Is your business making the most of apprenticeships?

25 March 2022

Increasingly employers are looking at their workforce and people strategies and evaluating whether they have the skills they need within their existing workforces. The reasons for this range from:

  • enabling businesses to operate as usual;
  • the organisations’ growth; and
  • as part of transformation programmes that build upon changes in working practices implemented during the pandemic.

With increasing competition for new skilled workers, increasing skills gaps within existing employees, and with wider challenges such as Brexit, finding and developing skills has never been more difficult or more important.

Apprenticeship strategies should not focus on ‘how to spend the apprenticeship levy’, but be far broader and aligned to talent, workforce and people strategies.

With increased pressure on recruitment and training budgets, now is the time to ensure you’re using the Apprenticeship Levy and other apprenticeship funding effectively to develop the team you need.

How are employers currently utilising apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy?

Apprenticeships are not a new tool, with many employers being long-standing advocates of their positive impact.

It is really encouraging to see the volume of apprenticeships returning to pre-pandemic levels as seen in data released by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, but many employers fail to utilise the funding collected through the apprenticeship levy.

  • There are as many apprentices starting an apprenticeship who are new to work with the employer (employed for less than three months before starting the apprenticeship) as those who worked for the business for 12 months or more prior to starting the apprenticeship
  • Nearly 9 in 10 apprentices who successfully complete the apprenticeship fully achieve the apprenticeship standards, although approximately only two thirds of apprentices complete the apprenticeship
  • Nearly half of all apprentices starting on an apprenticeship are aged over 25, with nearly a third of all apprenticeships at higher and degree levels.

Many employers often say a lack of engagement, visibility, awareness and understanding of how apprenticeships can be used, impacts upon the utilisation of apprenticeship within the workforce.

Successful apprenticeship programmes identify clear measures for success, including how well are the apprentices progressing and gaining regular feedback from the apprentices and line managers. This insight is critical in enabling employers to showcase and promote the impact of apprenticeships, but also to address any areas which can be improved.

Apprenticeship strategies should not be considered in isolation, with the most successful apprenticeship programmes connected to wider workforce, talent or learning and development strategies.

An apprenticeship strategy without clear outcomes, roles, responsibility and accountability performance metrics often limits the ability of employers to maintain effective, high quality, apprenticeship provision and to ensure that the objectives in the business plan and strategy are achieved.

Many employers consider apprentices different to other employees. And they are right to do so to ensure that the apprentices get the best experience and contribute positively to the employer. But a number fail to have processes in place to evaluate the impact and quality of the experience, such as:

  • actively seeking feedback from the apprentices;
  • considering the quality of the apprenticeship training;
  • reviewing the business impact of the 20 per cent off the job training requirement; and
  • ensuring that apprentices have mentors that are supportive and encouraging.

Common themes in apprenticeship strategies include:

  1. Developing the skills and attributes of existing staff
  2. Using apprenticeships to improve the recruitment offer
  3. Helping existing employees by providing high quality training at a variety of levels
  4. Identifying apprenticeship opportunities as part of the people strategy to support skills development needs

Key questions to ask your business

If you’re just getting started with apprenticeships, or you want to get more from your existing programme, having a proper strategy is vital. We recommend starting by asking some important questions

  • Do you fully understand your levy spend? Are you sure you are paying the right amount of apprenticeship levy? Are you clear about what it can be spent on?
  • Have you got a workforce planning, people or talent strategy in place?
  • Are there clear owners and advocates for apprenticeship development and apprenticeship levy spending?
  • Have you defined your apprenticeships objectives and desired business impact?
  • Do you have a performance monitoring process to assess value for money and business impact from apprenticeship training?
  • Can you support your supply chain or partners by transferring any unused funds to them, or could you work with regional, local or sector partners?

Our apprenticeship team can support your business with your apprenticeship needs, examples include:

  • undertake a health check assessment to identify levels of knowledge and understanding of apprenticeships including awareness of employer apprenticeship funding rules;
  • review existing apprenticeship strategy, or support the creation of apprenticeship strategy, including tailored action plan and milestones for implementation;
  • value of apprenticeship levy spending and evaluate performance against identified apprenticeship strategy milestones;
  • business planning process for apprenticeships including review of current process and procedures for identification of apprenticeships and apprenticeship training;
  • processes and audit trail for the selection of training providers ensuring value for money and quality of service delivery;
  • performance indicators used to evaluate business impact including performance management and financial monitoring frameworks;
  • governance processes for reporting on apprenticeships and levy utilisation and tracking mitigating actions;
  • insight with apprentice and line manager satisfaction with the apprenticeship programme; and
  • training session covering introduction to principles of apprenticeships; apprenticeship standard and the apprenticeship levy.