18th August 2017


Off-the-job training for apprentices: What schools need to know

With its recent round of apprenticeship reforms, the government is looking to put vocational training on an even footing with traditional academic routes.

To this end, it’s introduced a requirement that means apprentices must spend at least 20 per cent of their time in ‘off-the-job’ training.

The lack of a firm definition of what this entails has caused some consternation among schools and in this guide, we’ll explore some of the ways in which educational institutes can carry this out and highlight activities that don’t contribute to this target.

Why has the requirement for off-the-job training been introduced?

The Apprenticeship Levy and associated reforms to apprenticeship training were introduced following various reports that highlighted a severe deficit in the UK’s productivity when compared to its counterparts on the continent.20% off the job

Research also suggested that employers had failed to engage sufficiently with apprenticeships due to complex regulations and a perceived lack of relevant training.

In order to kill these two birds with one stone and make apprenticeship qualifications equivalent to their academic counterparts, the government sought to simplify funding rules, allow employers to tailor training to the needs of specific roles and include a requirement for formal study for apprentices.

Its vision for improving the quality of apprenticeships was outlined in the English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision report, which set out the requirement for ‘substantial and sustained’ training that involved at least 20 per cent of the time spent off-the-job.

While easy to understand in principle, there was a distinct lack of guidance around the type of activities that would qualify, which quickly became a bone of contention for employers. 

What qualifies as off-the-job training? 

As with many Levy-related requirements, as a rule of thumb, it’s advised that schools seek to abide by the principles of what the government’s trying to achieve with the initiative. As something of a sanity check, it’s worth considering whether the off-the-job training you’re proposing would support the goal of quality, relevant training. 

The apprenticeship reforms aim to prevent low quality training that, in practice, means apprentices are treated as full-time employees, but on a lower wage. In its guidance for employers, the government defines off-the-job training as: 

“Learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-today working environment and leads towards the achievement of the 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.” apprenticeship levy off the job training

The key take-away of this is while, as the name suggests, training must be carried out off-the-job - this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be done away from the workplace. It’s entirely viable, therefore, to carry out activities like online or e-learning at the workplace. Similarly, it can also be done outside of the apprentices office hours, as long as they're compensated with time off in lieu.

Government guidance also states that training must be relevant to the apprenticeship standard that’s being carried out, which means activities like lectures, simulation and even role play are fair game. Similarly, practical training, mentoring and industry visits can also count towards this, as long as they’re sufficiently relevant to the apprenticeship that’s being undertaken. 

Some further, non-exhaustive, examples of the sort of activities that could qualify as off-the-job training include: 

However, it’s crucial to note that off-the-job training doesn’t include functional skills training, programme reviews, progress reviews and on-programme assessments, as well as any activities that take place outside of your apprentices’ paid working hours. 

To reiterate, where the training takes place isn’t of consequence, as long as it meets the government’s definition of imparting new skills, competencies and behaviours. Funding requirements also require these activities to be recorded, which means your apprentice must be sure to keep evidence of their off-the-job training. 

Calculating off-the-job training 

As stated above, off-the-job training must account for 20 per cent of the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across the course of their apprenticeship.

The formula for working this out is - hours per day worked multiplied by days per week worked, multiplied by weeks a year worked, multiplied by the length of the apprenticeship standard or framework. Twenty per cent of this figure will then give you the requirement for off-the-job training.

So, for example, if your apprentice is undertaking a two-year standard and works seven hours a day, for five days a week, they’ll work 40 weeks each year. In total, this amounts to 2,800 total contracted hours and the requirement for 20 per cent off-the-job training would be 560 hours.

The government’s not prescriptive on how this should be spread out, but it’s common practice to block off one day a week, or one week a month to cover off-the-job training activities.
off the job requirements

Schools need to pay their apprentices at least minimum wage and they can’t make any adjustments on this front when it comes to off-the-job training. Neither can these assignments be given as ‘homework’ - that the apprentice completes while they’re not on the clock. 

To minimise disruption, many schools we’ve worked with have used block release (such as setting aside a day a week, or a week a month) to meet their off-the-job requirements, while others have opted for a blend of on and off-the-job training delivered on-site. 


While many issues around off-the-job training will only be clarified in time, hopefully the above has helped to clarify your obligations. 

But if you have any questions or are looking for hands-on support with any aspect of off-the-job training, or new apprenticeship regulations - don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team today:

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