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Ian Holloway - Update on new payroll apprenticeship | accountingweb

Payroll apprenticeship review will bring changes


With the review of the payroll administrator apprenticeship nearing ministerial approval, Ian Holloway believes that the changes to come will be beneficial.

14th Feb 2023
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As chair of the Trailblazer group responsible for developing occupational standards, I update employers and the profession on the 2023 review of the Level 3 payroll administrator apprenticeship as it nears ministerial approval. This will mean changes – but changes that only benefit the apprenticeship.

The professional and vocational apprenticeship at Level 3 is the first of two payroll apprenticeships that are available to the payroll profession, the second being the Level 5 payroll assistant manager.

To approach this communication exercise, it is best to start with the three components being reviewed.

1. The standard

This “grand overview” of the apprenticeship describes, in brief, the role itself, where it can be found and what a competent payroll administrator will be able to do in the workplace. It also outlines the specific knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) that are the learning outcomes that must be imparted during the training stage of the apprenticeship.

In July, I outlined the changes that were being made, essentially:

  • updating the KSBs in light of any changes since 2018
  • withdrawing any KSBs that were considered unsuitable at this level, based on feedback from employers, apprentices and apprenticeship training providers (ATPs)
  • removing, as far as possible, any ambiguity that may have existed, ensuring employers, apprentices and ATPs know exactly what has to be learned and taught.

This is all in pursuit of ensuring the Level 3 Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship remains the professional and vocational qualification of choice for employers and apprentices. The apprenticeship is written with full industry engagement at every stage, contrasting with other available qualifications that may not have such stakeholder engagement.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has approved the revised standard.

2. The end-point assessment plan

This is the part of the apprenticeship that details how the KSBs will be assessed. So, ATPs will know what has to be taught, but end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) will use this plan to assess whether the apprentice has achieved the necessary competence.

The assessment methods have been changed to align them with those that exist at Level 5. So, the KSBs will be assessed using the following assessment methods:

  • a knowledge test, essentially multiple-choice questions
  • a project completed in the workplace
  • a professional discussion.

Each of the KSBs will only be assessed by one assessment method, so the knowledge test will cover some, with the project and professional discussion covering the others. The revised KSBs will only be assessed by one assessment method. If it has been assessed by one method, there is no requirement for it to be assessed again.

IfATE has also approved the revised end-point assessment plan. With an approved standard and end-point assessment plan built with full industry engagement, I am confident that this professional and vocational qualification can truly be stated as “built by the profession specifically for the profession”.

3. The funding band

This is an important element as it determines the amount employers can draw down from the apprenticeship levy to pay for the apprenticeship (provided by ATPs). It also determines the value of co-investment with the UK Government where the employer does not pay the levy.

With full engagement from ATPs and EPAOs, I am pleased that we have been able to demonstrate the cost of training delivery and assessment to IfATE. It has recommended a revised funding band, which has been accepted.

Next steps

The three stages above have all gone through the rigorous IfATE approvals process. The final step is ministerial approval, which can be expected within the next month.

In short, coming to employers and the profession are a revised standard, end-point assessment plan, and funding band.

This means change. Change to the delivery options from ATPs and changes to assessment delivery options from EPAOs. However, the changes meet the criteria I have always held – the apprenticeship must be appropriate, robust and deliverable.

While a revised apprenticeship may be available for delivery soon, it is not actually capable of being delivered until ATPs change their training material and EPAOs develop their assessment models. 

Being available is not the same as actual delivery and employers are advised to contact their ATP for further information. It is no secret the apprenticeship is being reviewed and, perhaps, if any ATP is surprised it is an indication of their engagement!

Replies (2)

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By Hugo Fair
14th Feb 2023 14:33

Whilst it's hardly your fault, Ian, I feel I now know where acronyms go to socialise with others.

Nevertheless, and hopefully not pre-emptively, congratulations ... it's been quite the Marathon just to get here!

At the risk of trying to run before walking has become established ... do you have any thoughts on how the existence of this qualification may (or even should) overlap with all the discussions regarding standards and regulation?
I ask because, although I (and many others I've dealt with over the years) are from an era without relevant qualifications, my recent experiences of 'window-shopping' for payroll services within small accounting practices (for whom payroll is not a key component) is often dire.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
By Humber
08th Mar 2023 12:59


Yes, it is congratulations to the payroll profession as this will go live next week.

Personally, I speculate whether payroll should be a regulated profession. Who is competent to regulate a profession that is so diverse - no need for responses! However, I do believe that this professional and vocational qualification will set a benchmark of standards at this level. After all, it's a qualification that has been built by members of the profession because they know what is required in the profession. This really contrasts with the many commercial qualifications that are written because an organisation believes they are right for the profession.

So, I hope that employers will look at the apprenticeship and realise that, really, they are a no-brainer. If you pay the Levy, draw down on funds to pay. If you don't, explore UK Government co-funding where they pay 95%.

Thanks (0)