Trailblazer apprenticeships

Setting standards to develop future farmers and growers

To develop the next generation of skilled farmers and growers, AHDB, NFU and industry employers joined forces to set standards for six Trailblazer Apprenticeship schemes. These are managed by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Five standards were approved: crop technician, stockpersonpackhouse line leadergeneral farm worker and livestock unit technician, with a sixth technical/farm manager standard awaiting development.

Using feedback from some of the largest and most productive employers in the industry the new standards offer colleges and employers the opportunity to work together to develop the next generation of skilled workers, not only to increase their knowledge and skills but also to build the behaviours that can help workers to be successful in the future.

Improving skills is key to unlocking productivity gains on farm. These standards will help ensure that even the newest recruits to farming and growing businesses can support the drive to improve performance while they work. 

The flexible nature of the Trailblazer apprenticeships also means that they can be used as a structured way of upskilling existing workers.

We now need more employers to step forward and work with training providers to use these apprenticeships in their businesses.

Taking on an apprentice

We have pulled together a set of FAQs to support employers who are considering apprenticeships.  Click a question to find out more:

Trailblazer Apprenticeships are gradually replacing current apprenticeship programmes. They aim to bring together technical knowledge learnt from a training provider with practical learning on-the-job, to ensure the apprentice is a fully competent employee when they qualify. As the new style apprenticeships are industry-led, the standards of competency are set by those who recruit apprentices.

Richard Longthorp chairs the Agricultural Trailblazer Employer Group. When asked about the new structure to the standards, he commented:

“‘Trailblazer’ might not be a word people normally associate with the dry nature of education and skills policy, but with these new Trailblazer Apprenticeships, I genuinely believe we have made a really exciting shift in policy – from a top-down approach with Whitehall ‘Suits’ deciding what apprenticeships should look like, to where we are now – a bottom up approach with industry making the decisions.

“These standards were developed by those at the sharp end in farm business and were then taken to representatives from across the industry and its organisations for consultation.

“One key and novel element of these apprenticeships is the inclusion of ‘Behaviours’ alongside the more traditional ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Skills’. This will hopefully help to address the previously widely reported criticism that apprentices do not always have the required behavioural attributes to make (full) use of their skills and knowledge. It should play into that old maxim, “recruit for attitude, train for skills.”

“It is now down to the industry to make full use of the new standards to ensure all members of our workforce have the right behaviours, skills and knowledge. They must be fit to face the undoubted challenges ahead and form a world-class, world-leading agriculture industry that is a career of choice for people entering the workplace.”

Trailblazer Apprenticeships can be broken down into several stages:

  • On-programme learning: 80% delivered on the farm, 20% delivered off the job by an approved apprentice provider.
  • Gateway: The apprentice will reach the ‘gateway’ when they agree with their training provider and employer that they have completed – and passed, where appropriate – all on-programme learning.  At this point the provider will arrange the End Point Assessment
  • End Point Assessment: The End Point Assessment (EPA) is the new way of assessing the apprentice. This new assessment can include anything that has been covered during the entire apprenticeship, ensuring the apprentice is fully competent when they pass. 

There are several ways to find an apprentice:

  • Option One: Identify a person within your business; if feasible, then this is a valuable route to invest in skills and training for staff development. It is worth noting that 20% of the apprenticeship will be classroom-based learning; therefore, work and time commitments are required. Once you have discussed with your employee (and they are on board!), you will need to find a suitable training provider (see “How does the relationship with the training provider work?”)
  • Option Two: If you do not have a suitable employee available or would like additional resource into your business, then you can contact a training provider to ask if they have any students looking for an on-the-job apprenticeship. You can view training providers via this link:  

Employers must pay apprentices the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage for the first 12 months ( and the National Minimum Wage thereafter ( However, we are aware that employers gain most benefit from paying the local ‘going’ rate. This should be a discussion between yourself and the apprentice when completing your checklist and will be stated in your apprentice contract.

If you are an Apprenticeship Levy-paying employer then you will pay your training provider through your online account.

The levy can be used for apprenticeship training and assessment (for apprentices who work at least 50% of their time in England).  You can’t use funds in your account to pay for other costs associated with your apprentice, such as wages, statutory licences to practise, travel and subsidiary costs, work placement programmes or establishing an apprenticeship programme.

If you do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy you will not have an apprenticeship account and therefore cannot negotiate rates of pay with training providers. You can choose which provider to use, but cannot refine the content of an apprenticeship because it’s an off-the-shelf package.

As a non-Apprenticeship Levy payer, you will pay 5% of the costs of the apprenticeship directly to the training provider – unless your business employs fewer than 50 people and the apprentice is aged 16–18, in which case the Government funds 100% of training costs.

  • If your business pays £3 million or more in salaries, then Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will automatically deduct a levy through the current Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system. You will then be required to set up an account to manage the levy (i.e., spend the deducted money to reinvest into your business).
  • If your business is not in the levy band as stated above, then you pay 10% towards the cost of an apprenticeship directly to the training provider.
  • However, if your business employs fewer than 50 employees and your apprentices are aged 16–18 years old, then the Government funds 100% of the training costs for the apprenticeship.

Find out more about managing your apprenticeship funds

The Apprenticeship Levy and AHDB Levy are separate. The AHDB Levy is a statutory requirement for agriculture and horticulture businesses and is collected by the AHDB. The Apprenticeship Levy is applicable to all businesses with a paybill of £3 million or more (including temporary staff) and is collected directly by HMRC.

An apprentice can be someone who currently works in your business, or you may like to recruit someone new. Either way, 80% of learning is on-the-job learning from the employer, while the other 20% must be off-the-job learning that is delivered by an approved training provider. While it is possible for an employer to become an approved provider, this is a complicated process and would generally only be worthy of consideration for very large businesses with many apprentices.

There is a requirement for external independent bodies to provide the assessment and certification. (See section on assessment below)

As an employer, it is your decision as to which training provider you use, depending on your business requirements. Your training provider could be your local land based college, which is currently offering the apprenticeship with a group or, if you require a different, individual approach for your business, it might be a private training provider. Training providers are there to provide support and can help with:

  • Identifying an apprentice if you do not already have someone suitable within your business
  • Answering any questions a potential apprentice may have, if you are investing in a current staff member
  • Getting your business ready for an apprentice, including informing you of any legal requirements (contracts, minimum pay, etc.)
  • Providing support mechanisms that you may find useful throughout the process (checklists, templates, etc.)
  • Providing options of learning styles to suit your apprentice, with reviews to ensure everyone is on track.

The Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education can help with finding training providers for a specified apprenticeship:

The learning on a Trailblazer Apprenticeship is split into three key areas: Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours. The assessment reflects these three areas and each one will be assessed individually.

Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours are monitored throughout the apprenticeship, with the training provider and employer completing a workbook or template to identify that the apprentice has reached the appropriate level of competence. There are three elements to assessment:

  • Online testing: primarily evaluates the Knowledge element of the standard
  • Practical observation: this on-farm assessment will assess the Skills identified in the standard
  • Verbal assessment: a structured interview will assess whether the individual has adopted the required Behaviours

Any Trailblazer Apprenticeship has a minimum duration of 12 months, but some can take up to 30 months, depending on the course level, apprentice and employer. Each standard will provide a typical timeframe; for example, the Crop Technician Apprenticeship takes 18 months. The length of apprenticeship and your required commitment to support and mentor the apprentice should be considered at the start of the process. The more you put into an apprentice, the more you get out!

Only the certificates that are specifically listed on the standard will be fully included in the training delivery package.

While the Apprenticeship Development Group could not secure inclusion of full certificates for some important areas, such as safe vehicle use, the training required to achieve these certificates is included in the Knowledge and Skills elements of the standards. It is then the responsibility of the employer and their training provider to negotiate whether or not the certificate will be delivered as part of the training package.

While there are many ways to create an effective apprenticeship experience, employers commonly say that apprentices work well when the employer:

  • Provides a supportive work environment
  • Provides learning opportunities (on and off farm)
  • Supports the development of standards so they remain relevant
  • Challenges poor/unsuitable provision
  • Manages, coaches and mentors

Gloucestershire-based mixed farmer Chris Padfield has previously utilised the apprenticeship scheme and is looking forward to engaging with the new scheme:

“I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Trailblazers Apprenticeships as they will allow me to have greater control of the relevant skills that the individual needs to do a good job. The main reason I like this new initiative is that I will be involved with the apprentice at the start of their lifelong learning journey. I will be able to help shape the future of the agricultural industry by ensuring the development of professional and personal skills, which can be transferred to any other employment. I really would encourage people outside the industry to come and get involved – there are so many prospects in agriculture and the number of career options is huge. My motivational thought every day is, 'My work means something tangible to every person – it is such a satisfying feeling knowing that someone is being fed because of the hard work you put in'.”

Apprentice checklist (.docx)

Apprentice checklist (.pdf)