A Funded Route to Enhancing Skills

When apprenticeships were introduced, they were typically seen as a pathway for school leavers to pursue their desired career path. Historically, apprenticeships have been associated with traditional trade professions.

Today, apprenticeships are hugely different. Many people are taking them up in later life to support career changes or to gain additional knowledge, skills, and professional qualifications. With over 850 apprenticeships available, there are many more opportunities and avenues for people to explore.

Statistics from central government show that advanced (level 4) and higher apprenticeships (level 4 and 5) now make up most of all apprenticeships undertaken (43.9%), signifying a shift away from basic learning to more advanced capabilities and associated professional qualifications. Over 260,000 level 3 to 5 apprenticeships (equivalent to A level to the first year of degree) were started in the academic year of 2022/23, with higher apprenticeships seeing an increase of 6.2% on the previous year.

Funding the Learning

For businesses that have a wage bill of more than £ 3 million per year, the UK government initiated an Apprenticeship Levy in 2017. This required those employers to pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill as a tax levy. This levy can then be reinvested into the workforce, funding apprenticeships for people who are new to the business or those who wish to continue their learning. 

For those businesses who do not have such a significant wage bill, there are still opportunities to access government support. Business pays just 5% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice, with the government contributing the remaining 95%. In these circumstances, Xact’s Level 3 Fire Safety Advisor Apprenticeship could cost an employer as little as £300 with the Level 4 Fire Safety Inspector Apprenticeship being as little as £550.

This funding makes apprenticeships an attractive proposition for the employer and helps to close the skills gap and create enhanced opportunities for the workforce.

Apprentice's Wages

From April 2024, apprentices must be paid £6.40 per hour, under 19 years of age, or those over 19 who are in the first year of their apprenticeships. However, many employers offer apprenticeship wages equivalent to, or above, the average starting salary. Within the fire sector, we have seen the fire safety apprenticeship roles offering starting salaries at, or above, 19k.

Why is this important?

Whilst apprenticeships will always offer an alternative for those who do not want to go down the further education route, the pathway is now open to many more people who wish to extend and enhance their skills further. Xact offers two fire safety apprenticeship programs: Level 3 Fire Safety Advisor and Level 4 Fire Safety Inspector. Learning is available via a blended approach through Xact’s Interactive Virtual Classroom, face-to-face classes and directed learning through self-study. Classes are delivered by specialised fire safety tutors with significant industry experience. During the apprenticeship, apprentices and their line managers are supported by a dedicated Xact Mentor. Xact Mentors are selected from our expert teaching/ assessing pool and meet regularly with an apprentice and line manager to review progress, provide support and explore further development opportunities. 

Bridging the Gap

The fire protection sector has long suffered from a significant skills gap. Apprenticeships enable individuals in the fire safety industry to retrain or further develop their knowledge, skills and competency; whilst working to achieve nationally recognised qualifications. Proactive employers should consider where and how their workforce could benefit from apprenticeships. Utilising government funding to make this a common sense approach to enhancing and future-proofing skills.

If you are interested in how government funding can support the development of your workplace through fire safety apprenticeships, please get in touch with Xact. Email us at apprenticeships@xact.org.uk or visit our Apprenticeship Overview for more details.

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