Apprenticeships: delivering work-based training and qualifications to employees



Coronavirus: Apprenticeship Recovery Package

The Department for the Economy (DfE) has made a number of financial support schemes available to Northern Ireland employers to retain existing apprentices and also recruit new apprentices.

Apprenticeships: time to re-energise your business

Are you ready to re-energise your business? If your answer is 'Yes', then consider employing an apprentice today!

Discover apprenticeships

An apprentice can be a new or existing employee starting a new position. Take on an apprentice to discover fresh talent and thinking to meet your business needs and grow together. Employing an apprentice is like recruiting any other employee.

  • An Apprentice is in paid employment from day one. National Minimum Wage rates for apprentices apply - see National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates.
  • An apprenticeship usually takes between two and four years to complete depending on the type of apprenticeship. The length of a Higher Level Apprenticeship will vary depending on the programme you chose, but will be a minimum of two years.

During this time you will share your industry expertise and knowledge by providing mentoring and "on the job" training. Your apprentice participate in "off the job" training (usually one day per week) to achieve the relevant industry qualifications and requirements which will be delivered by your chosen training contractor.

Download the apprenticeships employer advice leaflet (PDF, 1.07MB).

Types of apprenticeships

There are two apprenticeship programmes funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE):

  • ApprenticeshipsNI - Level 2 and 3 - available to individuals 16 and over, eligibility restrictions apply to individuals aged 25 and over
  • Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs) - Level 4 to Level 7 - HLAs are not subject to age eligibility restrictions

Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of occupational areas to support your business needs.

Currently, there are around 150 ApprenticeshipsNI frameworks and over 45 HLA frameworks to choose from.

Apprenticeship levels

Apprenticeship levels are equivalent to:

  • Level 2 (5 GCSEs)
  • Level 3 (2 A Levels
  • Levels 4 and 5 (Foundation degree)
  • Levels 6 and above (Bachelor or Master's degree)

Apprenticeships qualifications explained

An apprenticeship can give your employee the training and qualifications they need to get ahead and meet your business needs. Find out more on apprenticeships explained for employers.

Higher Level Apprenticeships

These are work-based programmes designed around the needs of employers. It will offer recognised training and qualifications to new and existing employees in a new job role wishing to gain qualifications from Level 4 to Level 7. Find out how your employees can access Higher Level Apprenticeships on the nidirect website.

Benefits to me and my business

Apprenticeships can help all types of businesses across a wide range of sectors to harness fresh new talent. They can help equip your workforce with the practical skills and qualifications that your organisation needs now and in the future and you will enjoy the benefits of having a loyal and motivated workforce that you have trained to meet your specific business requirements. Find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships to you and your business.

Funding for Apprenticeships

Funding for the directed (or 'off-the-job') training element is provided by the Department for the Economy (DfE) with support from the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020:

  • ApprenticeshipsNI - for apprentices aged 16-24, DfE pays the full cost of the off-the-job training. For those aged 25 and over, the Department provides 50% of the costs for apprentices who wish to follow apprenticeships in priority sectors. An incentive payment is available for employers when an apprentice successfully completes their Level 2 and/or Level 3 ApprenticeshipsNI full framework.
  • HLA Programme (Level 4 to Level 7) - DfE provides funding at a specified rate calculated with reference to mainstream Further and Higher Education funding.

Find out more about finances and funding for apprenticeships.

What local companies say about Apprenticeships

Many Northern Ireland companies have successfully employed and trained their apprentices through the Apprenticeships programme and their businesses have reaped the benefits. Find out more about company testimonies for apprenticeships.

Getting an apprentice started on an Apprenticeship

You may already have a potential apprentice on your workforce. If not and you want to employ one, it is like recruiting any other employee. The next step is to find a training contractor/provider who has been approved to deliver ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship training. Find out more on getting an apprentice started on an apprenticeship.

Advertise apprenticeship opportunities online

Connect to Success NI is a free online portal developed by the Department for the Economy that enables employers to promote and advertise apprenticeship and school work experience opportunities. Find out more about how to advertise apprenticeship and school work experience opportunities on Connect to Success NI.