What is the 20% OTJ training rule?

The 20% Off-The-Job Learning rule is one of the most talked about and hotly debated topics surrounding apprenticeships right now. In this brief post, we will share some hints and tips to help you understand and adhere to this rule.

What is the 20% OTJ training rule?

The 20% Off-The-Job Learning rule is one of the most talked about and hotly debated topics surrounding apprenticeships right now. In this brief post, we will share some hints and tips to help you understand and adhere to this rule.

Off-The-Job (OTJ) Learning is a rule set by the ESFA which states that the apprentice should spend at least 20% of their apprenticeship learning and developing. The reason for this is to ensure that a quality programme is delivered by the employer and the training provider which adds value to the apprentice. This will benefit not only the learner but also the employer who should end up with a skilled, well-rounded employee by the end of the apprenticeship.

Firstly, the most important thing to say is that OTJ does not mean ‘off work’. An apprentice does not have to be given one day off per week.

In fact, the term Off-The-Job Learning is a little misleading, the ‘Off’ refers to their normal work. The emphasis in Off-The-Job Learning should be on the word ‘Learning’.

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A day in the life of Adam
A day in the life of Jenny

The second most important point to make is that the 20% is based on the total paid hours’ duration of the apprenticeship. So, for example, an apprentice working 37.5 hours per week on an 18 month apprenticeship will have a total of 2925 contracted hours, 20% of which is 585 hours. This total can happen at any stage of the apprenticeship and if you were to average it out, it would roughly equate to an hour a day. However, it doesn’t have to be even across the duration. In fact, it is likely that a large amount of it will occur during the early stages of the apprenticeship as the learner learns and acclimates to their new role.

This total can happen at any stage of the apprenticeship and if you were to average it out, it would roughly equate to an hour a day.

If we were to summarise what counts for OTJ Learning, we would say it is ‘anything that occurs during working hours that is beyond the normal day to day work’. It’s important to note that this must not be contrived experience, it should be naturally occurring and specific to the apprenticeship standard. The most common misconception is that this is an arduous task which takes time and effort. This shouldn’t be the case. If you take a look at what counts you should see that an apprentice is very likely to be gaining these sorts of experiences on an almost daily basis.

The sorts of things that count towards this 20% are:

  • Day release for training, including the teaching of theory, that is required as part of the apprenticeship standard
  • Special training days/workshops to develop knowledge, skills and or behaviours that are included as part of the apprenticeship standard
  • Learning a new skill for the first time at work under guidance from a supervisor/mentor
  • Shadowing
  • Observing Colleagues
  • Visits or secondments to other departments or other companies/suppliers/customers
  • Industry Visits
  • Mentoring
  • Attendance at apprenticeship competitions
  • Time spent writing assignments
  • Revision
  • Guided online activities/revision of knowledge

In our experience, the biggest challenge people face is being able to identify every time an apprentice is engaged in something that counts towards the 20%. Having a line manager who understands this rule, and working with a training provider who has a reliable way of recording this experience is the best way to ensure this rule is met.

So, to clarify:

  • An apprentice does not have to be given one day off per week.
  • An apprentice must log 20% of their total paid hours for the duration of their apprenticeship as Off-The-Job Learning.
  • Off-The-Job Learning is work completed in work hours that is new/developmental/learning relevant to the role and apprenticeship standard.
  • This has to be completed to show that the apprentice is learning and developing in their role.
  • It should be naturally occurring and, as such, it shouldn’t be difficult or inconvenient.
  • The training provider, the line manager and the apprentice should work together to ensure the experience is being properly recorded.

We hope this has been useful, please do share with anyone who you think might learn from this.

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