Apprenticeships: What is 20% “off-the-job” training?

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The new Apprenticeship Levy came into effect in May of 2017, but as with most schemes of its size, there have been some teething problems.

Chief among these is the confusion surrounding the requirement that learners must spend 20% of their contracted work time completing “off-the-job training”.

In a recent piece on their website, the BBC incorrectly stated that off-the-job training can’t be completed at the employee’s usual place of work, so it’s clear that there’s still a lot of widespread confusion surrounding the terms.

Just what is off-the-job training?

The official definition from the Education and Skills Funding Agency is ‘learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads toward the achievement of an apprenticeship’.

This can’t include time spend working on English and Maths qualifications, or on training to acquire skills, knowledge and behaviours that are not required in the learner’s apprenticeship standard or framework.

The ESFA also stated ‘Training can be delivered at the apprentices’ normal place of work, but not as part of their normal working duties’.

The immediate reaction from some employers was that 20% sounds like an unreasonable amount of time away from the learner’s main duties, but in practice the benefits of that time can be quite substantial.

Off the job training can of course include time spent learning new skills with the training provider, but it can also be spent on the administrative and clerical tasks surrounding an apprenticeship, including completing key work assignments.

These assignments can’t be assigned as “homework” for the learner to complete in their own time, and hence the specific allocation of time in which these can be completed is fundamental to the success of the apprenticeship.

Some examples of what off-the-job training can be include:

  • The teaching of theory, such as lectures, role playing, online learning, simulation exercises or manufacturer training.
  • Practical training that learners wouldn’t usually do during the week – mentoring, shadowing, industry visits and attendance at competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent completing assignments.

Another key issue that employers are having, is how to give evidence of the off-the-job training. This is of course dependant on how the time is spent. Time spent with the training provider can be evidenced in the form of the attendance records the training provider will keep.

Time spent at the learner’s workplace is slightly more difficult, and employers must take care to provide a log of the time spent on off-the-job training. This could be in the form of a diary like system, where the learner maintains a file that lists all the off-the-job work they have completed, and the dates they completed it on.

Here at Skills Team we provide an online learning system for learners to complete and save their assignments, and also to access any supporting materials for their apprenticeship programme. This system will allow the learner to keep a record of their 20% off-the-job training, as well as providing access to a wealth of supporting information and knowledge for each apprenticeship standard.

Most businesses that have run an apprenticeship scheme will recognise the benefits of this time, as it gives the employee time to reflect on their learning and improve their efficiency with regular working tasks, and ultimately acquire knowledge and skills that will make them a more capable employee in the future.


Our free downloadable guide covers all you need to know about upskilling your existing staff using apprenticeships.


Do you want more information about the Apprenticeship Levy, off-the-job training, or upskilling your staff? Give us a call on 020 3174 1100 or send your questions to


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