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Public Sector Apprenticeship Targets – An Opportunity or Inconvenience?

This year the government has introduced dramatic reforms to the apprenticeships landscape. These initiatives aim to support the government’s ambitious target of creating 3 million apprentices in employment by 2020 and an increase in the number of skilled workers in the UK.

In this new environment, the public sector has been highlighted as a key area where apprenticeship programmes need to be better developed, so that public sector organisations can lead the way and employ a significant proportion of apprentices to develop a skilled workforce for the future.

To help achieve these objectives, certain public bodies will now be set targets for apprentices of 2.3%. Historically, the public sector has employed far fewer apprentices compared to the private sector, therefore the target aims to ensure that all parts of the economy are able to benefit from this new skilled workforce. The target period is from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021.

Affected public bodies will also be required to publish information relating to their progress towards the target within six months of the end of each reporting period. This includes how many apprentices they employ as a percentage of their total headcount.

What reporting obligations are there?

Public bodies will need to produce a report confirming:

  • The numbers of employees and apprentices whose employment began in the reporting period
  • The numbers of employees and apprentices whose employment ended in the reporting period
  • If the reporting period is the first reporting period, the number of apprentices who worked for the body immediately before that period
  • The steps taken to meet the target and any reasons why that target has not been met
  • The steps intended to be taken to meet a future target and any reasons why that target may not be met
  • The headcount determined in respect of the reporting period
  • The number of apprentices who began to work for the body during the reporting period, expressed as a percentage of headcount.

The new Apprenticeships Levy and public sector targets are a great way to motivate organisations to start increasing the number of apprentices they have within their workforce. Studies have shown that organisations are currently struggling to attract those with the required skills to help grow their businesses. With 4.2 million people working in the public sector, it is vital that all those employed have the skills they need to succeed.

However, as there are new costs and obligations for public sector employers, organisations must ensure they have the capability to overcome the challenges posed by successful implementation.


On Tuesday 6th June 2017, Understanding ModernGov will run an interactive one-day training course on Developing Quality Apprenticeships in the Public Sector.

We had the chance to speak with our chair Kay Butterfield, to ask her about some of the challenges facing the public sector with regards to apprenticeships, and how our course can help overcome some of the barriers to achievement:

Q1: What in your opinion are the main challenges to implementing a successful apprenticeships programme?

I believe that that a key challenge facing organisations will be the “20% off-the-job training” apprenticeship rule. There has been a lot of contention relating to this requirement, and employers will face particular challenges where apprentices are part of the existing workforce.

Q2: What impact do you think the new apprenticeships targets will have on the public sector?

In my opinion a major issue will be balancing the requirements of the skill needs for the workforce and meeting the target number of starts. For example, one Chartered Manager Degree Apprentice (level 6) would require up to £27k from the employers levy pot whereas one Healthcare Support Worker (level 2) requires up to £3k. From a target aspect, you would be able to ensure up to 9 starts for the same levy spend, however this role may not necessarily be what your organisation needs.

Q3: What do you believe are the benefits delivering quality apprenticeships?

It is simple – quality apprenticeships ensure we have the right skilled workforce to deliver the needs of employers and sectors more largely.

Q4: How will attending our Developing Quality Apprenticeships in the Public Sector course help delegates to successfully implement an apprenticeships programme in their organisation?

At our training event, each delegate will be provided with an outline plan of the processes need to be put in place to develop a quality apprenticeship programme at their organisation.


If you would like to learn how you can gain practical advice on implementing an effective apprenticeships programme, join us on the 06.06.17 for our Developing Quality Apprenticeships in the Public Sector training course.

To speak to a member of our team about this training or to book your place please call 0800 542 9440 or email [email protected].