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The payroll profession has a skills and resource crisis looming. Not enough people are coming into the profession and payroll training does not always equip existing staff with the relevant skills.  Apprenticeships have achieved higher profile recently, going all the way back to the UK Government’s 2014 Autumn Statement pledge to create up to 3 million more apprentices by 2020 – in England.  Further to the 2014 announcement, the reason for the increase in profile is threefold:

  1.  The protection of the term apprenticeship in the Enterprise Act 2015
  2. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017, and
  3. The on-going transition from employer-designed Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) to employer-led Trailblazer Standards and Assessment Plans adhering to strict guidelines

With regards to the third point, whilst SASE and the new employer-led programmes can run alongside each other for the time being, many organisations withdrew their payroll apprenticeship programmes. Without an employer-led apprenticeship programme, unfortunately, this left the payroll profession without a route into it or for existing staff to progress within it.

The Payroll Apprenticeship ‘Trailblazer’

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) require that employer-led apprenticeships are written by members of the profession to which the qualification relates. This is known as a Trailblazer group.  These are people who, voluntarily, give up some of their time to devote their thoughts and ideas, based on a range of experiences and competencies they have gained in their roles, past and present. The current Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group, formed in 2017, has been working towards establishing an apprenticeship qualification which has been built by the profession with the profession in mind.

Here is what the Trailblazer has been doing:

A Standard

This is a high-level overview document stating what the Payroll Administrator will be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship. It outlines all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours of a competent apprentice, as recognised by the Trailblazer group. On 02 March 2018 the group was delighted to receive formal confirmation that the IFA Board had approved the Standard for the payroll profession. The IFA’s Website now shows the current Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship Standard.

An Assessment Plan

This accompanies the Standard and is a detailed document that advises an independent organisation how they will assess whether the apprentice has come through the learning stage and has met the required level of competence. The Assessment Plan analyses each element of the Standard and assigns learning outcomes for assessment.  These learning outcomes were agreed with the group as suitable for this level of apprenticeship (level 3).

Working with independent assessment organisations and apprenticeship training organisations, the group developed 3 robust, appropriate and deliverable assessment methods. So, an apprentice will go through a period of actually learning the knowledges, skills and behaviours and then these will be assessed.  Assuming that they meet the required level of competence, as determined by the Trailblazer, the apprentice will be awarded a recognised Certificate of Completion.

All of the learning outcomes and assessment methods were collated into an Assessment Plan document. This was submitted to the IFA on 28 February 2018 to go through their rigorous approvals process. Once approved, the Standard and Assessment Plan together will make for an apprenticeship that will be ready for delivery (by apprenticeship training providers).

The future

It’s now about educating employers about apprenticeships and communicating important messages:

  • The apprenticeship is a way for employers to utilise some of their Apprenticeship Levy funds
  • Apprenticeships of this kind are new and employers need time to realise the benefits of using this for new employees and upskilling existing employees
  • This is a valid qualification in the UK payroll profession

We are tremendously proud to have played a part, via the contribution of Cintra’s Head of Legislation and Compliance, Ian Holloway, in developing a payroll qualification that has been built by the profession specifically for the profession.


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