The government announcing its plans to invest significantly in higher apprenticeships, following the Leitch Review of Skills in 2006, may seem like a long time ago but – as is often the case in business – what first appears a distant change in the macro environment soon presses against your door.
For many, this is how it feels with apprenticeships, especially with the levy fast approaching.
The good news is this is a change driver with a difference. Degree apprenticeships present employers with an interesting new route to attract and develop new talent, as well as progress existing mid-career staff to realise a higher potential.
But what is creating a sense of urgency, putting pressure on organisations to adapt and respond, is the so-called war on talent and the impending apprenticeship levy.
Given that organisations are operating in an increasingly complex and volatile environment, where the population is ageing, technological advancement is sky-rocketing and the UK faces skills gap in digital and technical skills to leadership and management, it’s easy to understand fears of being left behind and losing out on top talent.
What’s more, although the levy has the potential to help organisations unlock workforce productivity by upskilling employees in areas that support commercial objectives – or in the case of the public sector, that improve quality of service delivery – there is much trepidation and confusion among employers as to how they can make the levy work for them.
Embracing change, reaping benefits
Whether you’re working in government, health or private sector, it’s likely you’re in one of two camps: either you’ve never implemented an apprenticeship programme before, and are not clear on how the levy will affect your organisation, or you have some knowledge or experience of running apprenticeship programmes and are keen to understand how to make the most of them and draw down the levy.
Either way, you’ll want to maximise the benefits of higher level apprenticeships in your organisation and ensure you are recouping the funds where applicable.
Although embracing change and transforming business practice is rarely easy, there are five key steps you can take to get the most out of apprenticeship programmes, to improve performance and results in your organisation:
- Align apprenticeships with business strategy
Seek to answer searching questions, such as: what do you want your organisation to look like in the future? What skills are missing now and will be required in the future? What jobs do you want your people to be doing in four years’ time? Could funded apprentices be an effective way to up-skill your existing employees or bring in (and train) new people?
Once you have a strategic view of future needs, you’ll be in a stronger position to identify and map your apprenticeship needs accordingly. You’ll also have a clearer picture of the types of apprenticeship standards and levels needed to drive business objectives forward.
- Conduct a skills audit
With a clear view of both the skills-base of existing staff and specific skills needs for the future, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on where to create apprenticeship opportunities in your organisation. You’ll also be in a good position to align skills planning with your 3, 5 and 10-year business objectives.
- Take an integrated approach
Review your in-house training programmes, map them to apprenticeships standards and supplement them with additional learning, to turn your existing programmes into funded apprenticeship programmes. Some apprenticeship providers are able to conduct this audit for you and make recommendations.
- Be diligent when choosing an apprenticeships provider
Ask a broad range of questions to really assess whether the apprenticeship provider will meet your needs. Do they have a proven track record & experience? Can they help with attraction, selection and recruitment? What’s their delivery methodology? Can they access a wide range of standards to meet your needs? Where can they add value? Asking these questions will be crucial for finding the right provider.
- Engage and support employees
Consider how the arrival of apprenticeship programmes will impact on your people. For many staff, including the new apprentices, they’ll present a massive cultural shift and will need support to implement.
Think about your internal communications strategy – how will you get staff on board and promote opportunities internally? What information can you provide managers with? Is it worth creating apprenticeship ambassadors or organising roadshows? These are all worthy considerations to help engage, motivate and support your staff.
Yes, the levy is launching on 6 April 2017, but 1 May 2017 is the date that employers can start accessing funding for apprenticeship programmes. That’s why it’s important to think about apprenticeships now.
If you’re are not clear on how the levy will affect your organisation, have never implemented an apprenticeship programme before or are unsure of how to access the funding, then speak to The Open University. We can help and support you with:
- Analysis of organisational needs
- Mapping and accrediting existing in-house training programmes
- Line manager training
- Range of communication tools designed to support staff
- Recruitment, application and induction process
- Mentoring, buddying and peer network support
- Employer and apprentice handbooks to help you better support apprentices
- Dedicated delivery team
- Monitoring and evaluation of learner progress
- Extra support for the apprentice
- Support to draw down the levy funding
- Administration and paperwork for new procedures
For more information on how to maximize apprenticeships in your organisation, download your free guide from the OU and KPMG.