NI COVID-19 Apprenticeship Recovery Package


The NI Economy Minister, Diane Dodds has announced an incentive package to encourage employers to bring back furloughed apprentices, or hire new apprentices into the workplace. The new Apprenticeship Scheme will begin on 1st November 2020, when the UK wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.


Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result initiative:

£14.3million has been allocated to fund the new Apprenticeship Return, Retain, and Result initiative. According to the NI Economy Minister, there are currently up to 4,500 furloughed apprentices in both Apprenticeships NI and Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes.

Who Is Eligible

This scheme is open to employers participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes, who return their furloughed apprentices to work since April 2020

Support Available

The total amount payable under the scheme will be a maximum of £3,700 per apprentice, distribution as follows:

Return – £500 per Returned Furloughed Apprentice

  • Payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship from 1 November 2020 (after the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends) for a period of at least 4 weeks.
  • For earlier returners, continued employment for the month of November 2020, will constitute the qualifying period for the “Return” incentive. This incentive will be paid on submitted claims with appropriate evidence of furlough and employment from December 2020.

Retain – Maximum of £2,000 Available from April 2021:

  • £500 per month for up to 4 months of paid apprenticeship between 1 December 2020 and 31 March 2021
  • The period of retain will also adjust to reflect any in-month apprentice returners. For example, if an apprentice returned on the 12 November, the return month would be captured as 12 November to 11 December.

Result – £1,200 for successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice

  • This incentive is payable alongside any of the other employer incentives and will be payable on submission of proof of full framework achievement of the AppsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA).
  • The timing of this payment will depend upon when the apprenticeship is successfully completed and will be payable for all successful completions beginning from 1 November 2020.

Please Note: Once an apprenticeship is complete, no further retain incentive beyond the completion date can be claimed.

What Evidence Will I Need?

It is important that you retain all of the following details:

  • When your apprentice was furloughed
  • When your apprentice returned and was retained, in paid employment during the period claimed, this can be up to the total period of 5 months (1 month return and up to 4 months retained) and,
  • When your apprentice has continued and completed their paid apprenticeship

Further details of evidence requirements will be detailed in the application pack, which will be released in due course.

Click Here for FAQ’s About the Return, Retain and Result initiative


Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive:

£12.5million has been allocated to fund an Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive initiative which will hopefully encourage and support employers to create apprenticeship opportunities for both new apprentices and apprentices who have been made redundant due to financial difficulties during COVID-19.

Support Available

Any employers who create a new apprenticeship opportunity between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 will be eligible to receive £3,000 per apprentice. This will apply to all new apprenticeship opportunities created within this period and includes apprentices who have been made redundant.

  • Payment 1 – £2,000 after 90 days retention
  • Payment 2 – £1,000 after 200 days retention from first employment

Who Is Eligible?

This scheme is open to any employers who take on an apprentice participating in the DfE-funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes.  

Checks will be made during the application process to ensure that apprentices on similar pathways have not been displaced to support recruitment if this is found to be the case eligibility may be impacted.

Please Note – programme eligibility excludes public sector employees.

Details on the application process and further eligibility details will be provided in due course.

Click Here For FAQ’s About The Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive


Apprenticeship Challenge Fund:

An Apprenticeship Challenge Fund is currently in development to promote greater collaboration between employers and suppliers, whilst maintaining the employers’ role at the centre of the apprenticeship system. This will help create room for the Department for the Economy (DfE) to take a more creative and innovative approach to solving problems, which could include, but not be limited to:

  • Shared Apprenticeship Models
  • Apprenticeship Brokerage Service
  • Employer Apprenticeship Mentoring Programmes to give managers the skills they need to effectively manage apprentices/apprenticeship programmes gaining maximum benefit for the employer
  • Apprentice Mentoring Programme to help new apprentices integrate into businesses
  • The removal of monetary and non-monetary barriers to recruitment; Identify monetary/non-monetary barriers

Support Available

The Challenge Fund currently has a budget of up to £0.5m which will see successful applicants receiving one-off awards of up to £50,000. There is also an option to increase this for proposals with multiple partners or features.

Funding will be via a grant to successful applicants following a competitive assessment process. Eligible costs will be identified in a Letter of Offer to successful applicants, but could typically include staff costs, the costs involved in collaboration/engagement, marketing etc.

Application Details

Applications for the Challenge Fund are set to be released in October 2020 and awards made available in November 2019, however the exact dates are yet to be confirmed. Successful applicants must complete all funded activity by 31 March 2021.

Further details of the Challenge Fund, along with information on how you can apply for the support, will be announced within the next few weeks.