What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are training programmes for employees aged 16 or over, helping them gain knowledge and develop skills relevant to their career and the needs of their employers.

How do they work?

Apprenticeships are a combination of on the job and off the job training. Apprentices must spend at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training – but this does not need to be classroom based (if this is not appropriate). It must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard and can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work as long as it is not part of their normal working duties. It can cover practical training such as shadowing.

The remaining 80% is on-the-job training to help the apprentice develop the specific knowledge, skills and behaviours and should be supported by a mentor.

An apprentice must be in a job with a contract of employment long enough for them to complete their apprenticeship. An employer must pay an apprentice’s wages and the role must help them gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours to achieve the apprenticeship with support from the employer.


All UK employers with annual pay bills of more than £3 million now pay an apprenticeship levy. In England, you can have a digital levy account, but this isn’t available in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. If you operate across all four nations, you will pay a contribution based on your total number of UK employees.

Apprenticeships are devolved through across the United Kingdom, although many have common themes.

As an IFA member you may not have to pay a bill more than £3m. The UK government are changing the current system to an employer-led model irrespective of your pay bill. This system involves you holding the contract for services with providers and accessing funding through the apprenticeship service so that you are able to take control and ownership. This is likely to come into effect in 2020.

If you are interested in apprenticeships you can view the government website.

Apprenticeship frameworks and standards

Details of current standards are available through the Institute for Apprenticeships website.

Level 6 Accounting apprenticeship standard 

The IFA is supporting a proposal to create a new trailblazer group to introduce a Level 6 Accounting Apprenticeship standard (equivalent to an honours degree) alongside the current frameworks. This will be submitted to the Institute for Apprenticeships in early 2020.

We want to hear from IFA members about the relevance to your businesses and your teams of a Level 6 Apprenticeship being available for your staff (outside of the current provision). The proposed submission is in the format required by the Institute of Apprenticeships (IFA).

Feedback could include: 

  • Whether you support the initiative and if it is important for your business and why.
  • Lack of current provision and choice in accountancy/tax apprenticeships for your teams and staff
  • Whether the proposal and the duties are reflective of your business.
  • Whether you would be like to be part of the trailblazers group.

Please send your comments to by 19 December 2019.