Guide

Finances and funding for Apprenticeships

Funding for the directed (or "off-the-job") training element of Level 2, Level 3 apprenticeships and Level 4 and Level 5 Higher Level Apprenticeships is provided through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund (ESF) Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy (DfE).

An Employer Incentive Payment is also available to employers whose employees successfully complete their Level 2 and/or Level 3 Apprenticeship framework. Employers must contract apprentices to work at least 21 hours per week (to include day release for directed training) and are responsible for paying their apprentices at least the National Minimum Wage rate for apprentices.

How much does training cost?

For apprentices aged 16-24, the costs of the directed ('off-the-job') training element of the apprenticeship are funded by the ESF and DfE.

For employers aged 25 and over, 50 per cent of the costs of directed training are funded by the ESF and DfE. Adults aged 25 and over may only undertake apprenticeships in occupational areas that are economically important in Northern Ireland, ie:

  • Civil Engineering (also known as Construction Technical)
  • Creative and Digital Media
  • Electrical Power Engineering
  • Engineering (including a diverse range of pathways)
  • Food and Drink Manufacturing (including a diverse range of pathways)
  • IT and Telecoms Professional
  • Laboratory and Science Technicians (including a diverse range of pathways)
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Polymer Processing
  • Providing Financial Services (including a diverse range of pathways)

Copies of the ApprenticeshipsNI frameworks available to employees over 25 years of age are available on the nidirect website at the following link:

Higher level Apprenticeships

The Department for the Economy (DfE) will pay training supplier costs for the 'off-the-job' training, however the employer should pay the apprentice for the contracted hours including the day that they are training.

Employer Incentive Payments

Under the ApprenticeshipsNI programme an Employer Incentive Payment isavailable for employers whose apprentice successfully completes their full Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeships framework.This incentive ranges from £250 to £1,500, depending on the complexity and level of the apprenticeship undertaken and the age of the apprentice on joining the programme. You will receive the payment upon the successful completion of your employee’s apprenticeship framework.

What do I pay the apprentice?

Your apprentice will earn a wage agreed between yourself and them. It is important to remember that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Regulations apply and that there are specific rates for apprentices and for different age groups.

The NMW is a minimum amount that workers in the UK are entitled to be paid. NMW rates are reviewed each year.

National Minimum Wage - hourly rates from 1 April 2018

  • £7.83 - the National Living Wage for workers 25 years old and over
  • £7.38 - the main rate for workers aged 21 to 24 years old
  • £5.90 - the 18 to 20 rate
  • £4.20 - the 16 to 17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18
  • £3.70 - the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship (this rate does not apply to Higher Level Apprenticeships)

Read our guidance on the national minimum wage.

More useful links