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Level 7: What to consider before making the switch

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The eagerly anticipated Level 7 Professional Accountant Apprenticeship standard will soon be available for delivery, enabling employers to train their students towards a full Chartered Accountancy/Tax qualification through the Apprenticeship route.

The availability of Levy and 90/10* government funding for non or marginal Levy payers has naturally lead many employers to plan to switch to the Apprenticeship as soon as it is ready for use.

At Kaplan we are very excited about the opportunities Level 7 will provide and have spent the past few months advising our clients on key considerations they should be keeping in mind when deciding if and when to embrace this new route. In anticipation of the imminent approval, we are sharing some of these considerations with you now to make sure you are fully prepared and avoid any potential pitfalls.

20% ‘Off-The-Job’

New Apprenticeship funding rules state that for anybody on an Apprenticeship, 20% of the time on the programme must be spent in training and development – so called “off-the-job” requirement. Whilst this can encompass many things such as appraisals, mentoring, internal training, shadowing and professional qualification training – it is an important consideration, especially if, as an organisation, you currently use weekend or evening courses.

A good training provider, like Kaplan, can advise you on how your programme can meet this requirement and how you track it but it is now an important consideration for any employer thinking about Apprenticeships as a method of study.

Skills and Behaviours

Apprenticeships, especially with new standards, are no longer just focused on professional qualifications (technical knowledge) but now also place equal importance on the development of key skills and behaviours that are required to show somebody is competent in their job role. Fundamentally this is very similar to the completion of training records and practical work experience already required by most Professional Accountancy/Tax bodies. However under an Apprenticeship it is important that the training and demonstration of these skills and behaviours is documented and that progress towards them is formally monitored.

Training providers will assist with this, so Kaplan as an example use an online training log and provide Talent Coach support to assist with the tracking of progress. However it is important you are aware of this requirement before committing to Apprenticeship training.

End Point Assessment (EPA)

Linked to the Skills and Behaviours point above, another key difference between Professional Qualification training and Apprenticeships is the need to complete at least 2 forms of ‘End Point Assessment’ on completion of the Apprenticeship. With Level 7, this has been made slightly easier as one of the forms of end point assessment will be the final case study which sits at the end of all the Professional Qualifications. However, there is an additional 4,000 word project individuals will need to complete to reflect on their recent, relevant professional work experience.

This is designed to be a valuable component of the training programme, enabling Apprentices to truly reflect on what they have achieved but it does need to be completed to achieve the Apprenticeship so another important consideration especially for students part-way through their studies who you are thinking of transferring.

12 month rule

Apprenticeships in any sector at any level, now have to last a minimum of 12 months and 1 week (372 days). For new Apprenticeship standards a further requirement is that End Point Assessment cannot be attempted until the Apprentice has been on programme for at least 12 months.

For new students this shouldn’t be an issue as most Professional Qualifications will take at least 3 years BUT this is an important consideration if you are looking to transfer an existing student onto an Apprenticeship scheme. For some Qualifications EPAs may only run up to 2 times per year which could considerably delay the time your student would take to qualify and potentially impact existing training contracts.

Clawback and Resits

New funding rules do state that employers are no longer allowed to ask the Apprentice to contribute financially in any way towards their Apprenticeship. This includes asking Apprentices to pay for exam resits or asking Apprentices to pay back any costs of their training. This does mean that if you currently have a clause in existing training contracts where you clawback training costs if students leave during training or after a certain period of time, this will need to be reviewed.**

Level 7 is undoubtedly going to have a major impact in our sector, and we anticipate the majority of the employers we work with to embrace this new standard so seeing a major spike in the number of students on official Apprenticeship schemes. However it is important we do remember that these are Apprenticeships and not just funding for Professional Training.

We hope the considerations above prove useful and welcome any comments/suggestions or any other questions we’ve not included here.

Cassandra has been a member of the employer working groups for all three Accountancy Standards.

*For non or marginal Levy payers, who undertake Apprenticeship training, the government will fund 90% of the agreed training costs, with employer paying the remaining 10%

**For any change in contracts, we recommend you to take expert legal advice

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