Apprenticeships qualifications explained for employers

An apprenticeship can give your employee the training and qualifications they need to meet your business needs. The qualifications for Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships are set out in a frameworks, which have been developed in liaison with industry representatives to ensure they are tailored to meet the needs of your business sector.

Level 2 and 3 Apprenticeships

The ApprenticeshipsNI programme offers three possible apprenticeship routes: either a standalone Level 2 apprenticeship framework, or a standalone Level 3 apprenticeship framework, or a combination of both levels known as a "Level 3 with a Level 2 En Route" apprenticeship.

The framework level your apprentice will undertake depends on a range of factors including their previous experience, their current level of skills, previous qualifications they have achieved, and of course the level of development they require to competently fulfil their new role in your business.

As part of their apprenticeship your apprentice will be supported and trained by a training contractor who has been approved by DfE to deliver ApprenticeshipsNI training in that occupational area and geographical area. A useful search tool is available to help you find a suitable training contractor:

The training contractor will assess your apprentice's level of skills and qualifications when they register them on the programme and will advise what framework level they judge is the most appropriate for your apprentice to begin at.

If your training contractor recommends that your apprentice undertakes a "Level 3 with a Level 2 En Route" apprenticeship, it may not be necessary for them to complete the Level 2 framework in full if they already have particular skills and knowledge.

The apprenticeship framework

An ApprenticeshipsNI framework sets out the requirements your apprentice must meet to achieve their Full Framework ApprenticeshipsNI Certificate at that level.

All frameworks include induction requirements, a knowledge-based qualification, a competency-based qualification, and Essential Skills requirements.

A small number of frameworks have additional requirements such as previous qualifications or experience but these are clearly outlined where applicable.

Level 2 frameworks generally include Level 2 qualifications and Level 3 frameworks general include Level 3 qualifications.

Your training contractor will ensure that your apprentice is registered for the appropriate qualifications and supported appropriately to complete the requirements of the framework in full.

There are over 80 Level 2 ApprenticeshipsNI frameworks and over 90 Level 3 ApprenticeshipsNI frameworks currently available.

If the apprenticeship you wish to offer is not included in the list of current frameworks linked to above, then it is unfortunately not available through the ApprenticeshipsNI programme. There may be further apprenticeships frameworks added in future.

Higher Level Apprenticeships

Higher Level Apprenticeships currently offer qualifications from Level 4 up to Level 6. The majority are at Level 5 (Foundation Degree) with some offering Level 6 (Honours Degree). Higher Level Apprenticeships may be available in the future at Level 7 and 8 (Post Graduate Awards).

The qualifications required will depend on the level of apprenticeship being followed. Some apprenticeships require, for example, General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) in order to be eligible to undertake the apprenticeship.

There are currently over 30 pilot Higher Level Apprenticeships to choose from, ranging from computer science, motor vehicle, mechanical engineering and retail.

For some there are minimum entry requirements, for example, GCSEs. Your chosen training supplier can advise you and your apprentice on this.

How long does it take to complete an apprenticeship?

It usually takes up to two years to complete one level and up to four years to complete the two levels at Levels 2 and 3 depending on their complexity; however they can be completed more quickly depending on the ability of the apprentice.

Higher Level Apprenticeships may vary depending on their complexity however they should take a minimum of two years to complete.

Framework provision is subject to confirmation.

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