s Summer Statement included new funding arrangements for companies wishing to take on apprentices between August 2020 and 31 January 2021. In summary, the arrangements are:

  • Businesses will receive £2,000 for each apprentice they take on aged 16-24 and £1,500 for 25 year-olds
  • These must be new apprentices – i.e. they must not have been employed by you within six months of the apprenticeship start date
  • Payment will be made in two instalments – at days 90 and 365
  • You’ll need to claim the payment via the online apprenticeship system
  • Employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy are now able to recruit up to 10 apprentices (a big rise on the previous 3)

What about the apprentices you already have?

If you’ve had apprentices on your payroll over the 12 months you, like many others, may have found the funding drying up despite the fact that – because of coronavirus disruption –  the apprentices still have training to complete.

The newly announced Job Support Scheme may be one solution for keeping apprentices on the payroll rather than making them redundant, although its terms are less generous than the furlough scheme it replaces.

But this falls short of the ‘catch up’ cash and other specific measures requested by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers to support employers and apprentices over the autumn – and some existing apprentices fall through the cracks of current support packages. Adult learners already at risk of redundancy, for example, do not qualify for funding for study in the workplace, even if the employer wants them to.

Proposed changes

Some (vaguely) encouraging news for apprentices comes in the form of a Statutory Instrument currently progressing through parliament which will ensure apprentices who are made redundant will be able to complete their training provided they are at least 75% of the way through their course. It’s not law yet though.

Wider action is also in the offing. In a speech at Exeter College recently, the Prime Minister announced a significant overhaul of apprenticeship funding. But this is an admittedly “long term plan” and is unlikely to benefit employers who are struggling with keeping their apprentices on track right now.

Industry support

But what if you can’t afford to wait for the new government announcements to turn into practical support? And what if the current apprenticeship scheme/Job Support Scheme isn’t sufficient to help you hire new apprentices or keep the ones you already have?

You may find support within your own industry. The Society of Motor Manufacturers has launched a fund to protect at-risk apprenticeships. The Construction Talent Retention Scheme redeploys newly redundant construction apprentices into new roles. You may find similar support within your own sector.

What’s clear is that businesses are currently caught between the desire to take on or retain apprentices, the challenge of providing training in the current environment, and the economic reality of keeping a tight rein on the payroll.

That last part is where we can help. If expert payroll support could help you trim costs without trimming jobs, talk to us now.