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7 myths of the Level 7 Apprenticeship

Author: ICAEW

Published: 22 Jan 2024

More and more organisations have started offering apprenticeships in recent years thanks to the cost-effective, skilled professionals they produce. But, despite their growing popularity, misconceptions about apprenticeships remain.

Have you always assumed apprenticeships are only available to school leavers? Or been deterred by how complicated they appear to set up? We don’t want these misconceptions to prevent your organisation from unlocking the full potential of apprenticeships, so read on for the facts on seven of the most common myths we hear from employers about the Level 7 Accountancy Professional Apprenticeship route into chartered accountancy.

Myth #1: Apprenticeship funding is only available for some organisations

The Level 7 Accountancy Professional Apprenticeship is the most cost-effective way to offer our leading learning and professional development programme, the ACA. All organisations in England, regardless of size or sector, including those in business, can easily access government funding and incentives by training apprentices. Levy paying employers (those with a wage bill of more than £3m) can make use of their own levy funds; meanwhile non-levy paying employers can access up to 95% of the £21,000 government funding. For non-levy paying employers, with 50 employees or less, employing an apprentice between the age 16-21, the government will pay 100% of the cost of the apprenticeship. 

Myth #2: We’re only able to offer apprenticeships to school leavers

Apprenticeships are only for school leavers, right? Not quite! There is no upper age limit on who can undertake an apprenticeship and the only extra entry requirements for the Level 7 Apprenticeship other than those already in place for the ACA is a Level 2 qualification in both Maths and English.

While we see many of our employers offer apprenticeships to school leavers, we also see mature apprentices and apprentices who have already completed other qualifications including degrees. Apprenticeships are a great way to upskill your staff, regardless of their age or background and can help attract new talent into your organisation. 

Myth #3: Apprenticeships will create too much extra work for our trainees 

Mirroring ‘traditional’ ACA training, the Level 7 Apprenticeship includes many elements of the ACA, including the 15 accounting, finance, and business exams. The only additional requirements for the apprenticeship is off-the-job training (more on this in our fourth myth) and the Project Report - a reflective task completed at the end of an apprenticeship.

Neither additional requirement is intensive when compared to other elements of the ACA, and your trainee will be supported by their tuition provider. The extra requirements of the Level 7 Apprenticeship are designed to develop the technical and non-technical skills needed to become a well-rounded professional.

Myth #4: We don’t think our organisation can meet the off-the-job training requirement

One of the requirements for the Level 7 Apprenticeship is that apprentices spend at least 6 hours per week learning new knowledge, skills and behaviours. While this requirement can feel daunting, it really shouldn’t!

Off-the-job training doesn’t necessarily mean ‘outside the workplace’. Training can include anything from learning new systems, attending tuition provider skills days, shadowing or simply studying for the ACA exams with a tuition provider. Meeting the off-the-job training requirement is easier to achieve than you think, and it is the tuition provider, rather than the employer, who is responsible for monitoring the process.

Myth #5: Apprenticeships won’t offer enough flexibility for my business 

All our qualifications are designed with flexibility for businesses in mind, and the Level 7 Apprenticeship is no exception. There are a host of tuition options available for your trainees including online, classroom and hybrid learning, and you have the option to send your trainees on block release or to adopt a more flexible model.

Apart from the Case Study exam and Project Report, which must be completed at the end of training, your trainees can sit their exams in any order. You can choose to follow a linear journey through the exams, or you can design an order for the exams around your business needs, frontloading the knowledge that is most relevant to your organisation. You also have the option to choose whether your trainee sits their exams at an exam centre or remotely, either in the office or at home. 

Myth #6: We don’t think we’re able to offer an apprenticeship as we can’t offer audit experience

Some of our employers, particularly those working in business, worry that they can’t offer the Level 7 Apprenticeship as they aren’t able to offer a trainee any audit experience, but audit is not essential. You simply need to be able to provide work experience in at least one of the following categories: Accounting, Audit & Assurance, Tax, Financial Management, Insolvency, or Information Technology. While we would always recommend that you try to expose your trainee to as many areas as possible to demonstrate breadth of understanding, this does not have to include audit.

And, while audit experience is not essential, the ACA qualification develops the skills and mindset which relate to audit and assurance. Employers, particularly those in business, value the skills the ACA develops in trainees allowing them to identify, assess and manage risk and controls. 

Myth #7: Setting up an apprenticeship seems complicated

Apprenticeships are easier to set up than they seem. All you need to do to get started is create a government apprenticeship service account online. You then need to choose a tuition provider who will provide training for your apprentice and monitor a great part of the apprenticeship process.

The final step in the set-up process is to find the right candidate for your programme, whether that’s an existing member of staff or a new recruit. You can use our recruitment platform, ICAEW Training Vacancies, to advertise your job vacancies to a pool of high-quality potential candidates, free of charge.

Throughout the set-up process, your dedicated ICAEW Business Development Manager will be on hand every step of the way, advising you on how you can get the most out of offering an apprenticeship and answering any questions you may have.

Grow your own talent with ICAEW apprenticeships 

Hiring and training a Level 7 Apprentice is a cost-effective, flexible way to offer ACA training that’s open to all and can be easily set up within any organisation. The Level 7 Apprenticeship will arm your trainee with a Master’s-equivalent qualification, and you with a home-grown ICAEW Chartered Accountant with the technical knowledge, experience, and skills your business needs for the future.