Ben Sweetman, Director of Degree Apprenticeships at QA shares our approach to the requirement for all apprentices in England to spend 20% of their working hours on off-the-job learning. Summarising the key points, and working through examples of how it’s calculated for our programmes, Ben shows how you can minimise the downside and maximise the productivity gains.
"With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, the Education & Skills Funding Agency has published a new set of funding rules for employers and providers in England.
One of the key elements requires employers to give all apprentices at least 20% of their total working hours for “off-the-job” learning. This is defined as “learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship.This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.”
This can include the following:
- The teaching of theory (for example, lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning, manufacturer training).
- Practical training
- Time spent writing assessments and assignments
- Learning support
- Shadowing and mentoring
- Industry visits and attendance at skills competitions
Off-the-job training does not include:
- English and maths (up to level 2) which is funded separately
- Progress reviews or on-programme assessment required for an apprenticeship framework or standard (i.e. assessor/skills coach meetings)
- Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours
Doing The Maths – How To Calculate The 20%
When calculating the 20% off-the-job, we take the following approach:
- Work out the total working hours for the apprentice.(This should exclude annual leave entitlement and bank holidays.)
- Calculate 20% of the total working hours across the planned duration of the programme:
- Each of our programmes have a different number of face-to-face training days. We subtract these from the total to give a suggested number of hours of workplace off-the-job study each week.
- The remainder will be completed in the workplace, but away from immediate pressures of the day job.
The QA Approach | Blended, Flexible, Applied
We have always designed our Apprenticeships with our employers in mind. We had already invested in our high tech approach to blended learning (combining online learning with face-to-face learning), and this becomes even more valuable with the 20% rule.
Here’s our Infrastructure Technician Level 3 apprenticeship as an example in practice:
Infrastructure Technician Level 3
This programme is primarily designed for new entrants to the tech sector, and focuses on face-to-face learning initially, with supporting digital learning.
This is a 15 month programme, which at 20% requires 57 days of off-the-job learning. Our programme includes 40.5 days of face-to-face training.
The remainder of 16.5 days off-the-job learning will be completed through our digital learning, which can be completed flexibly around work commitments. Over the course of 15 months, this requires just under 120 minutes “off-the-job” learning per week.
Here’s another worked example:
Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA)
Our CMDA is a work-based degree apprenticeship, which runs over 48 months. It is delivered in a blended learning model which accentuates digital and online learning more than our Level 3 tech programmes.
This is a 48 month programme, requiring 46 days of off-the-job learning each year. We deliver a total of 56 days in our face-to-face immersive workshops across the programme.
This is primarily a digital programme, and degree apprentices will spend 5.5 hours each week on off-the-job learning, including digital content, reading, exercises and assignment building. This is flexible and can be completed in a pattern to suit the employer and apprentice.
For all our programmes, our approach is:
Blended – we’ve designed our programmes with the optimum balance of face-to-face and digital learning to suit each occupation.
Flexible – we will continue to invest in digital learning, which gives our apprentices maximum flexibility to fit learning around the day job. We understand that this can be fluid and fast changing.
Applied – we’ve made our digital learning highly work-based. For example, not only will the content be relevant, but the practical exercise, assignments and feedback are designed to enable you to immediately apply the new learning to your role.
For example, on Wednesday morning, a Chartered Management degree apprentice might spend two hours learning about how to use analytics as part of a decision making process.The assignment will ask them to analyse their own team’s data and use a decision making model.
In the afternoon, this insight could be immediately useful in their management meeting or in a 1-2-1 with a team member. Not only are the new skills valuable, but the learning itself was immediately applicable.
Why Has It Been Included In The Funding Rules?
This goes back to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, published in 2012, which kicked off the Government reform programme. The review found that too many Apprenticeships were focused on accrediting existing skills and did not include sufficient new learning, and in some cases, no new training at all. You can read more about the Richard Review at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-richard-review-of-apprenticeships
QA’s Apprenticeship programmes have always included significant training and new skills, and always will.
Our purpose is to “Transform Futures through Learning” after all."