FDM’s approach to apprenticeship off-the-job training is embedded in mentoring

Feb 7, 2024 | Apprentices & school leaver, Case studies, Home Featured

Abbe Charlesworth, Apprenticeship Manager at FDM Group, explains how FDM designed an off-the-job training programme to ensure apprentices can reach their full potential.

We are coming into the fourth year of running a successful BSc. Digital Technology Solutions professional apprenticeship.

In 2023 we were awarded flexi-job apprenticeship agency status from the Department for Education. This was a clear sign that we have developed an apprenticeship model that is sustainable. Designing an off-the-job training programme was critical in our continued success.

Being on the flexi-job apprenticeship register means we are able to provide apprentices with external work placements. A structured approach to off-the-job training ensures we can show any future business partners how we provide a high quality off-the-job training experience for our apprentices.

With retention and achievement rates on degree apprenticeships last reported at around 50-60% it is no wonder a mentoring programme and focused approach to off-the-job training became high on the list of areas to prioritise.

FDM is achieving this and so far, has an outstanding 100% achievement rate and retention rate of 93.75%.

How did we do it?

FDM has a unique apprenticeship mentoring programme that enables apprentices to reach their full potential and personal career goals. Our off-the-job training structure was designed with apprentice working groups, learning and development expertise, technical trainers and it has been incorporated into our mentoring model.

How it works?

Off-the-job training for our degree apprentices follows their academic levels and is divided, quite simply into year 1, year 2 and year 3.

• Throughout each year there are at least four touchpoints (one-to-one mentoring sessions).
• There are three training and development milestones each year.
• All the training and mentoring is designed to be recorded and logged as off-the-job training.

Year 1

Mentor session 1 Mentor Session 2 Mentor Session 3 Mentor Session 4
Milestone 1                Milestone 2                Milestone 3


In year 1, we feel the mentoring sessions are key to off-the-job training as they set goals for the apprentice based on the milestone, they’re at.
We prioritise onboarding and establishing the foundations of working in a professional environment. Our apprentices go through eight to 12 weeks of technical pod training in our acclaimed academy to boost their confidence.

In the apprentices’ first year, off-the-job training focuses on topics reflective of the stage they are at as they enter the workplace and start to navigate how to function successfully in a professional environment.

Key topics such as time management, effective business communications (writing emails, contributing to a team meeting) etc provide a key focus of the first few weeks of professional skills training and business fundamentals. They are picked up in their first mentoring conversations to instil the importance of setting goals, removing barriers, taking ownership, and reflecting on progress.

Level 6 can be a huge shock to an apprentice if they are not aware of what is to come. Therefore, we start preparing them for Gateway and EPA during Level 5. There are so many challenges during Level 6 that we want to support the apprentices before they start their Level 6 academic learning.

Once the apprentice reaches their final year, they are tackling a different set of priorities related to gateway and mentoring takes on a special significance. However, Level 6 is also a time to celebrate and open opportunities for our apprentices by attending conferences, organising advanced training, networking, sitting external certifications etc.

We mentor our apprentices individually and their off-the-job training reflects this. What is right for one apprentice will not be right for another.

We have found that a flexible and adaptable off-the-job training schedule, particularly in tech, is the key.

We live in an ever-changing world. Because of this we are currently revisiting off-the-job training for our new September 2024 cohort and we are excited to see what it will look like.

Here is just one example of a milestone that we cover. This is year 1, during Milestone 2.

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