On 26 January 2022, the government introduced the Apprenticeships (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (England) Regulations (the Regulations) enabling a pilot scheme of “flexi-job” apprenticeships to commence from 6 April 2022.
The introduction of flexi-job apprenticeships follows a consultation in 2021, which sought to reshape the role of apprenticeship training in light of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had had on many employers. This has been felt most acutely in industries with more varied employment patterns where employers have been unable to provide guaranteed employment and pay for the required 12-month period of employment for apprentices due to fluctuating job demand.
What is a flexi-job apprenticeship?
A flexi-job apprenticeship is designed to be a new type of apprenticeship which reduces the usual minimum commitment from an apprentice from 12 to three months. It is hoped that this will allow sectors and jobs with short-term contracts or non-standard employment models to access the benefits of apprenticeships more easily. In implementing the Regulations, the government recognised that a key barrier to taking on apprentices in certain sectors is the need for varied and flexible employment patterns, particularly where jobs may be short-term or project-based, such as in the creative or construction industry.
How will the apprenticeship work?
Flexi-job apprenticeships will allow apprentices to complete blocks of employment with training, with different employers throughout the course of their 12-month apprenticeship period in targeted business sectors. These apprenticeships will be available to employers and apprentices either:
- with the involvement of flexi-job apprenticeship agencies: An apprentice is employed by an agency directly for the duration of the apprenticeship and the agency arranges placements for the apprentice with host businesses; or
- without the involvement of an agency: An apprentice is able to secure multiple short-term employment contracts (for a minimum of three months) directly with businesses that support the requirements of the apprenticeships. With the support of their training provider, the apprentice will take their learning and progress with them as they move between employment contracts and change employers. These are known as Portable Flexi-Job Apprenticeships.
Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Fund
The government has committed £7 million to support flexi-job apprenticeship agencies but has stipulated that the fund cannot be used to pay wages or the costs of apprenticeship training. Agencies will be able to apply for grants of between £100,000 and £1 million during 2021-22 and 2022-23 to assist with:
- set-up or expansion costs;
- costs for activities that will increase the number of apprenticeship starts;
- costs for activities that will improve and assure quality; and
- investment costs that will lead to financial sustainability in the medium to long term.
The aim of the fund is to increase agencies’ capacity and promote internships in sectors where non-traditional and project-based employment models have made it harder for employers to engage with apprenticeships. To be eligible for this fund, agencies must be accepted onto the register of flexi-job apprentice agencies and there are currently 15 organisations on this register.
The introduction of the Regulations is an exciting opportunity for both apprentices and employers. In 2019/2020, it was reported that 719,000 people were participating in an apprenticeship in England which was 23,400 fewer than in 2018/19. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a further drop in the number of people undertaking apprenticeships and it is hoped the introduction of flexi-job apprenticeships will encourage growth in this area.
The pilot scheme will last for a period of 18 to 24 months from April 2022, depending on the success of the programme. It will be reviewed after nine, 12 and 18 months. The government anticipates rolling out the flexi-job scheme to other sectors if the pilot is successful.