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The Payroll Apprenticeship: Built by the profession for the profession

I am writing this, as an update for the payroll and reward profession, about the Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship that I have been working on for several months. Before I update the profession, it is worthwhile having a brief look backwards at how we got to be here in the first place.


The history

Apprenticeships achieved higher profile in the last few years for a couple of primary reasons:

  1. A change of UK government policy regarding education and skills in England;
  2. The introduction of the UK-wide Apprenticeship Levy from last year.

So, it is important to explain this conflict between the UK government initiative in England and the UK-wide Apprenticeship Levy. The simple answer is that education and skills are a devolved responsibility and what happens in England is not necessarily what happens in the devolved nations.


That is certainly not the case with apprenticeships where, in England, we are going through the transition from employer-designed Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) to employer-led to


trailblazer standards and assessment plans to guidelines and standards set by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA).


The problem for the UK payroll profession is that many professional and representative bodies withdrew their SASE apprenticeship programmes before the advent of the newly designed apprenticeship. This left the profession without an apprenticeship route into and through it. With a skills and resource crisis looming, this was unfortunate.


However, the new Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship is on its way.


The present

In 2017, I took over as Chair of the trailblazer for the above apprenticeship. I am a co-ordinator of their views and opinions and express this back to them in the various way that we have chosen to communicate. The trailblazer itself is a group of employers and consultants from a wide range of professions whose sole responsibility is to develop the content for two things that I then put together and submit to the IFA:

  • The standard

This is a high-level and important overview document that states what the Payroll Administrator will be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship. It details all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours of a competent apprentice, as recognised and designed by the trailblazer group. I reformed this group in 2017 after the last one disbanded and we reworked the entire Standard to one that is suitable for the profession.


The IFA approved the updated standard on March 2 2018, published it on the IFA Website on March 8 2018, replacing the previous one that was not suitable for our profession.

  • The assessment plan

This is another important document written for an independent assessment organisation. It tells them how they will assess whether the apprentice has acquired all of the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours from the standard, and has met the required level of competence. This document analyses the standard in much greater detail in terms of these learning outcomes.


This was submitted to the IFA on February 28 2018 and is now going through their approvals process.


The future

Always remembering that the trailblazer and I do have day jobs in the profession, we all need to raise the profile of this apprenticeship and say:

  • This is, and increasingly will be, a recognised payroll qualification at this level (3). The trailblazer group knows what they want and need from UK payroll professionals and this is expressed in the qualification;
  • Apprenticeships are not just for young people coming into our profession for the first time. Apprenticeship Levy funds can be used with this apprenticeship for up-skilling as well as for new hires;
  • This apprenticeship has been written by the profession specifically for the profession. This was the common motivating reason for being involved in the first place and resulted in fantastic, though time-consuming, contributions from the whole trailblazer group;
  • This apprenticeship does lead the profession into the future, enhancing and promoting our profile, thereby gaining recognition.

I am speaking with apprenticeship training providers all the time and really appreciate the ones that have approached me for information. I am confident that there will be providers ready to deliver this with their offerings when the Assessment Plan has been approved.


Lastly, thank you to all of those on the trailblazer group that have got us to where we are at the moment. They have built this apprenticeship and have devoted their time because they felt it was the professional-responsible thing to do. I have only co-ordinated their views and opinions and expressed this in the above two documents.

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