Frequently Asked Questions

Apprenticeship jargon can be confusing to those approaching the market for the first time. We’ve answered some of the most common questions below to make sure we’re all on the same page.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are work-based, work-related qualifications that allow employees of any age to work and earn money while studying. Apprentices aren’t students doing work experience on the side – they’re full-time employees studying for a qualification as part of their job. Your apprentice will be learning on the job, and during their accelerated training at the Firebrand Training centre.

How long do Firebrand apprenticeships take to complete?

Depending on the job role and level of the apprenticeship, Firebrand apprenticeships can take between 12 and 24 months to complete.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Government introduced the Levy in April 2017 to ensure larger organisations dedicated a portion of their training budget to apprenticeships. The Levy is a payroll tax, set at 0.5% of a company’s pay bill. The Levy is not charged on the first £15,000 of this percentage, meaning companies effectively only pay if their pay bill exceeds £3million. This affects around 2% of companies in England.

Employers manage their Levy funds via the Apprenticeship Service online portal. In 2018, the Government introduced regulations that allowed companies to co-invest their Levy funds with eligible partners, allowing companies without the means to fund apprenticeship training to take on apprentices.

Who can deliver apprenticeships for my company?

Any training provider wishing to deliver apprenticeships – including employers with their own apprenticeship training programme – must be a member of the Register of Apprenticeship Training Organisations (RoATP). The register is overseen by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who conduct due diligence on all applicants.

Who can study for an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships aren’t ‘just for young people’ – anyone can study for an apprenticeship if they meet the key criteria. In April 2017, eligibility rules were altered to allow individuals to undertake apprenticeships at a similar or lower level than any previous qualifications they held, making it easier for people to retrain in a new field. Firebrand apprentices range from 16-year-old school leavers to established professionals in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

What are frameworks and standards – and what’s the difference?

An Apprenticeship Framework or Standard sets out the approved learning content apprentices must achieve in order to pass their qualification successfully. Frameworks are qualifications in general areas (e.g. IT, customer service) and are managed by awarding bodies while Standards allow apprentices to achieve skills for a specific role (e.g. software developer) and are overseen by the Institute for Apprenticeships. Standards were introduced in 2015, with the intention of replacing frameworks in all sectors by 2020.

All apprentices undertaking a standard need to pass an End Point Assessment (EPA) before they’re awarded their qualification. The EPA includes assessment of a portfolio of evidence, a final project and an interview with an independent assessor.

Firebrand only delivers apprenticeship standards, which are replacing the old-style frameworks and have been developed by employers to reflect the need of their industry. We have an EPA agreement with the British Computer Society (BCS), the largest digital EPA provider, for all apprenticeships. Please see page 8 for a complete list of the apprenticeships we offer.

What is Accelerated Learning?

Firebrand is your apprentice's fastest way to learn. This means they get certified at twice the speed. To enable this, courses run at least 12 hours a day, for seven days a week.

What is an Apprenticeship 'Standard' and who has developed them for the IT industry?

The Standard is a simple document outlining the typical job roles, programme length and entry requirements of the apprenticeship. Similar to job specification, it’s geared towards learners, employers and peers as a way of simplifying the apprenticeship process.

The new apprenticeships are transitioning away from previous frameworks to standards by 2020. Standards are developed by employers. Firebrand was been instrumental in the development of Digital Apprenticeship Standards alongside working with a group of more than ten employers (called Trailblazers) made up of large organisations and SMEs to develop the apprenticeship standards for digital industries.

The role of the employer group is to determine which job roles should be covered by the Standards and determine the technical, knowledge and behavioural competencies required for those jobs.

What is an Occupational Brief?

The Occupational Brief goes into much more detail than the Standard and outlines the specific knowledge, skills and behaviours that an apprentice should learn throughout their apprenticeship. It is aimed at the organisation delivering the apprenticeship or building the programme.

How much should I pay my apprentice?

We recommend a starting salary of £200 per week, and to cover any expenses such as travel to the training centre. We also recommend that you review your apprentice's salary as they pass exams or complete courses and take on extra responsibility.

All apprentices must be paid at least the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage relevant to their age. Existing employees that become an apprentice would maintain the same terms and conditions of employment, with the addition of the Apprenticeship Agreement

How much does the apprenticeship cost me?

This depends on the programme you choose, and whether your company is paying the Apprenticeship Levy or not.

If you're not paying the Apprenticeship Levy, you pay just 10% of the total cost of apprenticeship training - the government co-invests the other 90% for you. If you're a Levy payer, the government will support you by topping up your Levy account with an extra 10% of what you pay in each month.

Learn about paying for apprenticeship training here

What is an End Point Assessment (EPA)?

An End Point Assessment (EPA) is the final step in the apprenticeship journey for employers and apprentices. The assessment allows apprentices to demonstrate that they've developed all the competencies (skills), knowledge and behaviours outlined in the Standard to prove they're able to do the job they've been training for throughout their programme.

Learn about End Point Assessments for Firebrand apprentices here

What happens if I don't spend all the funds in my digital account?

Funds available on a 24 month rolling basis – if you don’t spend it you lose it after that time period.

How do I organise 'off the job' training for my apprentices?

Employers should work with training providers such as Firebrand Training who are on the Register of Apprentice Training Providers (ROATP) to develop a training programme incorporating the skills and requirements outlined in the Standard. We'll also support, track and record the off the job training requirement with you and your apprentices.

How do I recruit IT apprentices?

Firebrand can help with advice and guidance for recruitment of apprenticeships as part of our service to you – plus you can advertise for apprentices free.

Apprentices provide excellent opportunities to find new talent – and you can also utilise traineeships (government-funded work experience programmes) where you source new talent.

Find out more about recruiting apprentices here

Will my apprentices take any exams?

As part of the apprenticeship your apprentices will sit a number of exams which they will need to pass to gain their apprenticeship qualification. Below is a list of the apprenticeship programmes that Firebrand offer, and the exams included:

What jobs can I fill?

You can introduce your apprentice to many different jobs in IT, including:

  • Cyber Security Information Analyst
  • Support Technician
  • Website Administrator
  • Helpdesk Professional
  • Software / Web Developer
  • Desktop Support Engineer
  • Network Planner
  • Database Administrator
  • Network Engineer
  • Software Tester
  • Mobile and Windows app developer

How many hours a week will my apprentice work?

A 35-hour week (typically 9.00am - 5.00pm) with a one hour lunch break is normal.

Does my apprentice get paid holiday?

Yes, your apprentice will be entitled to the same holiday schemes as the rest of your employees.

What support do I get?

Working with an apprentice requires commitment. Like any new employee, your apprentice will need guidance and leadership. You and your apprentice get a designated Firebrand Learning Mentor, who will guide you throughout your apprenticeship. Through 10-week reviews, visits to your workplace and working with you to collect evidence of work-based projects.

Where do apprentices take their training?

All classroom training takes place at our residential training centre at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire. Residential, meaning you live with us for the duration of the training (this is between 2 and 11 days dependent on the course selection) and the cost of your food, travel and accommodation will be covered.

Additionally, there's plenty of free parking, a hotel and restaurant on site and a free shuttle bus service to and from the station to the training centre if needed. Please note that the training can take place over weekends and that the travel costs are covered by employers.

What happens at the end of the apprenticeship?

When you hire an apprentice, you both sign a 15-18 month contract, depending on the level of the programme. When the programme is completed, you have the choice whether to bring them into permanent employment. In a survey carried out by the TUC the success rate for IT apprenticeships was excellent, with more than four out of five (83%) of apprentices working at the same company beyond the initial contract.

Can I hire more than one apprentice?

Yes, you can hire as many apprentices as you want - there’s no limit.

Can my current employees become apprentices?

Yes. Plus, because Firebrand is a Tech Industry Gold provider, your apprentice can be of any age - although it's important that they don't have any qualifications in IT that are higher than the level of the apprenticeship programme.

Can I add to my apprentice's training programme after I've signed-up?

Yes. You need to choose your training programme at the start of the apprenticeship, but you can tailor this once you get to know your apprentice.

My company isn't based in England, can I hire a Firebrand apprentice?

No. Employers and apprentices must be based in England to qualify for funding and co-investment from the government. This means we cannot accept applications from Ireland, Scotland and Wales

What are the minimum working hours requirements for an apprentice?

Apprentices are expected to be employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week. In exceptional circumstances, this could be 16 hours per week however we would expect the total duration of the apprenticeship to increase to give the candidate enough time to complete successfully.

What is the age limit for apprentices?

There is no upper age limit. Apprentices must be 16 years old when they begin their apprenticeship, and are eligible to live and work in England.

Can staff who hold a degree (undergraduate or postgraduate) eligible?

Employers can use the funds in their Digital Account and access Government co-investment support to enrol staff on an apprenticeship at a higher level than the qualification their already hold. This includes previous apprenticeships.

If an individual holds a qualification at a higher level than the IT apprenticeship you would like them to undertake, they may still be eligible if the previous qualification is materially different (unrelated to IT, or computer science).

Do I have to give existing staff a different job if they are starting an apprenticeship?

Not necessarily - you must ensure that the apprentice is genuinely learning new skills and knowledge, which can be learned within the job they currently hold.

Can non-Apprenticeship Levy payers use Firebrand as their IT apprenticeship provider?

From the 1st January 2018 Government funding for non-Apprenticeship Levy paying companies will be allocated on a regional basis in England. Training providers will be subject to a cap on the amount of Government funding they can access to support smaller employers investing in apprenticeships.

To find out if your company can use Firebrand as their IT apprenticeship provider, please get in touch.