Human Resources

Apprenticeships – What are they and how do they work?

What are apprenticeships?

“An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification and a real future.” Education and Skills Funding Agency.

An apprenticeship is a proper, paid job but one in which 20% of the working week is committed to professional development. That means time assigned to training the apprentice to gain additional skills, relevant to their employment sector, to enable career progression.

Training may be undertaken off-site, at a local college, or on-site by e-learning or by visiting trainers.

What is a modern apprenticeship?

The University is introducing a range of apprenticeships that conform to the guidelines established by the National Apprenticeship Service. Find out more about modern apprenticeships.

Is an apprenticeship always at the lowest rung of the ladder?

Apprenticeships can be conducted at almost any level and in any post for which training can prepare an individual for career progression.

What types of apprenticeships is the University planning to establish?

The University is introducing the following apprenticeships:

  • New roles as apprenticeships (these are likely to be entry- level roles)

These are likely to be in the main, Grade 2 or Grade 3.  These are likely to be in Professional Services and, when available, will be recruited in the usual way, but in partnership with training providers who will assist with the recruitment process. We hope to have our first apprentices starting by September 2017.

  • Degree Apprenticeships (DA)

Two University staff are currently engaged on the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship, being taught in the Portsmouth Business School. The University is planning to launch more HE apprenticeships over the next several months.

  • Research roles and new teaching staff

Work is being undertaken to establish apprenticeships for staff in these areas. A HE trailblazer group comprising of a range of universities is working to establish an HE academic standard.  This will then allow the University to develop qualifications which will be available for academic and research staff.

Who can apply for an apprenticeship?

Existing staff will be able to apply for DAs but currently not other apprenticeship training.

How will an apprenticeship role be advertised?

Existing staff will be able to see Apprenticeship opportunities on the University on-line Job Pages. The vacancies will also be advertised externally by the assigned Training Provider and on the National Apprenticeship Service website.

What pay grade will new apprenticeship roles be paid at?

An apprenticeship can be paid at any grade. It will depend on the role and the qualification that the apprentice is working to complete. A new apprentice at entry level may be recruited at grade 2 and following completion of the apprenticeship could apply for a grade 3 or above role.

Does an apprenticeship guarantee a permanent role?

No. See next question.

Will apprentices be considered redeployment for appropriate University jobs at the end of the apprenticeship period?

An apprentice who is recruited to the University will be offered the opportunity to be redeployed into another role in the University, in the same way as other staff who are facing the end of a fixed term contract or who are at risk of redundancy.  The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) expects employers to support apprentices to secure other employment.  The University has an established process for the redeployment of staff whose roles are likely to be ending. 

Can existing staff apply for an apprenticeship in a different discipline?

Existing staff can currently only apply for a DA.

Degree Apprenticeship Scheme

Existing staff will shortly be able to apply for a University of Portsmouth Degree Apprenticeship; where they will continue their current role for four days a week and study for their degree on one day a week in three terms (of ten weeks each) per year. The training day is likely to be a Wednesday or Thursday for the 2017/18 academic year. The course will last 3 years.  This means that a full-time employee will work 30 hours in their job and will spend a day a week in Portsmouth Business School (PBS). There is also a 2 or 3 day block at the start of each term. Out of term, the Degree Apprentice will work a normal 5 day week. The DA is, in every sense, a 'proper' degree.

This Degree Apprenticeship, as well as providing leadership and management skills, will lead to the following qualifications:

  • BA (Hons) Business Leadership and Management
  • Chartered Manager Status
  • Level 5 CMI Diplomas
  • Full Level 6 Apprenticeship Certification

Successful applicants must have 112 points from 3 A- levels or equivalent, with English and Maths as a minimum at level 2.  Alternatively, applicants will want to consolidate their work experience with a degree in management and have the energy for a real challenge. For further details on the course please visit BA (Hons) Business Leadership and Management.

Who can apply for a Degree Apprenticeship?

Anyone who meets the eligibility criteria can apply. An important part of the eligibility criteria is the line manager’s support and commitment. An employee interested in pursuing a DA should speak to their line manager at the earliest opportunity. A line manager will need to confirm that they accept that the staff member will attend a day release per week during term-time plus absence on a block release basis at other points of the academic year. An employee and their line manager should discuss how the absence can be managed. More importantly, however, the line manager and the employee should be clear about the benefits accruing from their completing the programme. It is essential that the programme is completed, as there are significant funding issues attached to an employee who does not complete the programme. Therefore, an employee should be able to provide robust evidence of their commitment to complete the programme and the line manager should be firm in their commitment to provide appropriate support and time off.

Will existing staff take a pay cut if they embark on a Degree Apprenticeship? 

Salary levels for existing members of staff undertaking a DA will not be affected. When the individual joins the DA, a written form of undertaking will be signed between the University and the individual, confirming the arrangements.

Can part- time staff undertake a Degree Apprenticeship?

Any staff member may undertake a DA, as long as they are contracted in their normal employment to a minimum of 30 hours per week.

Will staff who are undertaking a DA have their job title amended whilst they are undertaking the Degree?

There will be no change to job title if an existing member of staff undertakes a DA.

Will staff who undertake a DA have to remain employed by the University for a period of time or pay back the fees?

The University will be keen to retain staff who undertake a DA or any professional qualification which enhances their knowledge, skills and abilities.  However, it is more important for the University that the employee completes the DA whilst working for the University.  The Education and Skills Funding Agency specifically prohibits employers from requiring staff to repay fees for their DA programme.

If a manager refuses to allow someone to undertake a DA, is there a method for appealing?

Applicants can appeal against decisions at Faculty or Professional Service level, but only on the basis that the process of considering their application was flawed.  Such appeals should be submitted to the Director of Human Resources within ten working days of receipt of the written confirmation of the Faculty decision.  If an applicant is refused entry to the DA Programme on the grounds of an academic decision, this will be a matter for the Business School.

Can an employee change positions within the University after starting the programme?

An employee should not be deterred from applying to change roles within the University whilst they are on their DA (or other apprenticeship) programme. However, it will be important for the staff member to consider the relevance of any new role to the existing apprenticeship qualification they are undertaking. In addition, it will be critical to obtain the support and commitment of the new line manager before any application is made.

What happens if I want to apply for a different role in the University part way through my apprenticeship programme?  Would my potential new line manager be expected to support the continuation of my apprenticeship programme until completion?

This should not be unreasonably refused by the recruiting department and line manager. However, you should not assume that continuation of your apprenticeship will automatically be approved.  You should, in your application for the new role, use this as an opportunity to ‘sell’ the benefits of the learning and development to potential managers in terms of the skills and knowledge you will bring and what benefits this will have to the department. The recruiting manager will take this into consideration and will have to make an effective case for not being able to facilitate this.  A recruiting manager should have clear and fair reasons for why you may not be successful and that could include the inability to accommodate the time commitment. The University is committed to supporting staff undertaking apprenticeship programmes and therefore, recruiting managers will be encouraged to support you in your career development, wherever possible.

What happens if I leave the University during my training?

If an employee who is part of the University’s DA Scheme, chooses to leave the University part way through their training, the University will reserve the right to require partial repayment to cover the cost of the financial and time support provided to that individual.  The national apprenticeship scheme provides for apprenticeships to be transferred to a new organisation, but it will be the responsibility of the employee to agree a transfer with their new employer, alongside the University as a training provider.

How many Apprenticeships will be available within the University?

Apprenticeship training is to be funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. This is a mandatory contribution to a central Government fund, drawn from all UK employers with an annual English payroll in excess of £3,000.000.

The University will contribute £500,000 to this fund. Training costs (as paid to the provider) are charged to this fund. This article explains How the apprenticeship levy will work (external link).

The £500,000 is an annual cost to the University and it is therefore important that this levy amount is used appropriately for the training and upskilling of staff. The ESFA will monitor how levy-paying organisations will provide apprenticeship training.

The University started paying the levy from April 2017 and will continue to pay on a monthly basis.  It has 2 years in which to use these funds that were paid in that first month.  As we are in the early stages of developing apprenticeships, we do not have a definitive number of apprentices we will be looking to recruit, but we are seeking to maximise the benefits of developing staff from the levy funds available to us.

Will existing staff have any impact on the grade of their role if they embark on an Apprenticeship at whatever level?


Who will conduct the training component?

The University will select appropriate high quality training providers from existing partners or other National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS) approved organisations for off or on site provision.

How much time will an apprentice normally spend on training away from the office?

This will depend on the training format that the provider chosen by the University adopts. Because of the variety of roles available in the University, there will be a range or different training providers.  The University will be its own training providers for DA programmes.  Some training may be undertaken at a college on “day release”. Other providers may conduct the training in the workplace. The NAS standard is that the apprentice will spend 20% of their time training “off the job”. This does not mean necessarily, “out of the workplace”.  


Disclaimer: Please note that the University does not endorse any of the external websites listed above, or elsewhere in this guidance.