Memo to employers – it’s time to use your Apprenticeship Levy

PUBLISHED: 11:05 24 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:53 24 October 2018

Degree apprentices can earn a wage while completing a degree without student debt   Picture: UEA

Degree apprentices can earn a wage while completing a degree without student debt Picture: UEA


A deadline is looming for big businesses – and it’s a case of use it or lose it.

Sharon Davies,
UEA degree apprenticeship manager			Picture: UEASharon Davies, UEA degree apprenticeship manager Picture: UEA

In a bid to hit its declared target of training three million new apprentices by 2020, the government last year introduced the Apprenticeship Levy.

Effectively a tax on big business, the levy, which came into effect in April 2017, requires a spend of 0.5pc of the company payroll by firms paying more than £3m a year in salaries.

The government slightly eased the burden by introducing a levy allowance of £15,000 a year, to be subtracted from the 0.5pc total. Also, as well as the amount paid into the account, the government applies a 10pc top-up on funds, so that for every £1 paid in, the employer gets £1.10 to spend.

The purpose of the levy is to encourage employers to invest in apprenticeship programmes and develop their workforces. And the good news is that providers such as the University of East Anglia (UEA) are working with businesses to set up courses tailored to industry needs.

Julian Campbell, UEA’s MBA director, says: “Our new MBA apprenticeship for senior leaders is giving the university an opportunity to work with local employers to improve the capability of the leadership teams within their organisation.

“In competitive markets and ever-changing environments, the performance of senior managers and directors is often the difference between success and failure.”

Undoubtedly, the region has skills problems. According to recruitment specialist Cooper Lomaz, business growth in East Anglia is being held back by a lack of skilled staff.

The company’s latest annual East Anglia Salary Survey and Recruitment Trends report, which questioned 2,740 employees, found that 41pc believe their teams are understaffed, an increase of 8pc on 2017.

“As a nation, with unemployment at its lowest level for over 40 years, the demand for highly skilled candidates has never been higher,” the report says.

“The skills shortage is forcing employers to not only pay even more for the best talent, it’s also making them look at their entire non-financial offering and hiring process, to ensure they can retain and attract the very best people.”

At the same time, the Apprenticeships Norfolk Network supported by Norfolk County Council, has been set up to help increase the number, level, range and quality of apprenticeships, while aiming for an additional 5,000 apprenticeships across Norfolk and Suffolk by 2019.

Network members include training providers, schools, employers and other organisations that all work in partnership to make sure they provide excellent help and support around apprenticeships.

The concept of “earn while you learn” has proved attractive to many young people, faced with the possible alternative of an expensive academic education at university.

However, the introduction of the apprenticeship levy was clearly aimed at adding impetus to uptake across industry.

The catch is that businesses are allowed 24 months to spend their funds before they expire.

March 2019 will mark 24 months since the levy was introduced, and under government rules any unspent levy from March 2017 will be lost on a rolling monthly programme, decreasing the funds in the employer’s levy pot.

This means that businesses need to act now or lose out.

A range of options is available to employers seeking to make the most of the levy before March next year, with many different types of apprenticeships available across a wide variety of industry sectors.

The levy can be spent on apprentices training from within an organisation, irrespective of age and even if they already hold a qualification at the same or higher level – as long as the apprenticeship involves substantially different learning and skills. For example, someone with a BA in history could undertake a degree apprenticeship in digital technologies.

UEA, which offers four approved degree apprenticeships, says: “For employers, this could be a good way to attract, retain and upskill existing and new staff.”

Sharon Davies, UEA degree apprenticeship manager, adds: “We are already working with companies to design and deliver degree apprenticeship programmes to meet their needs and we are keen to increase our work in this area.

“For an individual, a degree apprenticeship offers an opportunity to study while working. Tuition fees are paid through the apprenticeship levy, and apprentices are also paid a salary for their employment.

“So degree apprentices can earn a wage while completing a degree as part of their apprenticeship without student debt. They can also develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours required by employers for specific occupations.”

UEA currently offers four approved degree apprenticeship programmes developed with employers including areas such as senior leadership and health.

UEA is working with employers to develop further programmes, and is keen to hear from more organisations about how the university can create apprenticeships to meet their specific business needs.


For further information, visit, email or call 01603 591484.



UEA Degree Apprenticeship Programmes


UEA is currently working with employers to deliver four Degree Apprenticeship Programmes.


Senior Leadership Masters Degree Apprenticeship

Organisations can use their Apprenticeship Levy funds to cover the course fees of our Executive MBA if undertaken as part of the Senior Leadership Masters Apprenticeship for those employees they wish to send on the programme.

Studying for the UEA Executive MBA fulfils part of the requirements of the new Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship developed by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) with leading employers. Students will complete the Apprenticeship programme,

qualify with an MBA and have the option to achieve further professional recognition as a Chartered Manager

or Chartered Fellow of the CMI.

Contact the MBA team at or call 01603 591753.


Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship

The Advanced Professional Practice programme welcomes applications from all healthcare professionals including nurses, midwives, pharmacists, paramedics and allied health professionals who are keen to progress their career to an advanced level of practice.

Contact programme director David Shepherd at or call 01603 597066.


Adult Nursing Degree Apprenticeship

The School of Health Sciences at the UEA is an approved provider of higher and degree apprenticeships.

Working closely with our practice partners we are currently delivering our Adult Nursing Degree Apprenticeship and also developing exciting and innovative apprenticeship programmes including, advanced practice, paramedic science and operating department practice.

Contact course director Coral Drane at or call 01603 597633.


Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship

The Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship will provide rigorous training combined with assessment tailored to the apprentice’s clinical area that will develop a deep understanding of the relationship between theory and practice.

Working closely with practice partners, UEA is currently developing an exciting, flexible and innovative approach to a Nursing Associate apprenticeship programme with delivery tailored to employer and apprentice needs. Nursing Associate forms part of a suite of healthcare degree apprenticeships at UEA. It delivers the nursing associate apprenticeship in conjunction with partner City College Norwich.

Contact course director Gareth Partington at or call 01603 597046.



Gareth Headland, marketing and communications manager with Pruce Newman, is responsible for all of the company’s sales and marketing activities, and for the development of the IT infrastructure and support services. He is currently studying for an Executive MBA on UEA’s Senior Leader’s Masters degree apprenticeship programme.


What were your initial expectations of the degree apprenticeship?

I was able to join a “taster day” for prospective MBA students before applying for my place on the course, which gave valuable insight into what the apprenticeship entailed, and which allowed prospective students to reacquaint themselves with the university environment – particularly useful if, like me,

you’ve been out of education for a while!

We were all warned that the course would be hard, involve considerable self-study, and make significant demands on our time, but that the results would be worth the effort. And it is hard.

Immersing yourself in study while in full-time employment, spending valuable time with family and collaborating with classmates outside of lectures all require some high-level prioritisation skills, and we’re only a few weeks into the course. But it’s worth it. I’m already thinking differently, and contributing to conversations that I would have felt uncomfortable having only a few months ago, and I’ve yet to complete the first module of the course.


What skills and experiences do you hope to gain from the programme?

The obvious answers would be a better understanding of those elements of the course which are unfamiliar to me, particularly economics and finance, while building on my experience in my specialisms, such as marketing and communications.

But that would miss the point, because the MBA (and by extension, the Senior Leaders Masters Degree Apprenticeship) isn’t just about the academic study, it’s also about the peer interaction, the growth in confidence, and the ability to apply evidence-based solutions to the challenges you face as a leader.

MBA Thinking is a phrase that came up again and again throughout the application process, and I’m really looking forward to the later consultancy modules, where we can apply our MBA Thinking to real life challenges faced by some of the world’s leading businesses.

How do you think undertaking the Senior Leaders Masters Degree Apprenticeship will help you in your current job role?

I’m part of the senior team for a medium-sized business, and we have some ambitious plans to put in place during the next few years.

This qualification will help me to help the business achieve its goals, and to build on our existing growth.


How is it going so far? What are you enjoying about studying at UEA?

It’s going great, and I’m really enjoying it. Not just the academic side, but also the teamwork and camaraderie within the cohort.

We’re a really mixed bunch, some public sector, some private sector, some corporate leaders and some business owners, but we all have the MBA in common and there is a really strong sense of mutual support within the group.

It’s a larger size cohort than in previous years, because of the increased demand that the Apprenticeship route has created, and we’re bonding well as a team with some lively debate and great interaction.

I’ve already made some great friends within the group, and I’m looking forward to spending the next two years working with them as we move towards graduation!


Why were you interested in undertaking a degree apprenticeship?

I’ve always wanted to study an MBA, and the degree apprenticeship provided the best entry route for me and my employer.

We have a long history of employing apprentices, so the model is familiar to us and we have the support structures in place.

We know what benefits apprenticeships can bring to the individual and to the business, and it makes sense for us as an in-scope employer to get the best value from our levy payments.

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