Apprenticeships: real-world implementation into a sporting workplace

Apprenticeships: real-world implementation into a sporting workplace 

Matt Robinson, Lifetime Training


The apprenticeship landscape has changed greatly over the last 12 months, with the implementation of the levy and the target of three million apprenticeships remaining a key government manifesto commitment.

Matt believes employers fall into one of these categories:

  • Non-levy payers who are seeking value through co-investment.
  • Large employers paying the levy who are on top of what they need to do.
  • “Late adopters” - employers who are now trying to “catch-up” with getting the most out of their levy.
  • Those who are dissatisfied with training providers and want to identify what they should be looking for in a new provider.

About the levy

The apprenticeship levy is paid by employers whose PAYE bill is over £3,000,000. They will be charged 0.5% of their annual payroll bill – money that can then be drawn down. Employers can either spend their allowance with training providers and end point assessments or keep the training provision in house, if the training infrastructure is robust and in place.

Employers who have less than £3m PAYE bill will have to contribute 10% of total training fees, with the government subsidising the remaining 90% – this is referred to as co-investment.

Employers will have 24 months to spend the levy money taken since 1 May 2017.

Matt Robinson, Lifetime Training 

Matt Robinson, Lifetime Training 

Shifting and improving frameworks

After the second reform white paper which challenges that employers did not have enough control of the content delivered through apprenticeships, a shift from frameworks to standards occurred. This is now reflected in the work that CIMSPA is facilitating to develop professional standards for occupations within the sector, led by employers.

Sector apprenticeships

Three apprenticeships have now been approved for the sector:

  • Leisure duty manager.
  • Community sport health officer.
  • Community activator coach.

With more in the pipeline of approval and development.

The apprenticeships landscape is governed by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) which is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Education. More information can be found on its website

Apprenticeship fees and salaries

There is a £1000 cash incentive available for employers who enroll a 16-18 year old onto an apprenticeship or someone over the age of 19 who is covered by an EHC plan arranged via social services or other support agency. Incentive payments are received at 6 months into the apprenticeship and again at the end of the programme.

Making apprenticeships cost-neutral

It is important to note that under 25s who are on an apprenticeship are exempt from paying national insurance contributions for the duration of their learning and whilst they are under the age of 25. Note that the savings made by not paying these contributions will cover the 10% cash contribution that the employer will have to pay towards training costs.

Apprenticeships presentation diagram 1.png

Whilst there are established minimum wages for apprenticeships, it is not recommended that this is the salary they receive. Instead, Matt suggested employers should consider paying the national minimum wage, rather than the apprenticeship minimum wage, to aid retention of staff.

“Confident and competent”

The change from a “framework” approach to one using professional standards (as being developed by CIMSPA and sector employers) has also seen changes in assessing competence. Apprentices now receive training in a subject and at the end of their apprenticeship will demonstrate to a stranger their application of their knowledge and skills. Ongoing assessment is no longer part of apprenticeship standards delivery. Instead, the new testing goal is that the apprentice should be “confident and competent” in their job role.

The role of the employer

Employers are now far more engaged in the apprenticeship process and must play an important role in supporting the apprentice through their learning. There is a three way discussion before apprentices move to their end point assessment and this occurs between the trainer, employer and the apprentice – known as a ‘gateway meeting’. This ensures that there is a quality control mechanism and that all parties are happy for the apprentice to progress to the end point assessment.

A key message to remember is: “don’t believe everything a provider says, do your due diligence and check their credentials.”

Choosing a training provider

Employers looking to choose a training provider for apprenticeships should consider the following checklist to ensure they select the best possible provider.

  • How does the provider perform on Learner & Employer Satisfaction Surveys? Employers should look at the feedback received from both learners and employers who have previously worked with the training provider.
  • OFSTED Report conclusions
  • Are they a CIMSPA partner?
  • Does their delivery model suit the employer?
  • What is their financial health and size/scale?
  • Look at the detail in the offer: account management, recruitment and more. What else can the training provider offer above other training providers?
  • Qualification portfolio – look for both quantity and quality.

Demand for apprenticeships

In 2017 the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated that the average debt upon graduation
in England will be £50k. This includes approximately £27,000 of tuition fee debt,
£18,000 of maintenance debt and £6,000 of interest accrued over the
three years of studying.

Whilst the higher education sector is striving to find solutions, offer flexibility and support students, there is the potential that the demand for apprenticeships will increase as some students choose the apprenticeship route into work rather than higher education.

Is now the best time to recruit talent into the sector through apprenticeships?

With potentially more demand, why should an employer bother with apprenticeships? Apprentices can have a positive impact on the organisation and provide an avenue to attract, retain and grow talent within the sector’s workforce.

Anecdotally, it is often found that if an apprentice leaves their apprenticeship programme, they leave the sport and physical activity sector all together. The new focus of measuring how someone develops individually and is able to evidence this rather than just achieving a higher level of learning will go a long way to improving their engagement in the apprenticeship programme and potential further continuation of their learner journey.

Top tips for recruiting apprenticeships:

  • Apprentices are a long term investment (12-18 months).
  • Focus on behaviours as opposed to competency when recruiting apprenticeships.
  • Create a welcoming environment and offer job shadows if possible.
  • Offering a full time role (over 30 hours per week) promotes commitment.
  • Take an active interest in their progress – mentors work really well in this situation .

Apprenticeships are most successful when a mentor is available, so having them on hand before an interview could also be advantageous. Providing an environment for interviewing that is relaxed will also help applicants demonstrate their best skills and behaviours. Some training providers, such as Lifetime Training can help to provide a screening and selection process.

The median cost for hiring senior managers has decreased from our last survey and is £6,000. The median cost for hiring all employees has remained the same at £2,000. Over half conduct all recruitment activity in-house, but there is an increasing trend to combine in-house and outsourced approaches. (Ref: CIPD Survey Report, Resourcing and Talent Planning 2017).

When an apprentice leaves an apprenticeship programme this can leave both employers and training providers with a negative impact. However, through a working example Matt demonstrated how apprentice turnover can have a less negative impact than other workforce turnover.

Estimated saving based on reducing labour turnover from 61% to 35% across 98 sites with 12 month labour turnover = or >50%. 


The 61% turnover of staff compared to 35% apprenticeship turnover could equate to a cost savings of up to £932,000 on costs per hire.

Simple implementation

There is no hard rule to say how long it takes to launch an apprenticeship programme, however there are key stages to the process:

  1. Choose a provider.
  2. Make initial contact.
  3. Discuss potential learners/vacancies.
  4. Sign the training agreement.
  5. Check suitability and eligibility.
  6. Organise enrolment.
  7. Training commences.
  8. Review progress.
  9. Review courses (this is critical, all training providers should be comfortable to provide transparency during the review).

Tailored learning

The sport and physical activity sector naturally lends itself to ‘off the job’ training and often provides good access to this type of learning. The success of the apprenticeship is based on a successful tri-party relationship between the mentor/manager, trainer and learner.

Off the job training has to be completed at site and may require some time being built into work programmes to allow for learning to occur. Employers will also have to ensure that suitable equipment is provided to the apprentice to ensure that learning can take place. The most influential support resource that often ensures the success of the apprenticeship is an effective mentor/peer/manager who can dedicate themselves to the apprenticeship and support them throughout the duration of this apprenticeship process.

When designing a learning programme Matt recommends the following approach:

  1. Analyse.
  2. Design.
  3. Develop.
  4. Implement.
  5. Evaluate.


Matt went on to conclude with the three key points to take from his presentation and how “the time is now” for embedding apprenticeships into your workforce:

  • The rise of CIMSPA, coupled with new sector standards provides the perfect time to move into delivery of apprenticeships.
  • Government changes have placed added pressure on traditional HE routes meaning now is the perfect time to attract talent into our sector.
  • Apprenticeships are a commitment for both the learner and employer, however the benefits and return on investment can make them a valuable addition to any workplace.