With changes swirling around the new apprenticeship provisions, end-point assessment (EPA) and other areas, we thought we’d take a moment to expand on something a lot of people seem to be confused about: funding bands.

What are funding bands, you might ask? Good question. The government’s new Trailblazer-led apprenticeship standards have been redesigned from the ground up by employers in various sectors. Regulated qualifications, to employers, were unsatisfactory, and the new Trailblazer apprenticeship standards will more closely meet the needs of the employers, since the employers themselves designed them. 400 standards have been developed in areas as widely varied as Adult Care Worker, Hospitality Supervisor, Mortgage Adviser, Commis Chef and Rail Engineering Technician.

The delivery of training and assessment of these standards will be mostly funded by the government (with some exceptions). For organisations that pay the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy, and for all other organisations after 2018, the government will be funding apprenticeship training and assessment for all apprentices.

The maximum amount of money allocated to each standards falls into one of 15 bands, ranging from £1,500 to £27,000. Here is a graph of which bands correspond to which level of funding:

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Each standard fits into a particular band. For instance, Supply Chain Manager falls into Band 4 (£3,000) and Sports Turf Operative falls into Band 7 (£5,000). Click here to see a list of standards to find out which funding band it falls into. The amount assigned to each band represents the maximum amount the funding that can be provided for a standard.

You may also ask how the Skills Funding Agency determined which standards go in which bands. That’s another good question. (You’re a smart one!) When deciding which standards go into which bands, the government kept a few things in mind:

  • Generally, lower-cost standards are allocated to the new funding band that most closely aligns with the past funding band the standard is assigned to;

  • The standards assigned to the widest and highest cost funding bands in the Trailblazer pilot for each standard, which ranges from £12,000 to £27,000, have been allocated a new band within this range;

  • The government uses data collected on standards already started. and uses this data to figure out which band to put the standard in;

  • Evidence originally presented by Trailblazer employer groups on the estimated costs of training and assessment helps in large part to determine in which band each standard is placed. It takes into account only those costs which are eligible for public funding according to the existing funding rules. So, if the evidence presented by Trailblazer employers estimated the costs were £21,000, the government would allocate the standard into the new £21,000 band;

  • The funding bands set for equivalent frameworks can inform which funding band new standards go into, where comparisons exist;

  • The level and nature of training and consistency across similar types of apprenticeship standards is also considered.

There have been a few strange placements on this table. For instance, the standard for Junior Journalist falls into the same band as Non-Destructive Testing Operator. The standard for Healthcare Support Workers also falls into a significantly lower band than the standards for Hospitality Team Member. Perhaps after a few dry runs, the funding bands will receive a few overhauls.

How funding bands apply to you

The above may make it sound as if each standard will be directly funded by the government to the tune of the assigned band number. This is not the case.

Employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy and want to receive funding must apply for a digital account to send and receive funds from the government. The account will be used to manage all money allocated to employers to fund training and assessment for standards.

When attempting to deliver an apprenticeship, employers negotiate a price for training and assessment with the provider and end-point assessment provider. The total price for the apprenticeship will include the cost of training and assessment.

Funding is capped, regardless of the price set by the employer and the provider, and that cap is fixed. So, in certain case, the funding provided by the government could be more than the cost of training and assessment. Or the cost could be more. If the cost of training and assessment is more than the upper limit of the band, the employer would have to pay the difference. Funding is transferred to the employer’s digital account monthly.

During the course of the apprenticeship, the government will hold back 20% of the total price (ie the price agreed upon by the employer and the trainer/assessor), capped at the maximum of the funding band, for assessment and completion costs. Employers/providers are responsible for passing on funding payment for end-point assessment to the apprenticeship assessment organisation. End-point assessment may cost more than the allocated 20% of the total price.

Where apprenticeship training is not funded from the employer’s digital account, employers must co-invest 10% of the agreed total price up to the funding band maximum. Co-investing is not applicable if the apprentice and employer are eligible for extra support for small employers that have less than 50 employees and if the apprentices are between 16 and 18 years old. These employers and apprentices will be 100% funded, up to the maximum band limit.

Non-levy-paying employers will share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with the government by co-investing. From May 2017, you will pay 10% towards the cost of the training and the government will pay the rest (90%), up to the band maximum.

If you do not pay the levy, you won’t be able to use the apprenticeship service to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment until at least 2018.

Instead, you’ll need to agree a payment schedule with the provider and pay them directly for the training. The provider must prove that you have paid your contributions as a condition of government paying its contribution.