I have been updating the UK payroll profession with regards the progress of the level Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship...

(see my articles of 24 June 2017 and 05 March 2018). The Trailblazer group, chaired by myself, has been developing this over the past year for apprentices who spend at least 50% of their time working in England. Skills is a devolved policy so take a look at Gov.UK for information about apprentices in the other countries that comprise our United Kingdom.

I will not repeat what I have previously written save to say that the apprenticeship is comprised of two parts:

The Standard

This is a high-level overview document detailing what the apprentice will be able to do on successful completion of this payroll qualification.

On 02 March 2018, the Standard received approval from the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) Board and this appears on their Website. As well as looking at this Standard, spare time to look to the right of the screen at the Trailblazer employers that willingly gave up their time to help develop this with me.

The Assessment Plan

For an approved apprenticeship, the Standard must be accompanied by an Assessment Plan. This expands on the high-level overview Standard, breaking the elements down into specific learning outcomes. It also tells the independent assessment organisation who awards the apprenticeship qualification how these learning outcomes will be assessed.

I have just received confirmation from the IFA Board that that this has also been approved, subject to me making a few tweaks here and there and sending it back to them. At this time, the apprenticeship will be available for delivery.

The IFA have also confirmed the maximum Funding Band as 9 (£9,000). This is the maximum amount of funds that an employer can use to pay for apprenticeship training. It should not be regarded as a funding rate and employers should negotiate with providers to agree a suitable apprenticeship delivery option below this band maximum where possible. Further, apprenticeship training providers should take into account prior qualifications and / or previous relevant learning or experience and consider that they may not require the full training content or time. Failure to take this into account will render the apprenticeship training provider to be in breach of the IFA’s funding rules. 

Let’s take a moment to celebrate. After the withdrawal of many employer-designed Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) we will soon have an employer-led Trailblazer Standard and Assessment Plan, adhering to strict guidelines. This will lead to a recognised payroll qualification and is one that has been built by the payroll profession specifically for the payroll profession.

It is also time for me to say a sincere thanks to all of the members of the Trailblazer group who worked with me for the benefit of the payroll profession. Also, I have to thank the apprenticeship training providers who gave me delivery quotes that enabled me to challenge the initial Funding Band that this apprenticeship was given.

Next Steps

Having an approved Standard and Assessment Plan will not in itself result in a transformation – bringing people into the profession (or upskilling them) and affording them a recognised payroll qualification. It is now up to two main groups to use the apprenticeship:

Apprenticeship Training Providers

I have had much interest from apprenticeship training providers and potential apprenticeship training providers. I have worked with them to, hopefully, ensure that they are best-placed to be able to deliver it. Given that the apprenticeship will be live in a few weeks, now is the time to fully develop offerings and start advertising this.

To apprenticeship training providers, I would say that I have had significant interest from a great many employers waiting for the apprenticeship to be finalised. Therefore, I am confident that employers and workers will use this apprenticeship and are understanding that this is a recognised qualification for the profession.


We will soon have an employer-led Trailblazer Standard and Assessment Plan for the UK payroll profession. This is at level 3. It is extremely important to recognise that this is employer-led rather employer-designed, as the apprenticeship has been put together by employers that know what is suitable for a professional at this level. There are some other points that I feel it is responsible to make:

  • This apprenticeship will result in a valid qualification for the payroll profession
  • This apprenticeship can be used to take on new employees into the profession or upskill existing employees. It is not just for taking on new employees, therefore, employers may want to consider getting an industry-recognised qualification for current members of staff in the payroll department
  • This is not just for use by employers that pay the Apprenticeship Levy. Have a look at the Gov.UK guidance ‘Apprenticeship funding: how it works
  • When the Assessment Plan is published, employers should look closely at the learning outcomes to consider which ones are most appropriate to be trained internally. For example, there is a section on business and customer awareness and it is probably not appropriate for an external training provider to providing organisation-specific training
  • Will the apprenticeship training provider enable your employee to actually be able to pass the assessment? Employers are going to have to carefully compare the learning outcomes in the Assessment Plan to the training that is provided to make sure there are no knowledge gaps. This may result in a failed apprenticeship
  • Has the apprenticeship training provider got a track record of apprenticeship training provision and are they on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP)?
  • How will the provider assess the apprentice during the learning stage (called On-Programme)? There is little point delivering training if this is not continually assessed
  • How will the apprenticeship actually be delivered? Having worked on this for a number of months now, I am sensing that successful apprenticeship training will be through ‘blended learning’, i.e. some face-to-face, some online, some course material, some self-study etc
  • How will the apprentice be mentored through On-Programme? Training may be delivered and assessed, however, the apprentice will need to receive constant feedback on their progress

This is a new way of apprenticeship training. Quite rightly, payroll training at this level is moving towards what the Trailblazer considers appropriate for the profession and should result in more competent and qualified UK payroll professionals of the future. I am delighted to have played a role bringing this to the payroll profession.

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