Growing skilled staff through employment and training schemes

  • 23 Mar 2022

Government support you can access to train and develop your staff

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From apprenticeships to T Level industry placements and traineeships – there is a whole host of government-supported training and employment schemes that can help you gain access to skilled workers. What’s more, there is also support available from the government to help you do that. This episode looks at some of those schemes, exactly how they work and how your business can grow through investment in training.

This episode is in partnership with the Join The Skills Revolution campaign.


 Dr Anna Morrison CBE, Director & Founder of Amazing Apprenticeships



Dan Baird, Director of Infinity 27 and Founder of Protegé CIC



Saira Hussain, Director & Partner of HAD & CO Property Consultants 



Key takeaways:

  1. Apprenticeships are for anyone aged 16 upwards, and span all the way from level 2, which is an intermediate role, and a new role for someone who's fresh coming into the organisation, all the way up to level 7, which is equivalent to a Masters; the level after a full degree. They cover 1000s of different roles.
  2. There can be a cost to employers of funding the apprenticeship training, depending on the size, but often that can be covered by the government or through an apprenticeship Levy Transfer, where a larger company uses it’s quota of Levy by gifting it to smaller companies.
  3. 20% of the paid time for the apprentice should be off the job. Not necessarily out of the workplace, but undertaking development activities, qualifications and enhancing their knowledge. 80% of the time is in the workplace, developing their skills and applying everything that they're learning practically.
  4. T Levels are a technical alternative to A levels and are like a reverse apprenticeship. So 80% of the time is spent in a classroom, and 20% of the time is spent on an industry placement. It’s equivalent to a 45-day placement; T Level like an A level will last two years. 
  5. Traineeships are unpaid, and aimed at young people aged 16 to 24. They spend a lot of their time with a training provider developing English, Maths or employability skills. It is an opportunity to assess if they might be a future employee for you. So traineeships are a minimum of six weeks in duration. And it's a minimum of 70 hours of work experience. But the delivery model can be very flexible, depending on the needs of the employer.

For more information, go to, and contact your local training providers, your local enterprise partnership for details on the skills specialists available.

Episode transcript

First Voice magazine 0:00
This episode is in partnership with the Join The Skills Revolution campaign. Discover skills opportunities designed by employers, for employers, that can help your business grow and boost performance. To find out more and to join the skills revolution, visit
Jon Watkins 0:32
Welcome to this latest edition of the first voice podcast, brought to you in partnership with the Join The Skills Revolution campaign, and First Voice magazine, the official flagship magazine of the Federation of Small Businesses, and the go to podcast for news, tips and important information for small businesses. In this episode, we will be looking at how you can potentially grow your business by accessing training and employment schemes to upskill your current employees or recruit new skilled workers, from apprenticeships to T Level industry placements, and traineeships. There's a whole host of government supported training and employment schemes that can help you gain access to skilled workers. And once more, there is also support available from the government to help you do that. So over the course of this episode, we will look at some of those schemes exactly how they work and how your business can grow through investment in training. To begin, I will chat to Dr. Anna Morrison, CBE director and founder of Amazing Apprenticeships, an organisation that champions raising awareness of the benefits and opportunities of apprenticeships, and vocational education and an expert spokesperson on all things vocational training, and she will talk us through some of the different vocational options that businesses can benefit from. We'll then hear from Dan Baird, director of Infinity 27 and founder of PROTOGÉ (CIC), who will share how his business is benefiting from hosting T Level industry placements, while Saira Hussain, director and partner of having co property consultants and an FSB member will talk us through how her business is benefit benefiting specifically from apprenticeships. Thanks very much to all of you for joining. Anna, I'll start with you, if I may. Why don't you give us a little bit about your organisation and exactly what it is you do.
Anna Morrison 2:37 0:32
Thank you, Jon. And so amazing apprenticeships, we work across the entire apprenticeships and skills space, really. So we work with employers of all sizes, training providers, individuals, parents and carers, and also policy makers and government officials to really look at what's happening across the skills space, and to try and take some of that national government directive and help people to turn it into practical steps. So yeah, it's a really exciting area to work with. I should also say I'm a small employer, I'm a member of the FSB myself, and we employ apprentices and trainees within our own organisation to act to kind of bring our workforce pipeline on.
Jon Watkins 3:22
Brilliant so you can kind of help us from both sides of the coin. In my introduction, I referenced a lot of different types of vocational training. Lots of small businesses will have heard of some of these but won't really know exactly what they are and how they work. Can you just give us a bit of an overview of the different training and employment schemes businesses can access?
Anna Morrison 3:44
Yeah, absolutely. So I guess if we start with apprenticeships, probably one of the best known options or most talked about, apprenticeships are a really great way to support either new or existing staff of all ages, I should say, to work and learn at the same time. So the apprentice is employed by the employer, they are paid a salary. And there is a national minimum wage for apprentices, which is the very lowest wage that you can pay. And there are some conditions around that depending on the age of the apprentice. And but we are finding when you look at apprentice salaries actually that employers are tending to look at what a fair salary would be for the individual rather than just going for that national minimum wage. And the employer will select a training provider to work with them and that could be a college, it could be a university or it could be an independent training provider, and they will help the employer to select the most appropriate apprenticeship standard is called basically the standards are set by the government by the Institute for apprenticeships and they're like the framework really for how the apprenticeship will work. So once the employers found their training provider decided which apprenticeship standard they will If they want for their organisation, and we will then look at the funding, and there can be a cost to employers of funding the apprenticeship training, depending on the size, but often that can be covered by the government or perhaps through an apprenticeship levy transfer, which I can talk more about later. Apprenticeships I think are really exciting because they span all the way from level 2, which is like an intermediate role, and a new role. Usually, for someone who's fresh coming into the organisation, all the way up to level 7, which is equivalent to a Master's. So that's the level after a full degree. So really broad. And with those apprenticeship standards, they cover 1000s of different roles. I think the other thing to note with apprenticeships is that 20% of the paid time for the apprentice should be off the job. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that out of the workplace. But this is the time where they're really undertaking some of those skills, development activities, qualifications and enhancing their knowledge. The 80% on the job time is when they will be in the workplace with you and your colleagues, developing their skills and their experience and really applying everything that they're learning practically in the workplace. We move on closely linked to apprenticeships or traineeships and traineeships have made a bit of a resurgence over the last couple of years. We've actually had them a long time, since about 2013. But more recently, they've come back partly because of the pandemic and the government's response to the pandemic and wanting to ensure that there are pathway opportunities for young people to move into employment. So traineeships really fantastic option for employers, they are aimed at young people aged 16 to 24. So whereas apprenticeships are 16 upwards, and you can be any age as an apprentice traineeships are specifically for 16 to 24 year olds, or up to the age of 25 if the individual has an education, health and care plan. For a business, I think a traineeship is a great way for you to give back to your community to think about some of those young people in your local area that you might want to support, who really need an opportunity to develop some work experience. But also they might, they may need to work on their English, maths and digital skills, they may also need to undertake some employability work. So they will spend a lot of their time with a training provider developing those skills. But a key part of it is work experience. And so through the work experience, that individual could be placed with your organisation. And there, I think is an opportunity for you to really work with that individual and potentially suss out if they might be a future employee for you. And for the individual, the learner themselves, it's a chance for them to gain some great work experience, but also to find out more about you as a business and to look at your industry and sector and to really have that opportunity to see if it is an area that they want to move into. So traineeships are a minimum of six weeks in duration. And it's a minimum of 70 hours of work experience. I think what's brilliant about traineeships is the delivery model can be completely flexible, depending on you as an employer. So if you were to say, actually, we would like to do a two week block of work experience, then your training provider will work with you to make sure that that can happen. But you may prefer to have a slightly different model. So for example, we've got a trainee with us at the moment. It works really well for us to have her in for two days a week. So that's the model that we've gone for. We're doing two days a week for 10 weeks. And that means that I can then manage my staffing and resources to ensure that that trainees getting the support that they need. So yeah, really flexible. Unlike apprenticeships, traineeships are unpaid. So the trainee isn't going to be on your payroll, they won't be salaried. However, that doesn't mean that as an employer, you can't offer them support. And I think, you know, we really do encourage employers to think about supporting with the costs of travel, perhaps with lunch costs, and you can actually give them a payment towards the time that they've spent in your organisation if you wish to. And that's certainly what we do we make sure that we we pay an equivalent hourly rate. And then if we move on to T Levels, so probably the newest of the options that we've got at the moment, you most likely will have heard of A levels, while T Levels are like the technical alternative. T Levels have actually been rolling out since 2020. And by rolling out what this means is the government have introduced a few of the T Level subjects; they started off with three back in 2020, and a selected number of training providers across the country who were able to deliver them. And they've been learning from that the first three subjects that have been started and the first cohorts of students coming through. And each year the programme expands. So more subjects are added, more training providers are invited to deliver them. And the idea is that by 2023, the whole range of T Level subjects will be available. And we will have lots of providers across the country delivering T Levels. Now, that could be colleges, it could be independent training providers, it could be schools themselves as well offering T Levels. Now a T Level is like a reverse apprenticeship. So 80% of the time is spent in a classroom, and 20% of the time is spent on an industry placement. So that's actually equivalent to a 45-day placement, a T Level like an A level will last two years. And during that time, the T level students will be encouraged to go out on Industry Placement, and put into practice some of that theory and the knowledge that they've been learning whilst in their classroom. From an employer's point of view, I think T Levels are brilliant, because they are a fantastic way to bring someone into your organisation and develop that longer relationship with them. So I know many employers will offer work experience, for example, to local schools, and it might just be a few days or a week, where a young person will come into your business with T Levels is a much more structured placement. So the T Level student will come in for a period of time over those 45 days. And again, it could be block, it could be a day a week, you know, it's really flexible, depending on what you can manage as a as an employer. And you'd get to build up that relationship. And then I think the idea is that T Level student could move into an apprenticeship. So as an employer, you might think, well, this person is brilliant, how could I keep them could I offer them a job. And the idea is that they will progress onto an apprenticeship. Or for some T Level students, they may prefer to go on to higher education. And they may move into full time study at a university or onto another programme called a higher technical qualification, which is a level four level five qualification. So there's some really exciting stuff happening out there. And I think those are probably the top three at the moment, apprenticeships, traineeships and T Levels.
Jon Watkins 12:26
Brilliant. That's really comprehensive overview of those thanks very much, presumably in the current market conditions, and with everything we're reading about difficulty of attracting talent for small businesses, this is growing in popularity and is a much more appealing option. And what are some of the other benefits for businesses?
Anna Morrison 12:50
Absolutely, I think we, you know, we speak to employers all of the time about the challenges that they're experiencing in filling vacancies and upskilling their existing staff kind of simultaneously. So I think it sounds a bit cliched, but it really does give you the opportunity to grow your own. And I think all of the flexibilities that we've got in the system now means that employers can really take a moment to think about what's going to be most appropriate for the business at the stage, you're at, what is it that you're looking for? Where are your gaps? What are you trying to fill, you know, and you really get to design a programme that's going to work for you. And we've seen loads of benefits. You know, we've had apprentices in our business for the past six years, all sorts of different, you know, levels and different models that we've had as well. Bringing any young person into your business, I find always means that they bring a lot of energy, new ideas, and definitely a fresh perspective. And I think from an employer's point of view, it is an investment. So this is definitely not the easy option, particularly if you're working with young people, they will often come to you and it will be their first position that they've had with you. So as an employer, you have to make that investment, not only in the salary if they're an apprentice, but also in your time and the time of your staff to be able to really make sure that it's a fantastic programme and a really brilliant experience all around. But very quickly, you get to realise the return on that investment. And you will see that individual being able to take on more tasks, greater responsibility, and really kind of come into the team and contribute in a really meaningful way. But I also think I've seen a lot of benefits for my staff as well who are existing members of staff in helping them to develop their supervisory skills and their coaching skills. You know, they really enjoy seeing the progress that any new employee makes with us and feeling that they've had a bit of a part to play in that journey, which is really lovely to see.
Jon Watkins 14:55
Yeah, superb. And you mentioned the sort of investment side of things Just want to touch on sort of financial support around some of these. How does that work?
Anna Morrison 15:06
Yeah, so there's various financial incentives that come and go. Sometimes those are through central government. Sometimes there'll be in local schemes, so through your local authority or your local enterprise partnership, but one I'd really like to talk about is the apprenticeship levy transfer scheme. So some years ago, the government introduced an apprenticeship levy. And this levy is is a levy that only big businesses with a pay bill in excess of 3 million pounds per year pay. And what that means is that the organisations who pay the levy can only recoup that levy by investing in the training of their staff through apprenticeships, but they are able to gift some of that levy. So anything they don't spend, they're basically allowed to gift to non levy organisations. And usually that is smaller businesses. So as a smaller business, as I mentioned, there can sometimes be the cost of training. So sometimes with an apprenticeship, your apprenticeship will be fully funded by the government. So 100% of the cost of training will be covered by the government. But if they're not, then we move to what's called a co-investment model, where potentially you will have to pay 5% of the training costs. However, with the apprenticeship levy, what this means is that a big business with unspent levy can cover those costs for you. So we've got a new matching service that's on the government website. And really, I think your training provider will be able to help you to navigate through this. As a business, we've benefited from apprenticeship levy transfer, and I promise you it wasn't difficult. So we've done it, our training provider was brilliant, they pretty much sorted everything out for us. And it meant that one of our apprentices had their training fully funded, rather than me having to pay the 5%. So it's really worth looking at, particularly when you're working out all of the costs around the apprenticeship programme.
Jon Watkins 17:06
Okay, great. In a moment, I want to ask Dan and Saira to talk us through their specific experiences of of accessing skills and talent in this way, but before I do, if I'm a small business, and I'm looking to embark on this, where do I start? Where can I get more information? And is there is there other support available to help me through the process?
Anna Morrison 17:27
So yeah, great question. So there's lots of information on the government website, which is, forward slash skills, hyphen, support, so loads of information on there for employers, and there will be lots of support available to you in your local area. So it really is worth contacting your local training providers, your local enterprise partnership, and talking to them because some of them will have skills specialists who will be able to help you and you know, really hold your hand through all of this and make sure that you get the programme that you want for your business. So lots of support out there.
Jon Watkins 18:01
Brilliant. Thanks, Anna. That's really good. Dan, I'll come to you if I may, your you've done this, your business has brought in a number of people on industry placements through T Levels specifically. Tell us a bit about that, and how many placements and students you've had come through the business and why you decided to go down this route?
Dan Baird 18:20
Yeah, sure. Thanks, Jon. I'm not too sure I can be as eloquent as Anna, I'll try my best to give my experience. So if we can start with the why, I guess, it may make a bit more sense. So yeah, we employ people within the immersive industry. So that's things like games, virtual reality, augmented reality, anything that's 3D, there is a very big skills gap that we face, and a lot of the talent kind of goes up to much larger companies. So we ourselves, were looking for solutions, how do we actually train people up in a way that matches with what is currently out there? So we tried different things. We tried apprenticeships, we tried just taking people on placement. And the T Level specifically kind of jumped out to us. So we found out about it through our work with local colleges. And we agreed to host some students from Gateshead college initially on the T Level, and it worked really well. So we've had about 32 students now actually come through on placements with us. It's been about, say, 12 to 14 months that we've been doing this. And we obviously want to fill the skills gap that we have within our company. But we also want to train people up and show them, kind of inspire them, and show them that there are opportunities here because there's lots of businesses like ours in the general area of Gateshead, where we're located. One of the things to know is that it's very good for actually a benefit to the business. It helps you to look at your own training process and say actually, how can we improve this process, so that it can be simplified for someone who is coming from a new perspective, maybe doesn't know all of the industry in technical terms, then that, in turn, can be used to train your own staff and upskill them as well.
Jon Watkins 20:15
It sounds like there's plenty of benefits for both the businesses and the students on the placements, which is, which is great. And I know a lot of small businesses are just as keen to help develop other people as they are to, to access skills to benefit them as a as a business. How's the process been? For you, Dan? 32 placements sounds like a lot in in 12 to 14 months. What did that entail? How did you go about it? How difficult was the process?
Dan Baird 20:45
Yes, good question. It varies. So at the start, we kind of had some existing training materials, okay, methods that we were applying to placements apprenticeships, that did help. So, kind of having some kind of jumping off point helps for inter-term people. That's kind of something that is to be aware of, as if you're a small business, or maybe a one man band, they should definitely think about actually, how am I going to onboard these people, because as I said, it is an investment in the people it takes time, which is obviously usually one of your most precious commodities to develop this person. The process itself though, the engagement with the training provider is usually generally good. They will help with things like interviews, picking out the right students, allowing you access to the students to for example, maybe you do a a call into the class and explain what it is you do and get the students inspired, engage them find out about their interests and kind of get that feel to see who might be a good fit for your organisation for your placement that you're offering. There's also some additional support that they do over time. So there, for example, the college's work with my HR person to make sure that attendance is good, that we have all the paperwork in order. So the process is easier once you've done it the first time, I think it is just that first initial time going through, you need to make sure that your training provider understands the process and that they can guide you through the process as well.
Jon Watkins 22:25
Great, and you found the external support helpful as well, did you?
Dan Baird 22:31
Yes, it's been very helpful. So like Anna said, a lot of the times this is a person's first job. So you are doing soft skills development, you do professional development on top of general the technical skills that you're providing. So the training provider has a role there in making sure not just that they're coming in with some relevant experience skills that they can apply, but also, where you need to engage with the student and the trainer provider to show what levels of professionalism are required to set the boundaries of kind of, say, like a contract between the three of your tri-party agreement, perhaps where it is, we'll be responsible for this, the student will be responsible for that. And it's really nice because it it sets clearly what each person is supposed to do in the arrangement. And it makes it kind of as an asset, more structured than some of the other kind of forms of engagements that you could take, for example, if you do like a traineeship or apprenticeship, things like that, which has everyone's structure in a way. But yeah, we found that the T Level structure works really well for us, because we can do that for 45 days in a placement and that fits our industry particularly well.
Jon Watkins 23:57
Brilliant, thanks, Dan. That's a really good example of T Levels in action. And thanks for sharing that. Saira, I wanted to talk to you about another scheme that we hear an awful lot about in the small business space. But which many businesses might not realise they too can take advantage of or indeed how to do that. And that's apprenticeships. Tell us a bit about your story and how you're working with apprentices.
Saira Hussain 24:22
Thanks, Jon. So, like most employers during lockdown, we lost a number of employees. And eventually, when we were able to come back and reopen, we had to restart and rebuild. And at the time, for me, I think taking on apprentices was the best solution for the business. I had help with the training providers. I think like Dan said, they really helped with the interview selecting the right person, and for me at the time, it was also the most cost effective solution.
Jon Watkins 24:56
Great and then, you know, sort of talking a bit about benefits to businesses directly. What direct benefits are you seeing from apprenticeships?
Saira Hussain 25:06
And eventually apprentices become well trained highly skilled members of the team. So they are direct value to the business, both directly and I find with my apprentices eventually they're, they're able to train all the team members. So one of my apprentices Lucy, she has been with us almost two years now. And then we get we got a new apprentice in and rather than me having to train the new apprentice, I found that Lucy can mentor her and trainer, and it saves me a lot of time. And I also feel as it builds up both their skills as well.
Jon Watkins 25:43
Yeah, fantastic. And you mentioned the longevity there of some of your some of the people that you've you've brought in, I think a big thing for small businesses is often the worry about training staff and then they move on. Or, you know, sort of staff not being with you long enough to really get into get get to grips with the business. But understand your apprenticeships your apprentices are staying on within the businesses within the business are even after their apprenticeship ends. Is that right?
Saira Hussain 26:12
Yeah, so, I think it's an anxiety that I've always had and any other business owners that I spoke to, you're always anxious about taking someone on training them up, investing all your time into training this person up. And then as soon as they get an opportunity, they're up and gone. With the apprentices every single time I've taken on an apprentice, maybe they've completed their apprenticeship, but they've either gone into full time employment, which is the longest I've had is just about four, four years with his or the one of my apprentices at the moment is has just completed her level 3, and now she's going on to 18 months, level 4. And I'm quite certain after she's completed that level 4 that she will come on to full time working with us. So I think that one of the main things that I've realised with apprentices is that the they're extremely loyal, a lot more loyal than anyone else that you're going to take on.
Jon Watkins 27:11
Yeah, it really does. And, you know, small businesses listening to this, many of them will be thinking about embarking on a similar journey. If you have one tip or piece of guidance that you could share. For others thinking about going down the same route one might that be.
Saira Hussain 27:26
I think the these days, there's a wide range of apprenticeships available to businesses, you've got finance, you've got marketing, business admin, and I find that training someone up from a beginner means that you're able to shape them, fit them for what you need for your business. You'll be able to choose a provider that an apprenticeship that meets your business needs. And if I remember rightly, about 90% of apprentices that you take on, both stay on in full time employment, so if you invest in them, they will definitely invest in your business. So it's well worth it.
Jon Watkins 28:05
Thanks Saira, I think that's a brilliant tip to end on and one that many other small businesses will be interested to hear. This has been a really interesting walk through some of the opportunities small businesses have to access to talent through different routes. And I would like to thank our partners at the Join The Skills Revolution campaign for helping us to deliver it. Just a reminder that you too can join the skills revolution happening right now, and drive better performance, visit, to find skills opportunities, designed by employers for employers. Thank you also to our audience for listening. While I have your attention, I would just like to remind you that you can subscribe to the First Voice podcast to receive regular updates and guidance on the big issues affecting small businesses. And do please also remember that you can find a whole host of additional webinars, podcasts and other content on the first voice website at
First Voice Magazine 29:23
This episode is in partnership with the Join The Skills Revolution campaign, discover skills opportunities designed by employers for employers that can help your business grow and boost performance. To find out more and to join the skills revolution, visit


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