When it comes to apprenticeships, one of the many questions that an employer has is; ‘Is 20% off-the-job training really necessary?‘. A lot of employers are apprehensive about taking on apprentices because of that requirement alone. But when it comes down to it, does having 20% off-the-job (OTJ) training have a positive or negative impact on a business?
What is off-the-job training?
OTJ training is when apprentices are away from their normal workplace being trained. The Government’s guidance policy on off-the-job training say that methods of this include:
- The teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role-playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training),
- Practical training: shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at
- Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments
Positive or Negative Impact?
That’s the main question. The Apprenticeship framework was replaced with Apprenticeship standards. With both Apprenticeship framework and standards, 20% off-the-job training has been a requirement. In most cases, this works out at one day a week. This is where the concerns come in.
A lot of employers with apprentices already are concerned that they have to be off the job for 20% of the working week, as it may negatively impact workforce productivity. If that’s a worry for employers who already have apprentices, imagine the employers who don’t…
To be perfectly honest, it depends on the industry. There are some sectors where off-the-job training wouldn’t have such a good impact on the business OR the apprentice’s skills/knowledge within their job.
For example, let’s take an apprentice in construction. They are going to improve their skills and knowledge by doing physical work on-the-job. So, they aren’t going to benefit from as many aspects of off-the-job training as an apprentice in business admin would. In such case, it would not make the 20% worthwhile and therefore have a negative impact on the business productivity.
Having OTJ training allows apprentices to focus on learning new skills and knowledge without the distraction of the everyday workload. The majority of employers who put their employees through vocational training found that ending an off-site training event with some kind of certification or reward can lead to employees having much higher job satisfaction and morale.
Attending conferences, listening to lectures, participating in activities or even just sitting down to do some written work can improve an apprentices job performance. As they develop vocational skills and knowledge, they will become much more confident in their sector.
In our experience, we have found that apprentices who are made aware of the amount of money that has been invested in their training program by their employer, tend to feel more valued. Logically, the more valued the apprentice feels, the better work ethic they will have. In these cases where the apprentice knows what investment the employer has made in them, they have shown a better attitude to OTJ training as well. Possibly because they feel more committed to developing their skills and knowledge to provide the employer with a kind of Return On Investment? Whatever the motivation, this attitude towards OTJ training inevitably leads to a more confident and competent apprentice.
What do we think…
At Brooks and Kirk, a number of us started our jobs here on apprenticeships. So what do we think about the 20% OTJ training – is it necessary?
“I completed my apprenticeship in Business Admin. I found it very beneficial as I could choose the day I wanted to do my off-the-job training and I could balance my workload around it. The training allowed me to apply what I learnt from my coursework to my role at Brooks and Kirk. Alongside that, I was able to do my normal everyday work and use some of it for my apprenticeship work. As an example, whilst I was on OTJ training days, I could read through the units and pick up on things that I could screenshot whilst doing my normal job such as emails and use that for coursework evidence.”
“If I was to say anything negative about the off-the-job training, it would be that sometimes if there was a larger than normal workload, having my training day would set me back on the work. However, I was easily able to balance it back out again.”
“I completed my advanced apprenticeship in Marketing a few years ago. From my experience, I found the 20% off the job training a nuisance at times but beneficial nonetheless. It’s a tricky one, because I do believe that it is necessary, as it provides the apprentice with an ideal opportunity to broaden their occupational knowledge, which is a necessity for personal development.”
“However, speaking from personal experience, there was times when I had a lot going on, I was really busy and I just wanted to crack on with my gradually growing but enjoyable to-do list. But then all of a sudden I found myself skipping the ‘off the job’ day 2 or 3 weeks in a row, which meant that I needed to play catch up. It was my own fault for opting to work on those days rather than taking a step back. The thing is, I enjoy keeping busy and getting my teeth stuck into campaigns and ideas we are working on. Whereas, I never have been and never will be an academic person.”
“So, if I am being completely honest, I saw the 20% off the job training as more of a “I have to do it”, rather than a “I want to do it”. Although, I do think it serves a purpose and it key to developing the competency of the apprentice in the long-term.”
“I, like Svajone, completed my apprenticeship in Business Admin. I found that the 20% OTJ training was useful because it gave me dedicated time to focus on the theory side of the apprenticeship.”
“On the other hand, sometimes it interfered with my normal workload and I found myself unable to dedicate that one day a week to completing units because I was so busy with other work. This meant that I would be catching up on the hours in the weeks after. Ultimately, it still paid off as I completed the apprenticeship and have the qualification.”
So is it necessary?
It’s safe to say that the 20% OTJ training is necessary. Even though apprentices may find it hard to balance out the workload with the dedicated OTJ training days, it’s still a necessary part of the qualification. The apprentices may learn things they otherwise wouldn’t from doing their daily job.
Ultimately, successful OTJ training programmes lead to long-term success. When training objectives lead to strategic goals, apprentices can make an impact on the business.
Perhaps the Government should consider having bandings of percentages for certain sectors (let’s say, between 10 and 25%) where on-the-job training is more crucial than theory-based training…