The difference between Kickstart and Apprenticeships

The difference between Kickstart and Apprenticeships

The employment process, criteria, incentives, and funding explained

The Kickstart Scheme is open with the last day of employment December 31st 2021. The additional incentives for Apprentices have been extended to September 31st 2021. This is the best time ever to add young fresh talent to your workforce. It is essential to understand the differences between schemes.

The table provides a quick guide is below:   


Cost to employer

Financial Incentive

Training Support





Wages of at least 4.30 per hour

£3000 19+  

£4000 16-18

20% off the job training with an approved training provider

Min 12 months

Any Age

Must be a new hire or a redundant apprentice in a new role at a new company who is not in receipt of universal credit


No wages and No NI to pay for 6 months

£1500 for mandatory training and on boarding

Employers must develop their own training course to assist with job search after the Kickstart job ends/ it must be approved and included with each kickstart application

6 Months


Kickstart employees must be on universal credit. Be at risk of long-term unemployment as determined by the Jobcentre.  SMEs can apply direct or partner with other companies through an approved Gateway provider such as Aspire to Learn


Process and employment

The process is ready; you can hire your own candidate and choose a training provider to deliver the course. Or your training provider will manage the whole process.

Until September 31st 2021 companies can get up to £4000 incentives (subject to age and eligibility). More details of the exact funding can be found here.

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said:

‘I strongly encourage as many employers as possible to apply now, and take advantage of this generous offer, whether it is used to recruit apprentices for the first time or expand their current apprenticeship offer.’ More details of the announcements made on September 1st can be read here.

Funding can be applied for through businesses own Digital Apprentice Service Account.


Employers commit to a minimum of 12 months the apprentices training; however, some higher-level apprenticeships are longer than this. In addition, employers allow 20% off the job training.


  • The government fully funds training if your company pays the apprenticeship levy
  • A small employer pays a contribution of 5% of the total cost of training is required for apprentices aged 19+ and this can be covered by the additional funding incentives noted above
  • There are over 500 apprenticeship standards that can be applied to just about any sector
  • Approved training providers work with companies to hire, deliver training 1 to 1, manage the 20% off the job training
  • You can interview and choose candidates in line with your own HR policies and criteria
  • Your business has a contracted employee who will learn the knowledge, skills and behaviours suited to the business’s needs
  • At the end of the Apprenticeship, you will have a qualified staff member trained on your business at the end of the Apprenticeship who knows your business, potentially reducing ongoing recruitment fees

The number of SME’s taking on apprentices has increased significantly since the additional apprenticeship funding was announced.


Process and employment

Companies have to apply to the DWP Kickstart team. They will undergo a spotlight check, and approval takes up to 4 weeks. The roles are then passed to local job centres where work coaches will refer candidates. You can then choose from the referred candidates. They can also use an Approved Kickstart Scheme Gateway to manage the process for them.

You will need to detail the training that you will provide and how you will support your candidate over the six-month period.


The Kickstart scheme is helping those who are long term risk of unemployment. This comes with the commitment to support the candidate in the role and future development.  Since most gateways have already been approved, hiring a Kickstart employee is easier if you use one.


There is a set criteria for applying for funding:  

  • The job must be a new position and must not replace existing or planned vacancies, and must not cause existing employees or contractors to lose employment
  • The new employee must be aged 16-24 years old at the start date and must be in receipt of Universal Credit
  • Funding covers six months of employment at the National Minimum Wage age rate applicable for 25 hours per week 
  • There is also £1,500 per job placement available for mandatory training subject to the successful application process and (‘on-costs’)
  • If the employer pays a higher wage or the Kickstart worker works for more than 25 hours, the employer will cover the direct costs
  • Funding will cover National Insurance and pension contributions
  • Kickstart is not an apprenticeship, but participants may move on to an apprenticeship at any time during, or after their job placement

If you are a large company that needs to fill a lot of new roles, then the Kickstart is a great way to add new labour. We have also placed lots of kickstart employees within SMEs in various roles from sales, digital marketers, bookkeeping and customer services. The mandatory job training is Job Search, CV writing, Interview and employability skills, and you use a gateway like Aspire to Learn, it is delivered for you.

As we come out of lockdown and you start to grow your business, now an excellent opportunity to develop new skills and add the talent of ambitious young people to your business. The benefits of each option are for companies to decide for themselves. Aspire to Learn can discuss the benefits in more detail and help you with both options.

Both processes take a bit of time; for Apprenticeship, the increased incentives are due to end September 31st

For more information, feel free to call us or get in touch with us here.











27 Jul 2021