20% off-the-job training explained

According to the ESFA’s apprenticeships funding rules, all new standards must contain 20% off-the-job training.

20% off-the-job training explained


According to the ESFA's apprenticeships funding rules, all new standards must contain 20% off-the-job training. 

This may seem like a fairly reasonable statement, but this rule has been causing controversy throughout the sector. But why?

We look at the five major flaws in the system – and find the solution!

1. 20% is a large proportion of the working week. 

The 20% off-the-job training is calculated using the apprentice's contracted employment hours across their whole apprenticeship – equivalent to around one day per working week. This is a lot of time for apprentices to be spending away from the workplace, and will have a big impact on employers who will now lose trainee employees for a fifth of their contracted hours.

This is even more of a burden for employers who are using apprenticeships to upskill their existing staff. These employers will now lose a fully productive member of their team for a whole day a week, and will want proof that this off-the-job training is worthwhile.

2. Lack of clarity 

Many people across the sector are confused about what 'off-the-job' actually means. To help clear things up, the ESFA has defined off-the-job as 'learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship.' 

This is still open to interpretation – and it gets worse:

'Training can be delivered at the apprentice's normal place of work but not as part of their normal working duties.' 

Okay... so they can do off-the-job training at work as long as they're not on-the-job. Still confused? Same – so we've broken down what can and cannot be used towards the 20% :


  • Theory – such as lectures, role playing, online learning, simulation exercises or manufacturer training.
  • Practical training apprentices wouldn't usually do during the week – such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits or competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent writing assignments


  • English and maths (up to level two) which is funded separately
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessments that are required in the apprenticeship standards
  • Training that takes place outside the apprentice's paid working hours

3. English and Maths is not included in the 20% 

Functional skills in English and maths cannot be used as off-the-job training, so apprentices completing this will need additional time off on top of the 20%. Many employers won't want to send staff away to study, and may choose those who already have English and maths over a less skilled applicant. This will make apprenticeships elitist against the people in our society who need the most support – which is completely the opposite of what apprenticeships are all about!

4. Scheduling issues

The 20% is clear, but employers can decide how and when they want off-the-job training to be delivered. It can be for one day a week, for one week out of five or grouped together at the beginning or end of the apprenticeship.

5. Potential punishment for employers

If employers fail to release their apprentices for off-the-job training, they could face serious repercussions. The ESFA has said 'if employers undertake illegal activity, we could completely remove their ability to use their levy funding. If they break the rules, they lose control.'

This is all pretty scary stuff...

So how can employers plan, track and evidence off-the-job training? 


We've developed an off-the-job feature to track and record the 20%. Users just input their learning activity like normal and simply select whether it was completed off the job. This data is automatically calculated into a percentage and displayed on the dashboard, so learners can track their progress easily. Employers and tutors can also report on the off-the-job activity to monitor how their apprentices are progressing.

To see how OneFile's off-the-job feature works, download our free guide.

Download guide

This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.