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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships

Last update: 26 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/11/2020

On this page
  1. Official guidelines on traineeships and apprenticeships
  2. Promoting traineeships and apprenticeships
  3. Recognition of learning outcomes
  4. Funding
  5. Quality assurance


Official guidelines on traineeships and apprenticeships


The Traineeship programme, introduced in 2011, is for young people aged 16–17, although 18-year-olds who have left school may also apply. It enables young people to gain the skills needed to get a job or progress to further learning at a higher level, such as an apprenticeship or further education. The Traineeships programme is available at three levels:

  • Engagement - for learners at any level who are not sure what they want to do for a career and/or who have certain barriers which prevent them from immediately taking part in employment or other learning. A traineeship at this level could include work placements, community projects or training at their place of learning.  Trainees attend for between 12 and 21 hours for the first 4 weeks, then between 21 and 30 hours. Trainees receive an allowance of £30.00 per week for full-time attendance. Access is by referral from Careers Wales
  • Level 1 - for learners who already know what career they would like to follow and are ready to train at this level or who have naturally progressed from the engagement option. Training at this level could include work placements, community projects, training in a training centre or gaining skills and learning towards achieving a Level 1 qualification (equivalent to GCSE grades D-G, European Qualifications Framework or EQF Level 2). Attendance is for more than 30 hours per week and no more than 40 hours per week. Trainees receive an allowance of £50.00 per week for full-time attendance. Access is by self-referral. 
  • Bridge to Employment - for learners who are ready for full time employment who have completed the Level 1 option and are still eligible for a Traineeship. Training includes Level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSE grades A* to C and EQF Level 3) training opportunities relevant to that young person’s chosen career. Hours of work are agreed with the employer. Trainees receive an allowance of £50.00 per week for full-time attendance.

Note: Both general and vocational qualifications are grouped into levels within the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW), from entry level to level 8. The levels on the CQFW can be mapped to the European Qualifications Framework.

Trainees may also apply for travel, childcare and other support costs.

Since summer 2018, new entrants access either:

  • the new all-age employability programme for those who are closer to the labour market
  • a new programme for 16-18 year olds who require more intensive support to enable them to enter the labour market.


Apprentices work in a paid job alongside experienced staff in order to gain job-specific skills and receive off the job training. Apprenticeships are not qualifications in themselves, but frameworks that contain separately certified elements, including an appropriate work-based qualification. Apprenticeship frameworks are available at the following levels:

  • foundation apprenticeships, leading to Level 2* qualifications equivalent to 5 GCSE passes and EQF Level 3
  • apprenticeships, leading to Level 3 qualifications equivalent to 2 A-level passes and EQF Level 4
  • higher apprenticeships, leading to Level 4 qualifications and above, equivalent to a foundation degree and EQF Levels 5 to 7.

Note: both general and vocational qualifications are grouped into levels within the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW), from entry level to level 8. The levels on the CQFW can be mapped to the European Qualifications Framework.

Welsh language and Bilingual Apprenticeships are also available. They give learners the opportunity to learn new skills while also developing and maintaining their Welsh language skills.

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of apprenticeship, the apprentice’s ability and the industry sector. There is no upper age limit for an apprenticeship.

Most training is provided by one of around 22 training providers, which are mainly further education colleges or private training firms. The learning provider provides a training mentor for the apprentice who offers them support and guidance and work with the apprentice to:

  • help decide which apprenticeship is right for them
  • explain the way that apprenticeships might work and if funding is available
  • agree a training plan
  • manage the training and evaluation
  • ensure that national quality standards are met and that the apprentice receives  integrated, coherent training.

The programmes are the responsibility of the Welsh Government's Education and Public Services Group (EPS). The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for Wales (SASW) sets out the minimum requirements to be included in a recognised Welsh apprenticeship framework. It was updated in October 2016. Details are available in the Apprenticeships (Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for Wales) (Modification) Order 2016.

In 2018, the Welsh government launched the all-age Employability Programme which set out key targets for employability support, including launching the Working Wales website as a single point of contact for expert advice and job opportunities. In the progress report, the changes to apprenticeships are outlined. Three new apprenticeship frameworks were approved by the Welsh Apprenticeship Advisory Board: allied health professions support, clinical therapies and healthcare services. The target of 6,000 new apprenticeships starts per year with an emphasis on technical and higher skills is also outlined for 2018/19. The current target is 100,000 apprenticeships by 2022.

The Welsh government has responded to the challenges of COVID-19 on traineeships and apprenticeships through the allocation of extra funding and supports. In July 2020, a £40m skills and jobs fund was announced, building on a £50m package for skills and learning targeted towards higher and further education unveiled by Education Minister Kirsty Williams the previous week. The announcement states: 

At the heart of the new funding is a pledge that everyone over 16 will receive the assistance they need to access advice and support to find work or to pursue self-employment or to find and take up a place in education or training. More support for apprenticeships will be available, together with traineeships, redundancy assistance, retraining programmes and careers advice - all will be crucial in helping to address an expected rise in unemployment and the risk of deepening economic inequality caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The £40m package will provide:

  • more than £20m to incentivise employers to recruit and retain 5,000 apprentices, increase the capacity of traineeship programmes and support more graduates to access work experience, work tasters and paid work placements.
  • almost £9m to help workers access retraining and find new employment, including in areas of skills demand, through ReACT and the Union Learning Fund. This includes the national roll-out of the personal learning accounts programme so an additional 2,000 people can learn new skills and gain new qualifications.
  • funding for traineeships, Working Wales and Communities for Work Plus will be increased to help match people to job opportunities and promote self-employment and new ways of working, as well as funding to support employer-led training through the Flexible Skills programme.
  • There will be support for a new Barriers Fund, offering up to £2,000 to support people who may not have previously considered self-employment, in particular women, young people, people from BAME communities and disabled people.

Wages for apprentices

Apprentices aged 16-18 are entitled to the apprentice minimum wage of £3.90 an hour.  Apprentices are paid for both their normal working hours and the time they spend training as part of their apprenticeship. Apprentices aged 19 and over are also entitled to the £3.90 apprentice minimum wage in the first 12 months of their apprenticeship. After the first 12 months of their apprenticeship, people aged 19 and over are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. See the article on 'Labour market situation in Wales' for details of the National Minimum Wage.

Youth Guarantee

The Welsh Government committed to introducing a Youth Guarantee in the 2013 Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Implementation Plan

The Youth Guarantee comprises the offer, acceptance and commencement of a suitable place in education or training. The Welsh Youth Guarantee only partially meets the provisions of the European Youth Guarantee, since it is applies only to 16 year-olds who are making the transition from compulsory education for the first time, and not to 25-year-olds who are unemployed or leaving formal education. See the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market'.

Promoting traineeships and apprenticeships


Following the decision to replace the Traineeship programme in 2018, work is underway to develop a marketing and communication plan for the new All-Age Employability Programme. A small campaign promoting Traineeships for the remainder of the programme ran in January 2017.


The Apprenticeship matching service run by Careers Wales is a free online recruitment system which aims to help employers find suitable apprentices and aspiring apprentices to find opportunities in a business that is right for them.

There are also a number of national events which promote apprenticeships:

  • The Apprenticeship Awards Cymru recognises the individuals, employers and learning providers who have contributed to the development of the Welsh Government's work-based learning programmes (traineeships, jobs growth Wales and apprenticeship programmes).
  • The annual Apprenticeship Week celebrates and promotes the impact of apprenticeships. National Apprenticeship Week 2021 will take place from 8 to 14 February 2021.

Making traineeships and apprenticeships attractive to employers

The Young Recruits Programme provides financial support to employers, offering a range of apprenticeships. Employers who take on apprentices who have worked with them under the Jobs Growth Wales programme (see the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market') are also eligible providing the individual was taken on before 31 March 2016.

Recognition of learning outcomes


The aim for young people on a Traineeship programme is to develop themselves and progress onto gaining an apprenticeship, employment or go on to learning at a higher level.  Young people can undertake qualifications which specifically meet their learning need.

There is flexibility in the range of qualifications taken by learners. Some learners may be ready to undertake qualifications from within the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW), whereas for others it may be more appropriate for them to undertake short courses which lead to appropriate certification.


An Apprenticeship is not a qualification in itself, but a framework that contains separately certified elements, including an appropriate work-based qualification. Such qualifications will be covered by the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW). Further information is available in the section on official guidelines above.


Both Traineeship and Apprenticeship programmes are funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Funds (ESF). Apprentices of all ages registered on approved Apprenticeship Frameworks are funded; however, priority is given to young people aged between 16 and 24. For more information about ESF and the implications of Brexit, read here. 

Apprenticeship Levy

Following the passing of the Finance Act 2016, an Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017 for all large employers (including public bodies) across the UK who have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million. The levy is set at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s gross wage bill. Each employer will receive a £15,000 allowance, meaning that only those whose total wage bills are more than £3 million pay the levy. Employers only pay the portion of the wage bill that is above the £3 million threshold.

From January 2020 employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy have been able to create accounts on the apprenticeship service and reserve funding to cover the costs of apprenticeship training and assessment. For the remainder of the 2020-21, the number of ‘active’ or ‘used’ reservations available to non-levy paying employers at any given time will increase from 3 to 10. This enables non-levy paying employers to recruit more apprentices for their businesses through the apprenticeship service. This policy came into effect on 15 July 2020 and will continue to be kept under review.

Guidance related to how hiring an apprentice and apprenticeship funding for employers is available from the government website. Further information about how the apprenticeship levy affects Wales can be found on the Business Wales website.

Quality assurance

Organisations which have been awarded contracts to deliver work-based learning programmes in Wales (Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales) must have in place systems to manage the quality of learning and to ensure the achievement and maintenance of high standards. 

The Contractor must undertake an annual self-assessment, based on guidance published by the Welsh Government and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and Training in Wales (Estyn). The resulting self-assessment report and quality development plan must be submitted to the Welsh Government. Progress against actions identified in the quality development plan must be reviewed at least three times a year, and the outcomes of the review documented by the Contractor. This documentation, together with supporting evidence of actions taken, must be made available to the Welsh Government and Estyn on request.

Full details of these requirements are provided in the Work Based Learning Programme Specification and Guidance for Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales Programmes – April 2015 to March 2019. [this has not been updated at the time of writing, November 2020]

Estyn is responsible for inspecting work-based training funded by the Welsh Government, careers companies, and adult education. The Common Inspection Framework (CIF) from 2010 and Guidance for the inspection of work-based learning providers set out the way the inspectorate inspect work based learning.