On the evening of Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the government released its long-awaited guidance document on one of the areas of confusion for the new apprenticeship standards: off-the-job training. Off-the-job training (OJT) was included as a requirement for the new apprenticeship standards earlier in the year, but no details were given until now.

Below, we’re going to give you a primer on what OJT means, how to implement it and how employers and training providers should prepare.

What is off the job training?

OJT is a requirement for all new apprenticeship standards. No matter what apprenticeship a learner is undertaking, they must receive OJT during their course of learning. OJT was recommended by the Richard Review and Ofstead to ensure the learner is not simply in a placement program, but is also learning and working to attain knowledge within their sector.

In order for an apprentice to get a full and valuable education, the government deemed it necessary to require that all employers/training providers dedicate 20% of all the apprentice’s contracted payable hours to OJT. This means that, if a learner were taking a 12 month apprenticeship, their time would be broken down thus:

  • 52 working weeks, 5 working days in every week;
  • 5 x 7 working hours in a day = 35 working hours in a week;
  • 35 working hours x 52 weeks = 1820 hours.
  • 20% of 1820 = 364 hours that must be dedicated to OJT over the course of the apprenticeship.
  • 364 hours is equivalent to spending one day a week during a 12 month apprenticeship on OJT.

Off-the-job training must reinforce practical, work-based learning with technical and theoretical learning. It must comprise of activities and learning that will increase the learner’s skills, competence and their ability to perform within their workplace.

It is the responsibility of the employer and training provider to ensure that the learner spends 20% of their apprenticeship doing OJT. Completion of OJT must be documented and evidenced in order for the learner to complete the apprenticeship.

OJT takes place outside normal working duties. However, it is possible to undergo OJT when at your workstation. For example, OJT could include learning to use a new machine or conducting e-learning at your desk. While conducting this training, normal working duties should not be required of the learner. In essence, you are setting aside time for the learner to improve themselves, their knowledge and/or their skills.

The employer/trainer should be able to make a judgement call about if an activity could be considered OJT. The best way to determine this would be to compare the activity to normal workplace activities and ask if the activity in question is sufficiently different to constitute OJT.

What does OJT include?

OJT can include a number of activities and can take place on or off the employer’s normal work premises. OJT is learning that the learner must undertake outside the normal day-to-day working environment that leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship.

This learning can include:

  • Teaching theory and knowledge to help the learner better understand their subject, sector, role, etc;
  • Practical training teaching the learner skills to be used on the job or in a future position/circumstance, shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions;
  • Learning support and time spent conducting projects, written assignments, etc.

OJT does NOT include:

  • Any time that must be taken out of the apprenticeship for English & maths (up to level 2) which is funded separately;
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessment needed for an apprenticeship standard;
  • Any training that takes place outside of normal working hours.

The government acknowledges that learners will inevitably want to spend time outside of working hours to familiarise themselves with their work. However, any personal initiative shown by the learner will not count towards OJT. And any time that a learner takes to conduct OJT is counted towards their normal working hours. So, for example, if a learner were to want to attend a lecture that would take place in the evening and the lecture lasts two hours, the learner’s work day sometime in the following week would end two hours early.

OJT can also take place at home via distance learning, if there is a program of study that the apprentice can complete over the internet that contributes to their completion of the apprenticeship and as long as the learning package is included as part of a blended learning programme.

For those employers or training providers a bit confused, it is the activity that the learner undertakes which is the vital point. As long as the OJT activity actively contributes to the completion of the apprenticeship, the location matters less than the activity itself.

OJT does NOT include time spent on compulsory activities in the apprenticeship, including time spent on English and maths qualifications, any basic safety and compliance training, diversity training, etc.

How to prepare

As well as being a core principle of the apprenticeship, 20% OJT is included in the ESFA funding rules. Compliance with this requirement will be part of the normal audit arrangements.

In order to comply with the funding rules, each apprentice should receive a commitment statement from the employer/trainer outlining the program of training the apprentice will receive and how the employer/trainer intends the OJT time to be spent. The recipient of ESFA funding (usually the main provider) should keep, update and maintain the relevant files.

The ESFA will remain flexible about the type of evidence that should be retained and provided. They want training providers and employers to use naturally occurring evidence where it is available.

Many employers might find offering sufficient or appropriate OJT time difficult or inappropriate to the particular apprenticeship program they are offering. As the industry progresses, it will be easier to tweak the OJT requirements for each individual standard. However, at the moment, and for the sake of clarity, the government is going with a one-size-fits-all approach, so employers and trainers should prepare themselves appropriately.

All training providers offering levels 2-5 apprenticeships are subject to Ofsted inspections

For more details and examples on how to proceed with OJT, click here to see the full document.