What is off-the-job training?
Off the job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of day-to-day work duties and leads towards the achievement of the apprenticeship. This training takes place within the apprentice's normal (contracted) working hours. The off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship.
The OTJ training provides the time for an apprentice to develop the required skills, knowledge, and behaviours to achieve the apprenticeship and become occupationally competent. To qualify for ESFA funding, we must be able to evidence that each apprentice is spending at least 6 hours each and every working week over the course of the apprenticeship undertaking off-the-job training.
What is the employer's responsibility with OTJ?
As the employer, you are required to allow your apprentice at least 20% of their working time to be spent undertaking off-the-job training. This is typically covered in the apprentice's university day release, however this varies in programmes, and some complete more than one day per week at university, such as if they do block release or have a professional minimum requirement to meet.
As the employer, you should also encourage work-based learning in the workplace to aid in the apprentice's development towards the required knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to become professionally competent and successfully complete their apprenticeship.
We may require your support in keeping your apprentice engaged and on track with their OTJ timesheet if they are being escalated due to non-compliance. The last thing we want to do is withdraw an apprentice, so we need your support to ensure apprentices understand the importance of keeping a record of their OTJ training on their timesheet, and this should also be frequently discussed in progress review meetings.
The OTJ is a gateway requirement, as the minimum hours must be met by the end of the practical period in order for the apprentice to go through gateway to sit their End Point Assessment. If the apprentice has not met the minimum OTJ requirement by this point, unfortunately they will not be eligible to sit their EPA and complete the apprenticeship, as this would put us at breach of ESFA funding rules which could result in a full funding clawback.
Failure to sit the EPA comes with its own set of issues, including a negative impact on our success rates, as well as financial implications for both the University and you as the employer, as we will not receive the final 20% payment of the funding for each apprentice until they have sat their EPA.* Therefore, we aim to prevent any issues like this later down the line by ensuring apprentices remain on track throughout, and issues are raised early on and communicated with link tutors and employers to ensure they are resolved whilst the apprentice is still on programme, and still has time to rectify the issue and get back on track.
*Please refer to your contract / employer agreement for more on the 20% fee you may be liable for if your apprentice fails to sit their EPA.
Why do we need to evidence OTJ training?
The ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) holds off-the-job training as an essential component of a quality apprenticeship. In order to qualify for ESFA funding we must be able to evidence how each individual apprentice is meeting the minimum 20% OTJ training requirement. Consequently, where we are unable to evidence that an apprentice is meeting (or on track to meet) the 20% threshold by the end of their programme, ESFA funding may be impacted.
ESFA confirmed that all training providers will need to record 'actual' off-the-job hours from August 2020. This will apply to apprentices who started from 1st August 2019. The data will need to be entered at the end of their apprenticeship to close off their Individual Learner Record (ILR), and if the actual hours we input do not meet the 20% minimum as set out in their ILR, this could result in a full funding claw-back as it would be a compliance breach of ESFA funding rules and conditions.
We require all apprentices to record their OTJ training activities on a timesheet, so that we have evidence of the hours spent in order to ensure they are receiving enough time to study and train towards their apprenticeship, and so that we have a record of their hours which will be required to submit to ESFA once they complete their apprenticeship.
We also need evidence of their training activities in the event of an ESFA audit, as an external auditor would expect to look at a sample of apprentices to ensure we are compliant, and this would include the evidence of their OTJ training. The hours being spent on OTJ, as well as the quality of the training and learning they are receiving from us as the provider is important to demonstrate we are delivering quality apprenticeships, and to remain eligible for ESFA funding.
How many OTJ hours are required by your apprentice?
Pre Aug 22 starts – ESFA funding rules for apprentices that started before August 22 state at least 20% of their contracted working hours must be spent on OTJ over the course of their apprenticeship. This figure may vary for each apprentice depending on working hours and course duration, however this minimum figure is set out at the beginning of the apprenticeship journey during onboarding and is documented on the commitment statement which is agreed to by all 3 parties.
Aug 22 onwards starts – The new ESFA rules for OTJ goes off a 6 hour minimum per week (20% based on a 30-hour standardised working week). For any starters from Aug 22, we are tracking the planned hours we are planning to deliver as a provider rather than the minimum hours. Whilst this should surpass the minimum, if the planned hours are not met, we will require a declaration of hours at the end of the apprenticeship to account for the outstanding hours that we have failed to deliver (for example, if an apprentice completes earlier than planned). It is still essential that the minimum hours are met in order to qualify for ESFA funding.
How does your apprentice need to record their OTJ training?
Onefile E-Portfolio is the platform for any apprentices that started from Aug 22 onwards to record their OTJ training hours onto their timesheet and learning journal. We also migrated majority of the older apprentices over to Onefile in October 2022, excluding anyone in their final year or anyone on a programme which we are no longer running as an apprenticeship (for example Chemistry). The apprentice is responsible for keeping their timesheet up to date by recording all OTJ training completed, and internal compliance officers for each school will manage and monitor this and will be in touch if an apprentice isn't engaging or is not on track to evidence their minimum or planned hours.
Original OTJ process is still in place for apprentices in their final year who are not using Onefile. In this process, the apprentice keeps a record of their OTJ training on an Excel timesheet and submits a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5th of each month. The timesheet is then reviewed by internal compliance officers and a copy is uploaded to their profile on Aptem to be discussed in progress review meetings by the employer link tutor / learning and development coach, the apprentice, and the line manager.
University based learning and teaching of theory
Any learning or training completed at university counts towards OTJ training, including lectures, seminars, role-playing, simulation exercises, online learning and webinars, training by internal experts, classes, workshops, etc.
Self-directed study and learning support / assessment
Any self-directed study the apprentice does towards their university work, or additional study towards their apprenticeship as a whole. This could include researching, writing assignments, revision, preparation for professional conversation, portfolio development, attending exams and assessments, etc. These OTJ training activities should also be recorded on the timesheet, however it is important to note that in order to qualify as OTJ training, it must be completed within the apprentices normal working time (including a university day). Any additional training completed outside of the apprentice's working hours, such as after work or on weekends if they typically work Monday – Friday would not be counted as off-the-job training in line with ESFA funding rules.
Work based learning and practical training
This would include any new learning or training at work that is not part of the apprentice's day to day role. Examples include job shadowing, mentoring, industry visits, placement / secondment to other employers for training, work-based activities which demonstrate the development of new skills, training courses, conferences, workshops, etc. If your apprentice is using Onefile, we suggest that any work based learning is recorded in the learning journal rather than the timesheet, it should still be ticked as off-the-job so that the hours are counted towards their total OTJ, however the learning journal allows them to apply the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) to their training activities so that they have evidence of this to refer back to when preparing for their End Point Assessment, and so they have evidence of how their OTJ has contributed towards the apprenticeship competencies.
What would not be classed as OTJ training?
Certain activities cannot be included as OTJ training in line with ESFA funding regulations and guidance. These include:
- Level 2 Maths and English
- Progress Review Meetings
- Normal work duties that do not provide new learning towards the apprenticeship standard
- Any training that is completed outside the apprentices normal working hours
What happens if your apprentice is non-compliant with OTJ?
Internal compliance officers for each school manage and monitor the apprentice's OTJ, and if the apprentice is not engaging, behind with submissions, or behind with the number of hours they are spending, this will trigger a 3-stage escalations process:
- Stage 1 - an email to the apprentice to prompt them to submit their timesheet.
- Stage 2 - a follow-up email to the apprentice and their employer link tutor / learning and development coach.
- Stage 3 - a formal warning email will be sent to the apprentice with their ELT / LDC and line manager notified to warn them that if we do not receive a timesheet following this, they may be withdrawn from the apprenticeship due to non-compliance.
This is something we want to avoid at all costs, and often the apprentice will respond to this escalation with their timesheet or an explanation. We will communicate with you if not, as we would have to start looking at next steps to demonstrate engagement and compliance in order to remain eligible for ESFA funding. However, this is looked at on a case-by-case basis as we understand that there are sometimes extenuating circumstances.
Any issues surrounding non-compliance with the OTJ should be discussed at PRMs, so this should not come as a surprise to anybody, but it is important there is a shared understanding of the importance of the OTJ requirement to be able to continue to run apprenticeships and have our apprentices successfully complete their apprenticeship whilst remaining compliant with ESFA funding rules.
For any questions or issues about off-the-job training, please contact the Apprenticeship Services Unit at email@example.com