On 4 September 2020, the Department for the Economy announced a new Apprenticeship Recovery Package made up of 3 elements:

  1. Apprenticeship Return, Retain & Result Scheme
  2. Recruitment of New Apprenticeships
  3. Apprenticeship Challenge Fund

Further details were released on 11 September, the main provisions of which are summarized in this commentary. The overall announcement can be accessed here.

This is a very welcome initiative that hopefully will encourage businesses to retain and recruit apprentices.


This applies to any apprentice which is part of DfE-funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes, provided that the apprentice was furloughed and has returned/or will return to work after April 2020.

There are 3 elements to the payment that can potentially total up to £3,700.

Return: £500 is payable for each returned furloughed apprentice for the first full month of paid apprenticeship. They must return and continue working for at least a 4 week period from 1 November 2020. If the apprentice has returned earlier, then November 2020 will be treated as the return month. Payments to be made from December 2020.

Retain: a maximum of £2,000, split into £500 per month for up to 4 months payable for each of the months between 1 December 2020 to 31 March 2021. The amount will be pro rata to reflect part month returns.

Result: £1,200 for the successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice. There is no time period currently for the completion.

Evidence required will include:

  • Date apprentice was furloughed;
  • Date apprentice returned and was retained in paid employment during the period claimed, (this can be up to the total period of 5 months consisting of 1 month return and up to 4 months retained).

Further details of evidence requirements will be detailed in the application pack.

See here for further information.


Employers are eligible for up to £3,000 for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 or for an apprentice that was brought back having been made redundant in that period. All apprentices under DfE-funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes are covered.

This bonus will be:

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


  • There will be checks to ensure that apprentices on similar pathways have not been displaced to recruit a new apprentice.
  • If an apprentice has been furloughed, the employer will only qualify for the Return Retain Result Scheme above.
  • Apprenticeships are open to existing employees but they must be starting a new job role that requires a substantial amount of learning and skills.

Further details can be found here


The third strand, the Apprenticeship Challenge Fund is still being developed.

Funding will be via a grant to successful applicants following a competitive assessment process. Successful applicants will receive one-off awards of up to £50,000 although there is an option to increase for proposals with multiple partners or features.

It is anticipated that the Challenge Fund will open for applications in October 2020 with awards made in November 2020

More details are available here