20% ‘Off-The-Job’ Training – Barrier or Benefit?

By Steve Radford, Head of Sales Apprenticeships

Understandably, once employers hear that apprenticeships can be a great way to access professional-quality training with little to no financial investment required, even for their existing team as well as for new starters, many rush at it like a bull at a gate. However, a good apprenticeship training provider will always point out that whilst financial investment may not be the barrier that it is for other forms of training, that doesn’t mean that apprenticeship-funded training is investment free.

What is the ‘20% off-the-job training’ rule?

Apprenticeship rules state: Apprentices must spend a minimum of 20% of their paid working time completing ‘off-the-job’ training.

Understandably, many employers see this as a barrier to using funded apprenticeship training to help them develop new, or upskill existing employees, fearing this means that apprentices will need to spend a lot of time away from the workplace which will have a big impact on the productivity of their business.

This is not the barrier that most employers fear it will be

The first thing to note is that this ‘20% minimum’ requirement only applies to the training phase and not the end-point assessment phase of an apprenticeship programme. So typically, a full-time salesperson enrolled on the Sales Executive Apprenticeship would spend, on average, 6-7 hours a week completing ‘off-the-job’ training activities over the course of their 10-14 month training period, then substantially less time ‘off-the-job’ preparing and completing their final assessment during their final 3-4 month assessment period.

Apprentices do not need 1-day ‘off’ each week for training!

To explain why, let’s first look at what the term ‘off-the-job training’ actually means.

What is Off-The-Job Training?

For many people, the term ‘off-the-job training’ is misleading, or least its meaning isn’t clear without further explanation.

Unsurprisingly for a government-regulated programme, the rules governing off-the-job training are not succinct. The National Apprenticeship Service have published a helpful flowchart with steps to help determine whether an activity counts as off-the-job training:

As you can see, there is nothing within the flowchart (or within the more detailed guidance) that dictates where the training must take place. This helps to bust one common myth: the requirement for off-the-job training does not mean the learning cannot happen within the workplace.

For this reason, I believe that ‘off-the-job training’ may be better described as ‘managed learning’, or more accurately, as ‘managed learning of new knowledge, skills and behaviours that are directly linked to the apprenticeship standard, which takes place during the apprentices normal working hours’.

Off-the-job training may include almost any type of managed learning activity

As you would expect, an apprentice’s off-the-job training will include learning resources and activities provided and delivered by your training provider, but it can also include learning opportunities that happen naturally within the workplace.

As long as the activity meets the criteria outlined in the flowchart above, almost any learning opportunity can count. Here are some examples of off-the-job training activities that can count towards the 20% target:

  • Workshop
  • Online Training

  • Reading / Watching Video
  • Research
  • Assessment
  • Job-related Project

  • Practice / Rehearsal

  • Testing
  • Self-evaluation
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring

  • Shadowing Others

  • In-work Placement

  • Meetings
  • Discussions / Debates
  • Interviews
  • Conferences

  • Industry Visits

Where these activities are delivered by the employer, it’s the role of the training provider to ensure the activity can and does count. To do so, the training provider will:

  1. map the objectives of the activity to the criteria published within the apprenticeship standard (to ensure the activity can count)
  2. help the employer to capture the right information from the activity for each apprentice (evidence of learning rather than simply evidence of attendance)
  3. record the learning within the apprentice’s learning record

Flexible work-based learning

So, off-the-job training can include managed learning in almost any form that is completed at almost any location. This enables innovative training providers to create flexible work-based learning programmes that not only comply with government rules, but also meet the learning needs of each individual apprentice, cause minimal disruption to the apprentice’s working role, and maximise the return on investment for the employer.

Our industry-leading approach to blended work-based learning does just this. It not only ensures that apprentices remain engaged throughout their programme, it also ensures that the knowledge and skills they develop are quickly applied within the workplace, embedding behaviours and generating improvements that deliver a rapid return on training investment.

Further Information

More detailed information can be found on the .GOV.UK website.