Apprenticeships information for employers

Vital things employers need to know about apprenticeships.

Vital information for employers about apprenticeships in the home nations, the role of training providers, the prior learning rule, end point assessment and the role of the Creative Industries Council (CIC).

Apprenticeships information for employers

    The apprenticeships featured in this section are only open to agencies with English offices; the three devolved governments have their own schemes.

    An Agency View of the Importance of Apprenticeships to Inclusion

    Read the opinion of Kandice Quain, Media Manager at Bray Leino, and iLister, on why learning through employer-funded apprenticeships gives opportunities to people from all backgrounds regardless of socio economic status.

    A Summary of the Apprenticeship Levy in England

    Levy payers:

    • English firms with an annual salary bill of over £3 million pay 0.5% of that into a levy pot. This is done monthly to spread the cost over the year. If you are uncertain if you pay or don’t do check with your Finance Director.  Experience suggests agencies with about 50 people and above fall into that bracket.
    • The levy money is held for you by Government and it can only be ‘drawn down’ to pay for apprentice training with a registered apprenticeship training provider. 
    • Once you reach two year’s worth of the levy money any unspent is taken back by Government, monthly.  You add to it monthly and it gets taken away monthly. Training providers are also paid monthly (which can be an advantage if your apprentice leaves the programme, you do not owe any more than the months they were on it.)
    • Many agencies have two year’s worth of levy money unused and it is estimated that our industry gives back at least 80% to Government.  Some Finance Directors see it just as a tax and are not convinced by apprenticeships – they can, very unfairly, be seen as just adding to the headcount someone who will have to spend 20% of their time at off the job learning and will take at least a year to be useful.
    • You can transfer up to 25% of your levy money to other companies but the rules for this are quite complex and it is not clear if agencies in the same group could do it.

    Non levy payers:

    • Agencies who do not qualify for the levy have an advantage in that they can apply to Government to pay for 95% of an apprentice’s training and may be able to benefit from the levy transfer to pay the other 5%


    • A good training provider is vital because they understand the system and can help you draw down the money from your online account either from your pot or from Government.
    • The levy money also pays for the end point assessment done by a specialist firm who have not been involved in the training
    • You can hire someone and then use levy money to train them against an apprentice standard and this is often a way 18-23-year-olds enter our industry, for example on the Advertising and Media Executive Apprenticeship.  But please note, there is no age limit.
    • You can also use levy money to up or reskill existing staff.  That might be to retrain someone as e.g. a content creator or it might be ‘soft skills’ like your senior people and a leadership apprenticeship or giving someone craft skills such as data analysis or adding to their repertoire with an apprenticeship in coaching.
    • Please note – although we campaign for the levy to be used more flexibly, perhaps to pay salaries, this has not been taken up by Government.  We also lobby the Opposition.

    Find information on how the apprenticeships are set up in the devolved administrations:

    In Scotland

    The below is an example of how another home nation differs from England.

    Who pays and rights

    The system and apprenticeships are different in Scotland but the levy arrangement is the same i.e. businesses with a salary bill of £3M plus pay into a pot. But businesses under that: Employers who do not pay the levy can still seek funding for Modern Apprenticeships in the usual way. The Scottish Government via Skills Development Scotland contributes to the costs of training for apprentices aged 16-24, (and 25+ for some frameworks):

    • For apprentices aged 16-19 years – apprenticeship training costs are fully funded.
    • For apprentices aged 20-24 years – a proportion of the training costs will be covered with employers meeting the rest.

    As for their rights, Scotland is different to England - in Scotland, an apprentice can only be made redundant or dismissed in very limited circumstances, such as the employer going out of business. A downturn in trade is not usually enough to make an apprentice redundant.


    There are three types of apprenticeship - Foundation, Modern, Graduate. Here is information about the first two.

    Foundation has 'Creative and Digital Media' which the 16 plus student does at school alongside other subjects and as part of it there is a work placement. It combines creative and digital but you'd need to find a school that offers this subject:

    ‘As part of your National Progression Award, your topics will include:

    • Creative Industries: An Introduction – Scotland
    • Creative Industries: Understanding a Creative Brief
    • Media: Understanding the Creative Process
    • Storytelling for the Creative Industries

    For your Diploma units, you’ll be assessed as part of your work placement. You’ll learn how to:

    • Work effectively with others in the Creative Industries
    • Ensure your own actions reduce risks to health and safety
    • Communicate using digital marketing/sales channels
    • Use digital and social media in marketing campaigns

    Your Foundation Apprenticeship will also help you to develop core skills valued by employers, particularly:

    • Communication
    • Problem-solving
    • Working with others
    • Time management

    "Whether you are a storyteller, artist, techie or designer, there is a job for you in Scotland’s creative sector. It covers broadcasting, TV, journalism, design, textiles, publishing, gaming and more. Learn how to write memorable stories as a journalist. Develop eye-catching art as a graphic designer. Discover what it takes to create the next online craze as a gaming technician."

    This apprenticeship can teach you how to thrive within a digital media environment. You’ll learn about managing marketing and social media campaigns. You'll get to work with the latest digital technology and produce rewarding content. Whatever your interests, you'll have the chance to develop your creative ideas.

    You will gain a qualification at SCQF level 7 in creative and digital media. The qualification includes: Core units of an SVQ in creative and digital media at SCQF level 7. A work placement that will give you experience in an exciting industry."

    Digital Marketing - during your apprenticeship, you'll learn how to:   

    • Manage digital marketing campaigns  
    • Analyse digital data  
    • Develop your knowledge of different marketing techniques like Pay-Per-Click and Search Engine Optimisation  
    • Manage different digital platforms  
    • Develop strong relationships with target audience'

    ​Data Analytics - suitable for any industry. 

    Design - it does reference digital advertising but agencies have to discuss with a training provider.

    "The design apprenticeship is great for anyone who is new to design and wants to develop their knowledge. You’ll have the chance to work in a creative environment, learn to follow a design process, as well as research, test and apply design techniques. 

    Lots of industries in Scotland need designers and there are plenty of jobs to choose from. You could work in a digital agency as a graphic designer or as a technical illustrator. You will be able to create different types of art, such as infographics, cartoons, logos and prints. Whether you are new to the art world or have years of experience, the apprenticeship can provide a creative outlet."

    Role of training providers

    Finding a good training provider is vital to the success of your apprentice strategy.  They will help with:

    • Assessing your applicant to check they will be accepted onto the apprenticeship under Government rules. See below for the prior learning rule but this can also be basics such as Maths and English GCSE passes, proving someone’s citizenship status.
    • Helping you with all the steps necessary to draw down your levy funds for the training costs; or where to apply for 95% of the funds if you are a non levy payer.
    • Adapting the standard to fit with your needs. 
    • Working with agency and agency mentor to make sure the apprentice is ready for their end point assessment.

    In addition, some can also help with:

    On the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website, any standard you search for will offer tabs through to the site which shows who are training providers registered for this standard.  It is not always up to date so many employers will get in touch direct with the administrator of the standard to ask whom they know. Here is an example for the Advertising and Media Executive Standard.  You can also do this for end-point assessors.

    One problem with searching for providers is that providers sometimes rename an apprentice standard.  For example, Data Technician is often rebadged as Junior Data Analyst or Data Literacy. 

    Prior learning rule

    Government will not allow levy money to be used to educate someone whom they believe already has too many of the knowledge, skills and behaviours.  However, in reality where ‘too many’ falls is hard to tell.  It is the job of the training provider to do an assessment and make a decision as to whether the candidate can be enrolled onto a particular apprentice standard. 

    Training providers must make a thorough appraisal of an individual’s existing knowledge, skills, and behaviours against the occupational competence standard for the apprenticeship they want to take.  Where the individual already has prior learning necessary to achieve occupational competence, then the content, duration and price must be adjusted to take account of this.

    Agencies should therefore ideally wait for this assessment to take place before making a firm apprentice job offer.

    As long as any prior learning adjustments do not reduce the duration of the apprenticeship to below the minimum duration threshold of 12 months, then the individual will still be eligible. For example, where an apprenticeship standard has a recommended duration of 18 months, then as long as any prior learning adjustments do not reduce the duration to less than 12 months, the individual will still be eligible. However, a training provider may say that this candidate is unviable as they have to charge you less for the training.

    Most will be fine, because:

    • Most ‘work experience’ would not take a candidate below the 12 months minimum duration. But a degree in advertising or a postgraduate in copywriting, or likewise, would.  As would eg. a major Brixton Finishing School or D&AD New Blood programme.
    • Apprenticeships are there to address significant training needs. Ad/Media Exec for example has a high number of knowledge, skills, behaviours and it would be unlikely that say a two-month internship would make them confident to do a chunk.

    Prior learning is always to be taken into account with anyone being considered by a training provider for an apprenticeship, including those who did Kickstart.

    End Point Assessment

    The people who assess the apprentice for their qualification have nothing to do with either the employer or the training provider.  So some of the funding band money – often up to 20% - goes to an End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO).  No new standard will be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education unless there is an EPAO willing to take it on. 

    Currently, there is only one EPAO who handles assessments for our two industry qualifications. This is AIM’s portfolio, they also assess others used in our industry such as Data Technician and Junior Content Producer plus more rare standards such as Creative Industries Production Manager, Event Assistant, Digital Community Manager, PR and Communications Assistant.

    This is how they describe the work they do for employers: "End-point assessment (EPA) is the name given to a series of assessments an apprentice must take to prove their ability to do the job for which they’ve undertaken training. These assessments take place at the end of an apprenticeship following a period of training and development. Depending on the apprenticeship standard, the apprentices may also be required to achieve other mandatory requirements e.g. completing a portfolio, achieving level 2 English or Maths qualifications. These must be achieved prior to applying for the EPA. At this point the employer, in discussion with the apprentice and training provider, will ‘sign off’ their apprentice as ready for EPA. This is known as the ‘gateway’ to EPA.

    EPAs can be undertaken, at a minimum, 12 months after the start of an apprentice’s training. It must be successfully completed before the apprentice receives their completion certificate. Please note that it is very important when issuing employment contracts for an apprentice to include sufficient time beyond the 12-month minimum on training to enable the EPA to take place (including potential re-sits). We are not permitted to assess any apprentice who is no longer employed."

    AIM, as with any assessment organisation, can supply details of how they assess particular standards – both from the employer but also from the apprentice point of view. 

    The Role of the Creative Industries Council

    The Creative Industries Council (CIC) is a forum of government, creative businesses and other creative organisations such as in Design, TV & Film, Fashion, Games, Music, Theatre and Publishing.

    It focuses on areas where there are barriers to growth of UK creative sectors such as access to finance, skills, export markets, regulation, intellectual property (IP) and infrastructure, and on promoting opportunities such as the CreaTech category and greater diversity and inclusion.

    The IPA’s Director of Marketing, Janet Hull OBE, sits on this as Advertising’s representative. The IPA are active in pursuing our interests, for example on the Education and Skills sub-group where we decide the policies the creative industries wish to put in front of Government.

    UK advertising is a big player in our economy:

    • Every £1 spent on advertising returns £6 to the economy (Ad Pays, Deloitte/Advertising Association)
    • Worth £120bn to GDP
    • We export over £2bn in advertising services each year
    • One million jobs depend on our sector
    Last updated 01 May 2024