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

Research shows that using apprenticeships as part of training and development results in a more agile, motivated and productive workforce. In a recent study:

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation;
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity; and
  • 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

There are many advantages to using apprenticeships to replace numerous existing programmes and trained employees at all levels, enabling you to close future skills gaps, upskill or reskill your staff, and create a motivated, ambitious, and loyal workforce. Staff turnover and recruitment costs reduce as a result, while productivity and social mobility increases.

Often a misconception, apprenticeships are not just for those recently out of school or university. Of the apprenticeship stats reported in the first three quarters of 2021/22, 46% of apprentices starting were aged 25 and over. A third (31%) were on level 4 and above schemes. Not only that, but 40% of apprentices had worked for their employer for more than 12 months, demonstrating that these schemes can also upskill or reskill existing employees.

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers

In June 2022, the National Apprenticeship Service recognised some of England's leading employers for their overall commitment to employing apprentices, their creation of new apprenticeships, the diversity of their new apprentices, and the progression of their apprentices onto further apprenticeships and employment.

Those recognised included employers from the public and private sectors, including industries such as professional services, health and social care sector, local government, retailing, banking & finance, technology, education & training and employers from the hospitality sector.

To be named as a ‘Top 100’ employer, apprentices must represent up to 6% of the workforce, and 52% of the new apprenticeships that started between 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 had to be existing employees.

How to get started with an apprenticeship strategy

If you’re just getting started with apprenticeships, or you want to get more from your existing programme, having a proper strategy in place is vital to an effective apprenticeship programme. It is worthwhile taking the time to ask 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?;
  • 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?;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 help you work through these questions and use your answers 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?
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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.
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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

Post May 2017 Apprenticeship review
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