Earn while you learn

MA Education
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

There has been a lot going on in the world of apprenticeships, including the introduction of a new funding model and changes to ‘off the job’ learning. Karen Faux takes stock of what this means for their appeal.

Earn while you learn
Earn while you learn

There is nothing like being thrown in at the deep end – especially when it results in giving a person confidence. Undertaking an apprenticeship can be like this and offers a number of advantages for anyone who wants to get started straightaway on a career in childcare.

From day one it means working alongside experienced staff and being treated as a member of a team – which is great for sharing knowledge and developing interpersonal skills. An apprenticeship can also provide an opportunity to focus on specialisms according to the individual's interests, earn a wage and receive paid holiday. There is also the advantage that study time is factored in as part of your contractual hours.

The emphasis on study hours and ‘off the job’ learning has been an important part of wide-sweeping reforms to apprenticeships, introduced in May this year. The Government says it wants to see the number of apprenticeships rise to 3m starts by 2020. In line with this the new ‘off the job’ training requirement must now amount to 20 per cent of the apprentice's contracted employment hours across the whole apprenticeship. This is a condition of Government funding and must be included in the ‘apprenticeship agreement’ between employer and apprentice. Employers are required to keep records to demonstrate compliance, especially for when Ofsted comes knocking.

Maths and English are funded separately from the rest of the apprenticeship and cannot count towards the 20 per cent. So an apprentice who needs functional skills in maths and English will need time to study for this in addition to the 20 per cent for their other learning skills.

In some cases, employers may want to extend apprentices's contractual hours to accommodate the study time that is required. From their point of view, this can make financial sense where an apprentice is under the age of 18, and on the reduced apprenticeship minimum wage of £4.05.

Meanwhile new apprenticeship standards are being designed, to reflect current business needs and skills gaps within the sector. But so far it has been slow progress.

The original ‘Trailblazer’ group including employers, training companies and sector organisations, was established in 2014, but with problems dogging progress on the development and publication of the standards – most notably the impasse over GCSE grades required for Level 3 – the DfE gave the green light in March to a new working group to take the standards forward. This is now led by Busy Bees and is ongoing.

The new framework will ensure that apprenticeships last a minimum of 12 months, are linked to a specific occupational level and include a new end-point assessment.

Case Study:

Busy Bees Training says it has been spearheading continuous training and apprenticeships both as an in-house training company to the 329-strong nursery group Busy Bees – and apprentices learning in external nursery settings — for years.

Fay Gibbin, training manager at the Busy Bees Early Years Training Academy (pictured), says: ‘Many of our staff have risen through the ranks, starting out as apprentices and have been able to select the most appropriate courses to develop their own career paths. Many of them now, in fact, act as role models to inspire apprentices to aim even higher, and have become key senior figures within their organisations — a testament to how far apprenticeships have come in the past 30 years.’

For those looking to build a career in early years while learning and earning, an apprenticeship is a sensible choice and one that has helped thousands of young people achieve their dream of giving young children the best start in life.

Dylis Wells from Birmingham is one of them. Having always aspired to work with children, at the age of 22, she decided that an apprenticeship was the best move for her to achieve her childhood career goals.

Dylis opted to undertake one of the many Busy Bees Training apprenticeships because it offered her a direct route into the industry and opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge in stimulating nursery settings. Having already gained her Level 1 NVQ qualification, she is now undertaking her Level 2 qualification and is relishing the challenge. She is currently applying her skills at Busy Bees nursery in Longbridge, as she explains: ‘The apprenticeship is helping me work towards achieving my long-term goal of working with children who have special needs and I couldn't have opted for a better career path.

‘Upon joining the Busy Bees Early Years Training Academy, I was assigned a dedicated training officer who is on-hand to support you every step of the way throughout your learning journey.

‘At Busy Bees, each day is never the same and my learning is extremely varied. I work alongside a great team who are supportive and encouraging, and the children are a joy to be with, they make me laugh every single day.

‘Following the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, however, is at the very core of what we do as practitioners and apprentices, and by working with children aged three months to five years, it's so rewarding to see them develop as individuals.’

Dylis spends 15 hours a week on the theoretical part of her apprenticeship, learning everything from child development skills and behaviour, to language and teaching fine motor skills.

Sarah Clarke, deputy manager at Busy Bees in Longbridge says: ‘For us as a nursery, having good quality apprentices is the bedrock to our business.

‘Dylis is a fine example of an apprentice who has grabbed the opportunity by the horns and run with it. She has grown in confidence, developed her skills at a rapid pace and has developed some wonderful relationships with the Busy Bees team, the children and the parents.’

‘The Busy Bees apprenticeship brings out the very best in young people and helps them to flourish in a very short space of time and I'm thrilled with the progress that Dylis has made and we're proud to have her as a member of our team.’


In a bid to move the onus of paying for apprenticeships on to employers, the Government has changed its funding model and introduced a new levy.

The Apprenticeship Levy is a tax on large UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million per annum. These employers are now required to pay 0.5 per cent of their annual payroll into the Levy and these funds will be used to pay for new apprenticeships. These companies will receive a £15,000 annual allowance.

Non-levy paying employers – which is all those small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which make up the greater part of the sector – will share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with the Government in an arrangement termed ‘co-investment’. They now pay 10 per cent towards to the cost of apprenticeship training while the Government pays the rest (90 per cent), up to a set maximum (see box).

The tax on the largest businesses has been designed so that funds left unspent will roll on into the separate co-investment system, used to fund apprenticeships in SMEs. When the new occupational standards are finalised and the apprenticeship framework is revised, it could be all change to funding again. Some in the sector believe that they could then become better funded, and increase their appeal.

Find out more
  • www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-levy-how-it-will-work/apprenticeship-levy-how-it-will-work

  • www.gov.uk/guidance/children-and-young-peoples-workforce-apprenticeships

Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • www.gov.uk/government/organisations/skills-funding-agency

Funding bands
  • www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-funding-bands).

Training companies offering apprenticeships
  • www.lifetimetraining.co.uk/early-years-apprenticeships/

  • www.learndirect.com/children-s-learning-and-development-early-years-educator

  • www.busybeestraining.co.uk

  • www.hawktraining.com

  • www.earlyyearscareers.com/eyc/apprenticeships-in-childcare/apprenticeships-early-years

  • www.riverside-training.co.uk

  • www.pbdevelopment.co.uk

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