Effective Apprenticeships - Developing skills and bridging the gaps

Due to fast-growth change, increasing competition for new skilled workers, and global economic challenges skills gaps are widening and making it more difficult to find and develop skills.

Having an effective apprenticeship strategy is now a business essential, both for hiring new recruits and for developing existing staff. As pressures on recruiting and retaining staff increase, now is the time to ensure you’re making use of the Apprenticeship Levy and training programmes to develop your team to meet your needs.

  • Benefits of apprenticeships
  • Supporting employers
  • Supporting training providers

Whether you’re developing talent in-house, retaining or upskilling existing staff or developing new recruits, using apprenticeship funding and training effectively can improve efficiency and increase productivity across your business.

  • Benefits of apprenticeships
  • Supporting employers
  • Supporting training providers

Benefits of apprenticeships

People are an organisation’s biggest asset, but they are often its biggest cost and risk too. The challenges of recruitment and retention, together with rising staff costs, mean organisations are mainly focusing on their benefits and rewards offerings. This is to ensure they are delivering a rewards package that not only attracts and retains the best talent but also provides the best value for money for the employer. 

In a recent study:

  • 92% of companies that have employed apprentices believe this leads to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
  • 86% said that apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.
  • 80% have seen a significant increase in employee retention.

There are many advantages to using apprenticeships to replace various existing programmes. It enables the training of employees at all levels, helping you to close future skills gaps, upskill or reskill your staff, and create a motivated, ambitious, and loyal workforce. As a result, staff turnover and recruitment costs decrease, while productivity and social mobility increase.

Outputs per apprentice usually exceed their associated costs, delivering a net benefit to employers during their training. On average in the UK, the estimated net yearly gain for employers ranges between £2,500 and £18,000 per apprentice during this period. The net gain increases further once the apprentice completes their training and remains with the employer, as apprenticeship costs cease and productivity increases.

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers celebrates England’s outstanding apprenticeship employers, recognising their commitment to creating new apprenticeships, the diversity of their apprentices, and the number of apprentices who successfully complete their apprenticeships.

First introduced in 2020, over 1000 apprenticeship employers from a broad range of industry sectors have been recognised in the rankings.

Entries for the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers and Top 50 SME Apprenticeship Employers are now open, with the entry date closing on Friday 12 April 2024.

How to get started with an apprenticeship strategy

If you’re just getting started with apprenticeships, or want to get more from your existing programme, having a proper strategy in place is vital for an effective apprenticeship programme. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • do you fully understand your levy spend? Are you sure you’re paying the right amount of apprenticeship levy? Are you clear about what it can be spent on?;
  • do you have 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?; and
  • 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 team can assist you in addressing these questions and use your responses to devise a strategy that supports your business goals.

Supporting employers

As many industries face a growing skills shortage, apprenticeships are increasingly valued as a sustainable investment in a more loyal workforce. They can create pathways to career development and grow teams for the future.

An effective apprenticeship programme is one that aligns with your wider workforce, people and talent strategies. Designing and implementing your programme is not a small undertaking, but these three steps will help you achieve apprenticeships success.

Step one – Align your apprenticeship strategy with your business goals

Your apprenticeship strategy should be a tailored action plan with key milestones for implementation. To put an effective action plan in place, it’s important to ask the following questions.

  • Have we identified the key individuals within the organisation that need to be involved?
  • Have our existing apprenticeships or similar initiatives been successful? If so, why?
  • Do the available apprenticeship standards match employee skills or demand?
  • How can we maximise apprenticeship funding to deliver business impact?
  • What could the induction and welcome programme look like?
  • How should we identify and select providers?
  • How will we measure and evaluate the impact of apprenticeship training?
  • How could apprenticeships support supply chain and wider corporate social responsibility?

Step two: appoint training providers who deliver quality and value

The right training provider is crucial to running an effective apprenticeship programme. It will largely determine the quality of training provided, and it can influence engagement with apprentices.

To appoint the right training provider, you need to:

  • establish a robust framework for procuring services;
  • set buying conditions and evaluation criteria, such as quality parameters, price, capacity and value for money;
  • conduct due diligence on potential providers;
  • identify key areas of employer delivery in apprenticeship training; and
  • stay up to date with financial regulations.

Step three: continuously monitor performance to keep apprenticeships in line with objectives

Only 61% of apprenticeships are completed on time. An unmonitored apprenticeship programme has the potential to become unwieldy, ineffective and unaligned with business objectives.

Our research found that 86% of employers do not have a set of performance indicators to assess the performance of the training provider in place. Having a monitoring framework is essential in making sure that your programme is high quality. To monitor your apprenticeships, you must:
  • establish key objectives for the apprenticeship strategy;
  • define the apprenticeship plan and have data on performance readily available;
  • identify key performance indicators so that you can assess the success of the programme;
  • enable reporting, including defining frequency and any necessary templates;
  • support implementation, launch and a performance action plan, and
  • establish monitoring and performance management meetings with providers.

Real value from apprenticeships comes when the organisation and apprentice see a mutual benefit. That is why both you and your apprentices need to know what you’re working towards.

We regularly guide clients through every step of this journey, and we can help you too. For more information on levy funds distribution or any of the steps described above, please contact James Whybrow or Mike Cheetham

Supporting training providers

All providers that offer apprenticeships through the Apprenticeship Levy must follow its associated rules. These mandate everything from having formal contracts with employers to mandatory employer contributions for certain employers to off-the-job training.

The Education & Skills Funding Agency frequently changes the Apprenticeship Levy rules. For training scheme organisations on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP), different funding arrangements, delivery models and all year-round delivery are all challenges to navigate. Providers need to have accurate learner data readily to hand at all times. You must review your controls framework and implementation, so that you can demonstrate compliance with funding rules.

We can help you review your controls framework to make sure you stay compliant with the Apprenticeship Levy rules. Our team will assess:

  • general apprenticeship design, including recognition of prior learning and experience;
  • contracts between you and employers including negotiated pricing and co-investment;
  • maths and English requirements;
  • monitoring of activity including progress reviews and off-the-job training;
  • completion and achievement;
  • data compliance, including PDSATs and Hub reports;
  • business planning processes for apprenticeships; and
  • financial monitoring.

Guides and case studies

Mock funding assurance review
Would you consider having a mock funding review instead of experiencing an actual ESFA funding assurance review?
Find out more

RSM and Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief of Suffering
RSM supports LOROS in establishing a framework to embed apprenticeships within their business.
Find out more 

RSM and the University of Exeter
RSM were commissioned by the University of Exeter to review its Apprenticeship provision for compliance with the funding rules specified by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
Find out more 

Apprenticeship delivery model for further education clients
We were approached by an FE College internal audit client to undertake a specialist review in relation to the affordability of its’ apprenticeship provision.
Find out more 

Provider Data Self Assessment Toolkit (PDSAT)
The Provider Data Self-Assessment Toolkit can seem complicated, find out more here.
Find out more 

Investigations: alleviating uncertainty in the education and skills sectors
If you receive a letter from the ESFA notifying you that they have received an allegation that there are concerns in relation to your provision or a whistleblowing allegation relating to funding irregularities, don’t panic!
Find out more 

ESFA subcontracting standard
Funding assurance reviews: carrying out a detailed review of a sample of your apprentices for compliance with the funding rules will give you a better understanding of your risk profile.
Find out more