Coronavirus: Apprenticeship Challenge Fund

News article

The Apprenticeship Challenge Fund closed to applications at 4pm on Friday 23 October 2020.

The Apprenticeship Challenge Fund aims to promote greater collaboration between employers and suppliers, whilst maintaining the employers’ role at the centre of the apprenticeship system and creating room for the Department for the Economy (DfE) to take a more creative and innovative approach to solving problems, which could include, but not be limited to:

  • Shared Apprenticeship Models;
  • Apprenticeship Brokerage Service;
  • Employer mentoring programmes to give managers the skills they need to effectively develop apprentices and apprenticeship programmes to ensure maximum benefit for the new employer;
  • Apprentice mentoring programme to help new apprentices integrate into businesses;
  • The removal of monetary and non-monetary barriers to recruitment;
  • Initiatives to widen access to apprenticeships for under-represented groups and those with disabilities;
  • Initiatives to address gender balancing within sectors;
  • Exploring opportunities to encourage new apprenticeship pathways; and
  • Encouraging an awareness of apprenticeships by employers who have not previously participated in the apprenticeship system.

What support is available?

The Challenge Fund has a budget of up to £0.5m. Successful applicants could receive one-off awards of up to £50,000 although there is an option to increase for proposals with multiple partners or features up to a maximum of £100,000.

Funding will be via a grant to successful applicants following a competitive assessment process. Eligible costs will be identified in a Letter of Offer to successful applicants, but could typically include staff costs, the costs involved in collaboration/engagement, marketing etc.

Why create a Challenge Fund?

The Challenge Fund will provide a short to medium-term benefit, and assist with mitigation of the impact of COVID-19 on the skills pipeline by expanding apprenticeship provision into new sectors, places, or types of employer.

DfE will assess the outcomes and benefits of successful proposals and consider how they can support DfE's strategic objective to increase participation in the apprenticeship system in the longer term.

How do I apply?

The Challenge Fund closed to applications on Friday 23 October 2020.

Successful applicants must complete all funded activity by 31 March 2021.

Apprenticeship Challenge Fund – Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply to the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund?

The fund is open to any organisation that has experience or an interest in the NI Apprenticeships system, however all activity funded under the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund must promote or broaden access to DfE funded apprenticeship programmes.

How much funding is available?

The Department has secured a budget allocation of £500,000 for the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund. Successful applicants could receive one off awards of up to £50,000 for the development of their proposal, and applications for proposals with multiple features or partners could receive more, up to a maximum of £100,000 per application. However this will depend on the range and cost of applications received, and the available budget.

What can be funded under the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund?

Successful applicants will be funded to undertake activity to develop new or innovative solutions to grow and maintain the supply of apprenticeship opportunities. The nature of activity funded will differ depending on the activity involved. Eligible costs will be identified in the Letter of Offer to successful applicants, but could typically include staff costs, the costs involved in collaboration/engagement, marketing etc.

Is there a maximum number of applications that would be accepted from one organisation, either as an individual applicant or a partner in another application?

There is no maximum number of applications per organisation. If an organisation has more than one separate idea/proposal which would result in different outcomes/deliverables then these should be separate applications, however if multiple features are to be brought together to result in the same outcomes/deliverables then this should be a combined application.

Is there a limit on the number of awards that could be made to one organisation (either as an individual applicant or collaborative partner)?

There is no limit on the number of awards that could be made per organisation.

If an organisation decides to submit more than one proposal on their own, as there are many areas of interest, should they submit one overall organisational proposal but with a separate section2/3 for each project, and a total amount applied for?

No, as each application will be assessed and scored individually, you should completed a full, separate form for each one. Whilst this may involve some duplication, it will ensure that all information for the application is assessed.

Are capital costs eligible?


First published 11 September 2020