How to take on an apprentice (England)

apprenticeship competition

In Business, Apprenticeships, Education, Training

Apprenticeships are big news at the moment, especially with the impending launch of the plumbing and heating trailblazer apprenticeships. If one of your aims is to take on an apprentice, do you even know where to start? The CIPHE has put together this handy little guide to help you out.

Who can be an apprentice?

An apprentice can be a new or even a current employee (i.e., a labourer who wants to learn a trade). Apprentices are aged over 16 and combine working on the tools with study through a recognised training provider towards a formal qualification.

How do you hire an apprentice?

First you need to choose an apprenticeships framework or standard for an apprenticeship in your industry and at a suitable level. For the plumbing and heating industry you can find the Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician trailblazer standard here<ADD PDF> which sits at Level 3.

Next you need to find a training organisation that offers apprenticeships for the framework or standard you’ve chosen. In the plumbing and heating industry four good places to start are:

The Government’s apprenticeship training database:


Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership:


Then you’ll need to advertise your apprenticeship, but don’t worry the training organisation you have chosen to work through will do this all for you, via the Government’s ‘find an apprenticeship’ service.

You may have a number of applicants. Once you have decided upon your ideal apprentice, you’ll need to make an ‘apprenticeship agreement’ and ‘commitment statement’ with them.

Or you can use an apprenticeship training agency if you want to employ an apprentice without the responsibility for running the apprenticeship scheme.

What are your obligations as an employer?

Your apprentice must:

  • Work with experienced staff
  • Learn job-specific skills
  • Study during their working week (for example, at a college or training organisation)


As an employer, you are responsible for arranging their contract of employment and paying their wages. Apprentices also have rights just like any other worker. This includes:

  • Employing the apprentice in a real job that works towards an approved apprenticeship standard or framework. The role must give them the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge to pass their assessments.
  • Paying the apprentice for all the time spent training and studying, including any time at college.
  • And apprentices are entitled to:
    • Paid holidays
    • Sick pay
    • Benefits you offer other employees such as childcare voucher schemes
    • Support you offer such as coaching or mentoring
    • Apprentices have the same employment rights as your other employees when it comes to redundancy too.

If you want to end the apprenticeship early for any other reason than redundancy it would be prudent to gain legal advice.

What do you have to pay your apprentice?

Apprentices are paid at least the minimum wage. Check out the minimum wage rates here.

How long does the apprenticeship last for?

The new Trailblazer apprenticeships will last for up to four years. However, there is flexibility to allow particularly gifted students to finish earlier.

What is an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement?

As an employer, you must sign an apprenticeship agreement and a commitment statement with your apprentice. The apprenticeship agreement sets out what you agree to do for the apprentice e.g., what training you’ll give them, the length of their employment, their working conditions etc. You can either write your own apprentice agreement or download a template.

Additionally, the commitment statement is signed with your apprentice and training provider. It has to include information such as a planned content and schedule for training, the expectations and offerings of the employer, training organisation and the apprentice, along with information on how to resolve queries or complaints. See more at

What funding is available?

As an employer, you can get government funding to cover some of the cost of training and assessing an apprentice if you’re in England. Funding works a bit differently in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – see links at the end of this section.

The amount of funding you receive as an employer will depend on whether you pay the Apprenticeship Levy or not. The majority of CIPHE members are sole traders and micro-SME’s and therefore will not pay the Levy. It is only payable by employers with a pay bill over £3 million each year.

If you don’t pay the Levy, you pay just 10% towards the cost of training and assessing your apprentice. However, you will need to:

  • Agree a payment schedule with the training organisation
  • Pay them directly the 10% for the training
  • The government will pay the rest (90%) up to the funding band maximum. They’ll pay it directly to the training organisation.


You could be eligible for extra funding depending on both your and your apprentice’s circumstances.

How you get your funds and pay for training depends on what part of the UK you are in. For information on the different countries please see the links below:




Northern Ireland


Where can I get more information?

National Apprenticeship Service
Telephone: 0800 015 0600

The Institute of Apprenticeships

The CIPHE's Careers and Trainees section