Step by step; how to set up an apprenticeship

Recently there have been quite a few changes to the way that apprenticeships are designed, run and funded.

This apprenticeship reform has made them better for the employer, the apprentice, the industry and the economy. Whatever the size of your business, you will feel the benefits of setting up an accountancy apprenticeship scheme supported by AAT.

Why take on an apprentice?

There are no two ways about it, apprenticeships are good for business. Apprenticeship applicants tend to be extremely motivated individuals, committed to building a successful career with their employer. When you take on an apprentice you can nurture the talent and help it to grow with your business.

Apprenticeships are likely to lower your recruitment costs, reduce churn and the new levy puts the control of funding for apprenticeships in your hands. And employers get so much more than they would for simply putting students through an AAT qualification because it also covers the additional soft skills and behaviours that make a great employee.

The apprenticeship levy

Apprenticeships represent great value because they are funded through a levy or a 90-100% government contribution depending on the size of your business and the age of the apprentice.

Businesses with a payroll of over £3million have 0.5% collected by HMRC the same way as PAYE. All employers get a £15,000 allowance to offset against the amount they have to pay. The money gets put into an Apprenticeship Service account online and is topped up by 10% by the government. You can access this money to pay providers and colleges for your apprenticeship provision.

For smaller businesses (a payroll of less than £3million) the government will contribute 90% of the cost of delivering an apprenticeship. And for businesses with less than 50 employees, they will cover 100% of the cost if you take on a 16-18-year-old so you only need to pay their salary.

10 steps to setting up an apprenticeship

  1. First design a job specification and description for your apprentice to outline the type of person you’re looking for and what the role will entail.
  2. Find a local training provider who is offering AAT Accounting Qualifications and is registered as an End Point Assessment (EPA) venue.
  3. Decide what salary you will be paying your apprentice.
  4. Register for the Apprenticeship Service.
  5. Work with your training provider to advertise the apprenticeship vacancy.
  6. Conduct the interviews, bearing in mind that this might be the candidates’ first-ever interview and they won’t have much work experience. Make it as relaxed and informal as possible and let them talk about their life skills and passions.
  7. Select the successful candidate.
  8. Create an Apprenticeship Agreement which will state how long you’ll employ them for, the training you’ll provide, their working conditions and the qualifications they will get at the end. You can download an Apprenticeship Agreement template here.
  9. Deliver the apprenticeship in line with the agreed standards.
  10. There will be an End Point Assessment for the apprentice to aim for to make sure they have all the right skills.

Key takeaways

The main benefits of taking on an apprentice or developing an apprenticeship programme with AAT are:

  • To attract and grow talent in a flexible way.
  • It’s cost-effective – you are in control of the funding and the government will contribute to the majority (or all) of the cost.
  • You can design the way your apprenticeship is structured so that it meets your needs, the apprentice’s needs and that of the industry and the wider economy.


Apprenticeships are of great benefit to the individual, the company, the industry and the economy. They can be a great way to build a motivated and loyal workforce to give your business a competitive edge. The more you put into designing a great role, apprenticeship recruitment process and structured work experience with training, the better the candidate you will attract and the better the employee that they will turn into.

Next steps

AAT can support you with setting up your apprenticeships every step of the way. Answers to any questions and lots of useful downloadable free resources on turning an apprentice into an accountant can be found here. A regional account manager can also come into your business to discuss the best options for you.

Further reading:

Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include Group and Merlin Entertainments.

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