From 1 April 2021 all employers hiring apprentices will need to have an apprenticeship service account to access funding. The small employer cap on apprenticeship starts will also be reset next month, enabling non-levy paying businesses to increase their intake of apprentices.

Launched in April 2017, the digital service was originally used only by levy-paying employers to manage and spend their apprenticeship funding. Non-levy paying employers have been able to access the service since January 2020, but have been capped on the number of apprentices they can fund in this way. The original limit of three was increased to ten last July.

From April 2021 small employers will fully transition onto the apprenticeship service. This means that all new apprenticeship starts must now go through the system rather than procured non-levy contracts held by training providers.

The cap on apprenticeship starts will also be reset to zero next month, so non-levy paying businesses can start up to 10 new apprentices from 1 April, regardless of the number they currently employ. Apprentice reservations made by small employers before April which convert to starts beyond next month will not count as part of the new starts quota.

This will be welcome news for a number of small employers who are already using the service to fund apprenticeships and have reached their limit. Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeship Operations at Seetec Outsource, said:

“Now more than ever employers of all sizes are recognising the importance of workforce skills for business productivity and growth post-Covid. The changes to apprenticeship funding will make it easier for smaller organisations to recruit and develop their skilled workers of the future.

“Apprenticeship training providers can offer advice and support to employers who are new to the apprenticeship service, from setting up an account, reserving funding and applying for the new apprentice incentive payments that are available until 30 September.”

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has published a series of webinars with information for employers and training providers on using the apprenticeship service which you can access here.

For more information about apprenticeship funding or recruitment please contact our friendly team of advisors who will be happy to help.