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Trailblazer FAQs

Got a question about how the new trailblazer standards will work? Take a look at some of our most frequently asked questions for more information and guidance.

Transitional arrangements

What are the key differences between the old higher apprenticeship frameworks and the new standards?

Both the old higher apprenticeship frameworks and the new trailblazers provide an apprentice with the opportunity to study the ICAEW CFAB qualification and gain work experience with an employer.

The new trailblazer standards are designed by groups of employers, so that the knowledge, skills and behaviours apprentices develop over the course of their apprenticeship, reflect what employers are looking for in the workplace.

One of the key differences it that the trailblazer standards require apprentices to complete an end-point assessment. For ICAEW’s trailblazer in accountancy, the end-point assessment will comprise of a portfolio, reflective statement and role simulation.

What will happen to apprentices who are currently studying for the existing Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Assurance/Audit or Tax?

Apprentices who are currently studying for the existing Level 4 Higher Apprenticeships will continue as normal – they will not need to transfer across to the new standards. Apprentices registered before 1 August 2017 will be funded as per the current funding rules for their duration of their programme.

What will happen to apprenticeships in Wales?

The Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Assurance/Audit and Tax is still available in Wales. As the apprenticeship levy only applies to employers in England, apprenticeships in Wales continue to be funded under the Welsh Government Apprenticeship Programme. This funding pays for almost all of the apprenticeship costs. Funding arrangements are agreed locally with individual employers - some may be required to contribute towards the training costs - but this is organised on a case by case basis. For employers with staff in both England and Wales, if the apprentice works in Wales (regardless of where they live) for 51% or more of their time, Welsh Government funding applies.


Can an employer still put an apprentice on the existing Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Assurance/Audit or Tax?

Employers are still able to start students on the existing Level 4 Higher Apprenticeships. These will be gradually phased out in 2017 and fully replaced by the new Level 4 standard from September 2017.

What is involved in an apprenticeship agreement?

The apprenticeship agreement gives details of what the employer agrees to do for the apprentice, including:

  • how long the apprenticeship is for
  • the training the employer will give them
  • their working conditions
  • the qualifications they are working towards
When can an employer sign up an employee onto the Level 7 trailblazer with ICAEW?

The Level 7 trailblazer is currently in development as the Assessment Plan is yet to be approved. We will provide more information about this in due course.

For more information about the content that will be assessed in the Level 7 standard, you can download the detail of the standard at gov.uk/sfa

Will graduates be eligible for funding on the Level 4 trailblazer?

The Government guidance states that funding is only available to develop substantive new skills, so providing that the graduate hasn’t studied for a related degree, they should be eligible to start on the Level 4 trailblazer. If the apprentice is eligible for some credit for prior learning, the employer and training provider will need to agree a reduced price, to account for this.

Apprenticeship levy

What counts as an employers’ pay bill?
An employer’s pay bill is based on the total amount of earnings subject to Class 1 secondary National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Earnings below the secondary threshold will also be included for the purposes of calculating the amount of levy an employer needs to pay. These include wages, bonuses, commissions, and pension contributions that employers pay NICs on.
How does an employer pay the levy?
Employers will calculate, report and pay their levy to HMRC, through PAYE alongside tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs).


How long will the current funding arrangements be in place?

The apprenticeship levy and funding rules have been adopted as regulation by the HMRC. Any changes to this regulation will have to be approved and announced by the government. There is no evidence that these will change in the near future.

What are digital apprenticeship vouchers and how are they used?
Vouchers can be redeemed against the delivery of the apprenticeship and the completion of the end-point assessment.
Does the levy funding expire?
Funds will expire 24 months after they have entered an employer’s account
Are there any age restrictions for apprentices eligible for funding?

There are no age restrictions for the apprenticeship funding. However, there are incentive payments for apprentices between the age of 16 – 18 years old.

Will employers receive an incentive to employ a 16 – 18 year old apprentice?
Yes. If an employer chooses to employ an apprentice between the age of 16 – 18, they will receive a one-off payment of £1,000.
Are graduates eligible to start a trailblazer apprenticeship and do they qualify for apprenticeship funding?
Yes, graduates are eligible for the new trailblazer apprenticeships and qualify for funding, as long as they can demonstrate that they will be acquiring new knowledge and skills. 
What happens to an employer’s co-funding payments if a student leaves part-way through their trailblazer apprenticeship?

The government will stop making payments if an apprentice has a break from learning. If a student leaves part-way through their apprenticeship, the employer must inform their training provider as soon as possible.

Employers must inform their training provider and seek advice from SFA about what action they should take. For more information, employers can email servicedesk@sfa.bis.gov.uk.

Will an employer’s funding be withheld if their apprentice does not pass the end point assessment?

The SFA rules stipulate that 80% of the funding will automatically be transferred to you in monthly instalments. If the apprentice does not pass the end-point assessment, then the employer will not receive the 20% completion payment.

Will an employer be able to use the levy to fund apprenticeships for existing employees?

Yes, employers will be able to use their levy to fund apprenticeships for new and existing employees.


How much will the new apprenticeship standards cost?

The cost of the apprenticeship is agreed between the employer and the provider in advance. Once the price for delivery is negotiated, the provider and employer agree a payment schedule and written agreement. This acts as the contract for delivery between the two partners and should be a legal agreement.

What does the government pay for?

Government funds can only be used to pay for the training, education and assessment of apprentices. This includes the following:

  • on-the-job and off-the-job training;
  • planned on-programme assessment and formal end-point assessment (including costs associated with external quality assurance and certification of the apprenticeship);
  • costs associated with e-learning and
  • any admin directly linked to the above.

Funding can also be used for the apprentice to retake any qualifications required for the apprenticeship (such as GCSE’s or A-Levels), providing that additional learning takes place.

What does the employer have to pay for?

An employer will have to pay for anything that is not covered by the government funding. This includes the salary of the apprentice and any additional costs that come with recruitment and training of a member of staff within their organisation. 

Can the employer charge the tuition provider for internal training they give their trailblazer students?

Yes, under the employer-provider route – this route is for levied employers who want to provide apprenticeship training to their own staff. These providers can also act as a subcontractor to a main provider, but they will not be eligible to deliver to non-levied employers.  

Find out more

During the apprenticeship

What is the minimum number of working hours for higher apprentices?

Apprentices will need to work 30 hours a week or more, including any off-the-job training they undertake. This requirement has been set by the government so that apprentices can undertake sufficient, regular training and on-the-job activity and complete their apprenticeship successfully.

If the apprentice works fewer than 30 hours a week, or part-time for a temporary period, the employer must extend the minimum duration of the apprenticeship.

If a Level 4 apprentice passes the six ICAEW CFAB modules before the end of their trailblazer, when will they be sent their ICAEW CFAB certificate?

The apprentice will receive their ICAEW CFAB certificate as soon as they have completed the six modules. They will have to apply for this from ICAEW.

How will students log the number of days work experience and training, to ensure they achieve the 20% of their apprenticeship that relates to training?

Apprentices will need to log their days’ work experience in the online training file, available to them on their ICAEW dashboard.

Can an employer offer their own apprenticeship training?

Yes. If they want to deliver their own apprenticeship training, they will need to meet the requirements of the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP). The registration process will assess the employer’s ability to deliver high quality apprenticeships, as well as their financial health and eligibility to receive funding.

The employer-provider route is for levied employers who want to provide apprenticeship training to their own staff. These providers can also act as a subcontractor to a main provider, but they will not be eligible to deliver to non-levied employers.

By choosing the employer-provider model, the employer will need to undergo a rigorous process to join the Register, as well as submit monthly reporting documents to the SFA.

What time of year are the end point assessments sat

There will be December, March and June sittings.

Can apprentices complete the Level 4 trailblazer in less than 18 months
Yes, an apprentice can complete the Level 4 trailblazer in less than 18 months. Please be aware the Government rules state that an apprenticeship has to last a minimum of 12 months.
How much study time does an organisation have to give the apprentice
The SFA’s guidance states that the employer must allow the apprentice a minimum of 20% of working hours for off-the-job training (including study time).