Upskilling your existing employees with adult apprenticeships

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Many people think of apprenticeships as being just for school leavers looking for a vocational career. Whilst apprenticeships are indeed a great way to bring through the next generation of employees in a business, it’s less known that employers can offer apprenticeships to existing staff too. What’s more, there’s no upper age limit!

Government statistics show that it’s a popular route to go down, too. A total of 47.4% of the people who started an apprenticeship in 2021/22 were aged 25 or over, which is more than 160,000 workers.

The benefits of offering apprenticeships to existing staff

When you have great people on your team, of course you want to keep them. And with apprenticeships, you can nurture the talent you already have within the business by providing them with training, qualifications and everything else they need to develop. That’s as well as filling existing skills gaps that your company or organisation might have. You can also help to future-proof your business by upskilling your existing staff in emerging areas that are relevant to your industry, which can help to prevent a skills gap appearing in future.

Existing staff already know your company and culture, so introducing a development programme that helps them to gain new skills and eventually take on more responsibility can only benefit you, their employer. Offering apprenticeships to existing staff can play a big part in retaining those important people who will help take your business forward for years to come.

The benefits of apprenticeships for employees

For employees, the opportunity to do an apprenticeship with their existing workplace can help to add a whole new dimension to their job, help them to feel valued by their employer and make them more likely to want to stay with the company, as they won’t feel that they have to leave in order to take their career forwards.

Offering an apprenticeship to an existing member of staff shows them that you see their potential and are willing to invest in them and their career.

Members of staff who perhaps would have liked to go to university or gain more qualifications can gain the equivalent through a higher or degree level apprenticeship, without taking on student debt and whilst earning a wage at the same time.

What age can you do an apprenticeship?

You need to be aged 16 or over to start an apprenticeship in England, but there is no upper age limit for an apprenticeship. There are several reasons why someone who hasn’t just left education might want to do an apprenticeship, including:

  • To change career, learn new skills and gain qualifications in a different industry or type of role with the intention of getting a job after completing the apprenticeship
  • To develop their current role with their existing employer through an apprenticeship to help them progress in their career

Those who choose to do an apprenticeship after already having real-life work experience, sometimes for many years, often bring very different transferrable skills and qualities to their new role. This can be very useful for the employer and even for other, less experienced apprentices, to learn and benefit from.

Can employers offer apprenticeships to all existing staff?

In theory, an employer could offer all existing staff an apprenticeship, but there may be some reasons why this route wouldn’t be right for everyone. 

These include:

  • There may be some existing staff who won’t necessarily meet the apprenticeship eligibility requirements, such as those who already have a university degree or similar qualification in a relevant area. However, those with a degree in a different field might well be eligible for a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship.
  • Doing an apprenticeship could mean a drop in income for some staff, depending on what the employer chooses to pay them, which could make it unsustainable for them.

Does funding work differently for apprenticeships offered to existing staff?

When it comes to funding the training and assessment of an apprenticeship for an existing employee, it depends on whether the employer pays the apprenticeship levy or not. Larger employers pay a levy to the government to help fund apprenticeships both for themselves and for smaller businesses, and this can be used for apprenticeships for existing staff as well as new apprentice hires.

For those smaller businesses who don’t pay into the levy, they can also access government funding for most of the cost of training and assessment. Access to this particular funding is also available regardless of whether the apprentice is an existing employee or not, and means that the most an employer has to contribute to training and assessment costs is usually 5%, with the government paying the other 95%.

However, the government’s apprenticeship incentive payments for employers cannot be claimed for existing employees who joined the organisation before April 2021, then later started an apprenticeship with you.

Is the hourly wage different for existing staff doing apprenticeships?

The legally required minimum wage rate for apprentices is the same, regardless of whether the apprentice is new to the business or an existing employee who is now doing an apprenticeship. For the first 12 months of the apprenticeship, the minimum rate is currently £4.81, regardless of age. After the first 12 months of the apprenticeship have been completed, the national minimum wage or national living wage will apply, which will depend on the age of the apprentice. This is currently:

  • For under 18s: £4.81 an hour
  • Age 18-20: £6.83 an hour
  • Age 21-22: £9.18 an hour
  • Age 23 or over: £9.50 an hour

Employers can choose to pay more than this minimum rate throughout the apprenticeship, and many will ensure that an existing employee doing an apprenticeship doesn’t need to take a pay cut to do so.

Looking for an apprentice, but don’t know where to start?

At About Apprenticeships, we know how much time and energy can go into finding the right apprentice to suit your business’ needs. 

That’s why we’ve created our Jobs Board, an online directory of the best trade apprenticeships available right now. We know the UK construction industry needs more completed apprenticeships to fuel economic growth, and we’re here to make that goal easier to achieve – for both apprentices and employers. 

Employers can advertise their roles on our Jobs Board to make it easier to find an apprenticeship.


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