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20% off-the-job training: our top ten tips for 2020

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2020 marks the three year anniversary of compulsory off-the-job learning time for apprentices.

Over the years, the rules* concerning off-the-job time have evolved, but some confusion about the 20% off-the-job training time remains.

The off-the-job time is designed to set apprentices up for success. So here are our top ten tips for employers to help steer you in the right direction for 2020.

  1. What counts as off-the-job?

    The term off-the-job may appear ambiguous, as it suggests apprentices physically need to be away from their work premises for it to apply. This isn't the case and training can happen in the workplace. To see if the activity in question can count as off-the-job time for your apprentice, make sure you can answer yes to these three questions:

    1. Is the activity directly relevant to the Apprenticeship standard?
    2. Is the activity imparting new knowledge, skills or behaviours?
    3. Is the learning being completed in the apprentice's normal working hours?

    Questions a) and b) are non-negotiable: the answer has to be yes. There are exceptions to c). Sometimes there may be an evening activity, such as a relevant networking event or skills development session, at which new learning would be acquired and which is directly relevant to the standard. If that's the case, then it's fine to count the time as off the job even though it's not within ‘normal working hours' as long as compensation is given (such as time off in lieu).

  2. Off-the-job time needs to be quantified at the start

    The key Apprenticeship documents state:

    1. The quantity of off-the-job time being delivered (which is included in the Apprenticeship agreement). We will calculate this dependent on the working hours of the apprentice - whether they are full-time or part-time, and the duration of the Apprenticeship training period.
    2. The planned off-the-job training (which is included in the commitment statement).

  3. Be realistic about the amount of off-the-job time from the outset

    It's important to stress that the 20% figure is the bare minimum. It's there to help learners be successful in their Apprenticeship. If 20% off-the-job time isn't given, then it isn't a valid Apprenticeship.

    If employers can't commit to providing 20% off-the-job time, then they should enrol learners with us on Kaplan courses not funded by the levy or government contributions, rather than Kaplan Apprenticeships.

    The 20% off-the-job time is so important to Apprenticeship regulations that if an employer isn't providing the time, then the Apprenticeship would have to be stopped.

  4. Off-the-job time isn't given for the entire duration of the Apprenticeship

    With Apprenticeship standards, an employer has to give the apprentice at least 20% off-the-job time from the first day in learning, to the final day of the training period.

    The final day of the training period is counted as the point at which the apprentice goes through ‘gateway' and enters the end point assessment phase. So, it's not the entire Apprenticeship duration.

    As an example, if a learner started an Apprenticeship standard in January 2020 and was due to get to the ‘gateway' end point assessment period in August 2021 and complete the full Apprenticeship in December 2021, off-the-job time would be given from January 2020 to August 2021. Not from January 2020 to December 2021.

  5. Off-the-job time isn't given during statutory holiday

    When we're calculating the number of off-the-job hours required, we remove 28 days per year. This is the maximum amount of holiday (including bank holidays) which is allowed to be taken into account. Even if you as an employer give more than that, we can only remove 28 days from the calculation.

  6. 20% doesn't have to mean one day per week

    Many employers assume that 20% means one day per week and needs to be spent training. A clean-cut way is indeed to provide one day a week as study leave, but it doesn't have to be that prescriptive.

    In our experience, it's helpful for apprentices to have some time which is ring-fenced as study time, e.g. half a day as study time, which is then supplemented with time for revision, additional learning, relevant work-shadowing, etc.

  7. Make inductions count

    The rules don't allow for inductions to be included in the off-the-job time calculation if they just involve showing somebody where various facilities are or introductions to the team.

    However, if your induction includes actual training and skills development which are directly relevant to the standard, then this can be included. This is as long as the induction is taking place once the Apprenticeship paperwork with Kaplan is complete and falls after the first Apprenticeship date in learning.

    We know many employers have very comprehensive inductions into new roles, sometimes including up to 2 weeks of technical training. Get in touch with us whilst you're thinking about what induction training can count, before launching an Apprenticeship programme, so we can help you.

  8. Be careful though as not all training counts

    A training programme which forms part of the Apprenticeship is clearly going to count towards the off-the-job calculation. Relevant and new employer training can also count, as can relevant work-shadowing, networking and skills shows.

    However, not all learning does count, so watch out for these:

    • If a learner needs to achieve Maths and English ‘functional skills' for example as they don't have GCSE certificates in those subjects, then any learning towards achieving Maths and English must be in addition and can not count towards the 20% off the job time.
    • Travel time to a teaching session doesn't count.
    • Exams don't count towards off-the-job time.

    • Writing assignments and time spent during the training period on revision does count, even though it is rehearsing already learnt material.

    And remember, the learning has to be directly relevant to the standard.

    If you feel confused by this, don't worry, as we will guide you through this as your training provider.

  9. Embrace flexibility of delivery methods

    The 20% has to be achieved in work time. So if you only allow your students to study in the evenings and weekends, and don't give any compensation such as time off in lieu, then this won't be compliant.

    However, if adopting a day release model doesn't work for your business, you can still make the most of the flexibility Kaplan can offer in terms of delivery. So for instance, if you offered time off in lieu, you could still use courses which are held in the evening.

  10. Encourage your apprentices to keep records of their learning

    For apprentices who started from 1 August 2019, we have to record the volume of planned off-the-job training hours from the outset on an Apprenticeship document which we submit for audit, called the Individualised Learner Record.

    From 1 August 2020, we will also have to stipulate the actual number of off-the-job hours delivered. We ask all apprentices to complete a training log. This is where their Talent Coaches will review with your learners what training they've received to make sure the minimum of 20% is being adhered to and recorded.

We hope this guide helps make sense of the 20% off-the-job training requirement and makes it feel more achievable. We've worked in partnership with many clients, on the design of Apprenticeship programmes, and are full of admiration for how you approach learning in your organisation.

We're here to make sure you are comfortable with how off-the-job training time will work for you and your apprentices. Please contact your Kaplan account manager if you wish to discuss anything further.

*Apprenticeship rules can change. This article is correct as at 1 January 2020 but may be subject to change. Please check the full government document for the latest guidance.