Insights Off the Job Training – Understanding the 20% Rule
08 September 2017

Off the Job Training – Understanding the 20% Rule

Apprentices learning

Employers recruiting apprentices will be aware that apprentices need to spend 20% of their working time completing off the job training which is relevant to their qualification. 

Seetec delivers flexible training which is matched to employer and learner needs. 

Mel Nicholson, Seetec’s Director of Excellence, answers employers' frequently asked questions.

What exactly is off the job training?

“It’s learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working routine and contributes to the achievement of an apprenticeship. It can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work or off-site.

“When Seetec works with an employer to develop a bespoke programme for them, we map in appropriate off the job training that meets the employer’s and learner’s needs while ensuring compliance with the guidance.

“Examples of off the job training include classroom training, role play, coaching and mentoring, simulation exercises, online learning, work shadowing, manufacturer training, industry visits, self study and assignment completion.”

I've been told that my apprentice needs to spend a day a week off-site on day release, is this correct?

“Not at all! This is one of many delivery models that meet the requirement but it’s most definitely not the only one. The 1 day a week comes from the correct understanding that if an apprentice is working 5 days a week for a full year (that’s the minimum duration of an apprenticeship) then 1 day of each week would equate to 20% of the apprentice’s contracted hours.

“This tells us how much off the job training needs to be recorded over the duration of the apprenticeship, but as I’ve explained, there are many ways to do this (examples above). It doesn’t necessarily have to be spread equally over the programme either. In some cases, a ‘boot camp’ style induction with the training provider for a period of time (often 2 weeks) would set a cohort of learners up for working with you while providing a big chunk of the off the job training upfront.

“It’s up to the employer and provider to decide at what point during the apprenticeship the training is best delivered (for example, a proportion of each day, one day a week throughout, one week out of every five, a proportion at the beginning, middle or end). This will depend on what’ is best for the organisation and the apprentice, as well as on the technical or theoretical requirements of the apprenticeship standard.”

How is the rule checked and enforced?

“Organisations on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) are regularly checked and audited by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to ensure they’re operating within the ‘spirit of the guidance’.

“These audits generally test a set percentage of randomly chosen learners – if concerns are raised then a larger selection may be requested. If the provider cannot supply suitable evidence to meet the requirements of the guidance then they could face a financial penalty, which is generally a relevant percentage taken from volume of errors against volume of funding claimed.

“This means it’s highly likely learners will be looked at across a range of employers and a global decision will be made. This also means that the provider harbours the risk, not the employer –and ensures the emphasis is on them to make sure the appropriate recording systems are in place. On top of the threat of financial impact from the ESFA the rule is also identified as a vital feature of a quality apprenticeship by Ofsted, so if providers don’t get it right it will affect their overall grade.”

Will all the 20% be satisfied by time with the provider?

“Different employers and learners require different models, and we would respond to that need. This means that if it works better that the entirety of the 20% is delivered by Seetec as learning then that’s fine, but in most cases it will be a mixture of time committed by the provider and the employer.

“The key thing to remember is that it needs to be tasks or activities that are outside of the apprentice’s normal working duties and it needs to be recorded. So, if the apprentice was to work shadow another team member to learn new skills that contribute to the apprenticeship then this could be recorded as part of the 20%.

“First we’ll understand what training, mentoring or development is taking place within the organisation to identify what may constitute off the job training – you’re probably already doing more than you realise!”

Can distance learning be used to satisfy the rule?

“Distance and online learning are effective learning methods as they deliver bite-sized modules and information to individuals as and when they need them. This type of learning would be part of a blended learning package (one of multiple methods of delivery). The rules don’t permit for all off the job training to be delivered through distance learning but do acknowledge they have their place to deliver some.”

What isn’t included as 20% off the job and under what circumstances can it be included?

  • Induction – but by incorporating educational aspects (e.g. learning to use a core piece of equipment) induction can be mapped as part of 20% off the job
  • English and maths – but by consolidating knowledge of functional skills as part of off the job training, some aspects of English and maths can be mapped as part of 20% off the job.
  • Assessment – but by including the teaching of new knowledge, skills and behaviours assessment activity can be mapped as 20% off the job.
  • Progress reviews – but by including the teaching of new knowledge, skills and behaviours progress reviews can be mapped to 20% off the job e.g. reflective thinking
  • Training outside of work hours – unless this time is recognised in an appropriate way

What if my apprentice studies outside of work hours, does this count as off the job training?

“Study outside of work hours can only be included as off the job if the training is recognised in some way i.e. time off in lieu is awarded for the time spent studying outside of work hours.  Your Apprenticeship Delivery Coach will be able to advise if this should be the case.”

For further reading, download the Government policy