Apprenticeships frequently asked questions (Wales)

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship in Wales is a nationally recognised qualification which has been written to meet the skills and training needs of employers.

A formal apprenticeship in Wales is a job that allows someone to gain a qualification in their field whilst working, and consists of these core elements:

  • A competency qualification
  • A technical qualification
  • Essential Skills Wales (Application of Number, Communication and Digital Literacy Skills)

Welsh Government’s Guide for Apprenticeship Employers can be found here.

Do I need to treat an apprentice differently to other staff?

No. To the employer an apprentice is an employee and must be contracted and treated as such.

Are apprentices entitled to holiday?

Yes, in line with their employer’s holiday policy. Apprentices are subject to the same company policies and procedures as any other staff member, including benefits.

How long should an apprenticeship last?

Apprentices in Wales must be contracted and paid for a minimum of 16 hours a week for at least 12 months.

Some apprenticeships are expected to take longer than 12 months to complete. Employers are advised to contract apprentices for the minimum duration recommended for the specific apprenticeship.

Do I have to employ an apprentice once they’ve completed their apprenticeship?

No, but employers are encouraged to create apprenticeships with the intention on keeping their apprentice(s) on once they complete.

This isn’t mandated but is deemed preferable. It is advised that an employer’s intentions are made clear to the apprentice throughout so an apprentice can plan their progression accordingly.

Notifying an apprentice that they will not continue in their role only days or weeks before the apprenticeship ends is poor practice.

How old should an apprentice be?

In Wales, apprentices can be any age over 16, but must be over 18 to complete a degree apprenticeship. The cost of apprenticeship training on a Welsh Government approved framework is funded.

An apprenticeship can also be used to upskill existing employees.

Access to Work can provide grants for employers in Wales making adjustments to support apprentices with a disability into the workplace.

For step by step guidance on employing and managing apprentices, please refer to our A Manager’s Guide to Apprenticeships.

Who is involved in the delivery of an apprenticeship framework in Wales?

There are two main organisations involved in the delivery of apprenticeships in Wales:

The Employer – who is responsible for creating and providing the job and issuing a contract of employment for the duration of the apprenticeship.

The employer is responsible for paying the apprentice’s wages.

The Training Provider – is responsible for providing the off-the-job training to the apprentice that makes up 20% of the total apprenticeship. This time must be included in the apprentice’s contractual working hours.

What is the ‘apprenticeship levy’?

From May 2017, the U.K. Government changed the way apprenticeships were funded, which included the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

The levy is paid by employers with an annual pay bill of £3million or more and is calculated at 0.5% of an employer’s annual wage bill over the £3million. It is deducted like a tax from monthly PAYE.

Why was the Levy brought in?

The introduction of the levy was part of the Government’s apprenticeship reforms in England, which were designed to put employers in the driving seat.

The levy helps the Government increase investment in apprenticeships. The system puts employers in control of who they buy their apprenticeship training from.

These reforms are for England only, what if my company employs people who are based outside of England in the UK Nations?

The levy is paid by all UK employers who have an annual wage bill of £3million or more, but levy vouchers used to pay for apprenticeship training only applies in England.

However, if a worker spend 51% of their time or more in Wales and complete their apprenticeship with a provider in Wales, then Welsh rules apply regarding their apprenticeship

What is included in the term ‘pay bill’. Does this cover freelancers?

Your pay bill will be based on the total amount of earnings subject to Class 1 secondary (employers) National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

Earnings include anything such as wages, bonuses, commissions, and pension contributions that you pay NICs on.

In summary, it is calculated on what goes through an employer’s PAYE.

If you pay freelancers outside of PAYE (e.g. through invoices) this would not be included as part of your pay bill.

What’s the difference between an apprenticeship, an intern and work experience?

Apprenticeships are recognised formally by the Government. Apprentices must be working to a published and approved Framework or Standard (which includes mandatory off-the-job training delivered by a training provider).

Apprentices by law must have a contract of employment and be paid the appropriate minimum wage rate.

Internships are time limited work opportunities which must be paid (exceptions apply). There is no formal training or accreditation attached to an internship like there is with an apprenticeship.

Work experience describes short opportunities (usually no longer than two weeks) that allow somebody to observe the work of an organisation and gain some basic experience/understanding of a role and/or workplace.

Our pay bill is below the £3 million threshold – we’re not affected, are we?

In this instance an employer will not be required to pay the apprenticeship levy. Welsh Government will still fund the apprenticeship training for non-levy paying organisations.

We are a charity – does that make a difference?

No. Charities are subject to the same arrangements for apprenticeships as any other employer.

Who can we contact to talk to about apprenticeships?

Up to date information on apprenticeships in Wales is hosted on the Business Wales Skills Gateway.

However, we have a role in supporting the sector around apprenticeships and can be approached with any apprenticeship query by contacting