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Introducing The Apprenticeship

23 November 2016

Dawn Abbotts, Equiniti Trainer, discusses workplace pensions administrator apprenticeships

Background

Apprenticeships are changing.  Employers are now at the forefront of the creation of apprenticeships and learning; developing people with workplace skills that are relevant to their particular business and industry.

In 2014 Equiniti was invited by the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) – the UK’s leading employee benefit and retirement savings professional body, to participate in developing a new Trailblazer apprenticeship standard for a Workplace Pensions Administrator.

Since then, Equiniti has been part of a working group made up of employers from the industry, the PMI and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).  Equiniti has collaborated with these entities to develop, and get approved, the first specialist Workplace Pensions Administrator apprenticeship.

A pilot scheme was introduced on 1 October 2016 in Crawley and is being run by the Pensions Training Academy.

The Details

The initial pilot apprenticeship scheme has been opened to existing members of staff, although it is envisaged that future ones will have external applicants.  All of their terms and conditions have remained unchanged, but there is a requirement to sign an apprenticeship contract.  There are no age limits.  The apprenticeship will last between 18-24 months.  At the end of the course, apprenticeships will hold a recognised qualification within the pensions industry and will be one of the first to achieve this.

Apprentices are given a list of competencies to achieve.  To help attain these they will have support from their line managers, the Pensions Training Academy and specialist staff from our training provider.  20% of their time is allowed for training.  They will typically spend this time completing and compiling evidence for their portfolio, attending training sessions and studying towards their professional exam.

An assessor judges their work throughout the apprenticeship and they have to complete a professional examination (we are keen for our apprentices to complete the PMI’s Retirement Provision Certificate).

We have appointed Central Sussex College to act as the training provider and they support the apprentices through the qualification.

Funding

In spring 2017 the way the Government funds apprenticeships in England is changing.  Some employers will be required to contribute to a new apprenticeship levy, and there will be changes to the funding for apprenticeship training for all employers.

Employers will need to pay the apprenticeship levy if they have a pay bill of more than £3 million each year.  For the purposes of the levy, an ‘employer’ is someone who is a secondary contributor, with liability to pay Class 1 secondary National Insurance contributions (NICs) for their employees.  The levy is paid to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) through the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) process.

The levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of the annual pay bill. There will be a levy allowance of £15,000 per year to offset against the levy.

All levy amounts will be paid into a digital apprenticeship service account; the amount in this account is how much the employer has available to spend on apprenticeship training in England. The government will apply a 10% top-up on a monthly basis. That means for every £1 that enters the digital account to spend in England on apprenticeship training, the employer gets £1.10.

Funds will expire 18 months after they enter the digital account unless they are spent on apprenticeship training.

The Next Step

The UK Government is very keen to introduce apprenticeships to as many industries as possible; they want to grow the number of apprenticeships available, aiming to reach 3 million starts in 2020.

Many sectors have embraced this already e.g. banking and accountancy.  Modern apprenticeships will raise standards within industries and the UK as a whole.  

Equiniti is delighted to have been instrumental in developing and delivering one of the first programmes within the pensions industry.