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Grants of up to £1,500 are now available to employers in England taking on their first apprentice.
The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) funding from the National Apprenticeship Service is available until March 2013 for small employers (<250 employees) who take on up to three apprentices aged between 16-24 years for the first time.
The £1,500 VAT exempt wage grant is payable per apprentice aged 16-18 (£750 for candidates aged 19-24) and is awarded in addition to apprenticeship and advanced apprenticeship funding. To qualify, employers must also confirm they wouldn't otherwise have taken on the apprentice. Employers must also agree to pay the minimum apprenticeship wage, currently £2.60 per hour.
The grant is also open to eligible employers who have employed a new apprentice from February 1st. See Buttercups factsheet.
Those practices not eligible to take up the new incentive may still offer fully funded apprenticeships (including advanced apprenticeships), subject to certain conditions; the student must be aged 16-18 years old, and must not hold a level 4 qualification or above (defined as: a university degree or equivalent, a BTEC/BEC National HNC/HND, a Higher Education Certificate or Diploma, an NVQ4, a Nursing (SRN), an RSA Advanced Certificate or Higher Diploma) or a level 3 qualification in the same subject area. Funding for advanced apprenticeships is only expected to remain available until July, 2013. For apprentices aged over 19, there is an employer's contribution - currently £150 (£770 for advanced apprenticeships).
Pros and cons
For employers, an advantage of apprenticeship is that the qualification is considered a 'gold standard' and requires a level of literacy and numeracy that will add approximately 10 additional hours of study time to the other requirements of the course.
To draw down apprenticeship funding, employers must ensure their candidates submit work every month for the duration of their course, and complete the key skills within a year or two years (advanced apprenticeship), although some students may gain partial exemption from the key skills tasks, if they can supply the relevant GCSE certificates.
There are also cost advantages to apprenticeships; compared to the Level 2 Certificate in Pharmacy Service Skills, an apprenticeship will save the employer £790 + VAT for candidates aged 16-18 and £640 + VAT for candidates aged over 19.
Compared to the Level 3 Diploma in Pharmacy Service Skills, an advanced apprenticeship will save the employer £1,750 + VAT for candidates aged 16-18 and £980 + VAT for candidates aged over 19.
Disadvantages generally centre on red-tape; there is a lot of legislation around apprenticeships and they have received a lot of bad press. This has particularly been around working hours, holiday entitlement, wages, fair treatment and contracts.
Buttercups Training offers fully funded Apprenticeships and the necessary expert witness support: