Off-the-job hours are an essential component – and a legal requirement – of apprenticeships.
Off-the-job (OTJ) training is taken, “for the purpose of achieving the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the approved apprenticeship that is referenced in the apprenticeship agreement.” Because apprenticeships are work-based programmes, this training happens during working hours. In exceptional circumstances, and with agreement from the apprentice, OTJ hours can be taken outside of the working day. However, the apprentice must be compensated for this time, for example with time off in lieu. This must not be the norm for how OTJ hours are taken throughout their apprenticeship. If an apprentice wishes to take on extra training outside of working hours, this cannot be considered to contribute towards off-the-job hours. It must also not be seen as a conditional requirement for completing the apprenticeship.
What types of activities count as OTJ hours?
Understanding the type of activities that count towards OTJ hours can be a source of confusion for providers. The nature of off-the-job training will depend on the focus of the apprenticeship. This training should develop the apprentice as an employee and must involve learning new skills.
Activities could include:
- Shadowing team members at work to learn new skills and behaviours.
- Taking part in workshops in-person or online, attending lectures, participating in role plays and simulations, as well as using online learning platforms, to learn new skills and theory relevant to the apprenticeship.
- Industry visits, conferences and other external training (outside of the workplace) that develops the skills and professional ability of the apprentice.
- Practical training to use machinery, programmes, technology or other relevant tools.
- Learning support and time spent writing assignments.
Government guidance offers four tests that can be used to ensure an activity is considered to be OTJ training.
The activity should do the following:
- Teach new knowledge, skills and behaviours.
- Be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard.
- Take place in the apprentice’s normal working hours.
- Exclude English and maths up to Level 2.
It is important to recognise the distinction between on-the-job training and off-the-job training. Training that apprentices receive in the course of their employment that enables them to do the job they have been employed to do (consider all onboarding tasks, for example), is on-the-job training and does not count towards OTJ hours.
What are the latest rules on off-the-job (OTJ) hours?
To be eligible for government funding, from 1 August 2022, new full-time apprentices starting on or after 1st August 2022 and working 30 hours a week or more, must spend at least 20% of their normal working hours, capped at 30 hours per week, on off-the-job training over the planned duration of the practical period. This equates to a minimum of 6 OTJ hours per week.
If an apprentice works less than 30 hours, they are considered to be part time. In line with funding rules, their apprenticeship must be extended. Therefore, they will also complete a minimum of 6 OTJ hours per week.
This minimum is a requirement for calculation purposes only. Statutory leave should be deducted before making the calculation of the total number of OTJ hours an apprentice should complete. Once the total number of hours has been calculated, the programme can be delivered flexibly. The actual number of OTJ hours completed each week may increase or decrease to suit the apprenticeship programme. It can be flexible, as long as the correct total number of hours are achieved.
It is also worth highlighting that 6 OTJ hours is a minimum requirement. Apprentices should receive the appropriate number of hours to gain the correct level of professional competency. OTJ hours should support them to succeed in the apprenticeship.
The challenges of recording OTJ hours
Before a learner can progress to the end point assessment, they need to have completed their required off-the-job training.
There are some common problems that come up in the recording of off-the-job hours. These include a failure to meet the minimum policy requirement, failure to use the correct time frame, and failure to apply the statutory leave deduction correctly.
Off-the-job training can only be done during the practical period of the apprenticeship. It should be conducted from the practical period start date rather than the apprenticeship start date as recorded in the apprenticeship agreement and training plan. The end-point is the end of the practical period, before the end point assessment.
Off-the-job training needs to be documented on the apprenticeship agreement, training plan and individualised learner record. The number of planned OTJ hours should be the same across the original versions of all three records. These must be kept, as the actuals recorded in subsequent documents may change.
The apprenticeship agreement sets out the employer’s commitment to release the individual for the number of OTJ hours specified on the agreement.
The training plan is a working document that should be kept up to date with any changes relating to the delivery of the apprenticeship. This includes OTJ hours.
The volume of planned OTJ hours for the full programme must be recorded on the individualised learner record (ILR). Actual off-the-job training hours must also be documented at the end of the practical period. This should correlate to the evidence held in the evidence pack. This requirement was introduced in 2019 to replace an optional field in the ILR, and correct a gap in ESFA knowledge.
Aptem as a tool to help you manage OTJ hours
Aptem enables you to capture and report on the various statuses of OTJ hours. For the convenience of the learner, tutor, compliance teams and inspectors, this is displayed on the relevant built-in dashboards.
- Target hours – the calculation of the minimum required hours for the current date.
- Minimum required hours – the calculation of the minimum required hours for the entire apprenticeship.
- Planned hours – the planned hours recorded in the main aim of the ILR at enrolment for the entire apprenticeship.
- Completed hours – the total completed hours for the entire apprenticeship.
- Submitted hours– the total hours recorded for evidence submitted against activities that have not yet been accepted.
- Forecast hours – the total of the completed hours for the entire apprenticeship added to the planned hours for all the non-completed components for the entire apprenticeship.
The Aptem team has extensive experience in all aspects of apprenticeship management and has developed features that further support you to be compliant. For example, Aptem administrators can put in components at 0 hours and they will not contribute to the OTJ hours. An example of this would be functional skills, that cannot count towards off-the-job hours.
Want to know more about how Aptem can help you with off the job hours apprenticeship management? Please get in touch. Aptem supports nearly 200 apprenticeship providers with OTJ training management and lots more apprenticeship management functionality.