Meeting the Needs of Apprenticeship Levy Employers
The apprenticeship levy offers businesses an opportunity to transform their learning and development strategy. But identifying priorities – and understanding how the levy can be used to fund these – can sometimes prove complicated. Steve Barker, Director of Sales and Employer Partnerships, explains how Seetec Outsource works side-by-side with employers to understand their most pressing training needs and maximise apprenticeship levy opportunities.
How are you going about meeting the needs of levy-paying employers?
“First and foremost we aim to understand the needs of the business - where it is now and where it wants to be in future. It’s very much a consultative approach. Once we understand business objectives, and the scale of the levy funds available, we can pull together a proposal that’s tailored to organisational need. We aim to clearly define how the levy can be used in a way that demonstrates return on investment.
“Working collaboratively with the employer we’ll identify learning and development priorities – areas of the business where existing staff would benefit from training or where leadership and management skills need to be developed. Or if talent acquisition is key to business success then a programme of training for new recruits might be the best use of funds.
“We’ll also map these training priorities to the most relevant apprenticeship programmes and set out a realistic timeframe for the employer to work towards. Process, planning and timing are all very important, and for employers who are new to the levy this can be challenging to manage without support from their training provider.”
Why is it important to take this approach?
“It’s very simple, if we don’t understand the needs of the employer early on we’ll never meet their expectations for the future – and it won’t be long before somebody else does. Our approach focuses on building trust, mutual respect and ultimately a long-standing partnership.
“The period between initial engagement and programme implementation and delivery can be a relatively long one, so planning and communication is key. We hold the view that if we take the time to get things right at the beginning we’ll have a better chance of getting things right at the end.”
In your experience are employers aware of the differences between the old frameworks and new standards?
“Many of the people we speak to are not fully aware that the new standards are very much occupation-focussed, not qualification-led like the older frameworks. They’ve been developed by ‘trailblazers’ - employers within a particular industry - who know what skills, knowledge and behaviours are needed for a specific job role.
“Once we’ve taken employers through the right engagement process they have a much better understanding of how these standards relate to their employees and their business. They understand whether investing in a specific apprenticeship is going to develop an employee in the right areas, whether this will drive efficiencies across the business and how they can measure return on investment.
“Our consultation process also ensures that the employer, the managers and the learners are fully aware of their commitment, resulting in a positive outcome for everyone.”
How are employers managing the commitment to 20% off-the-job as part of the new apprenticeship standards?
“20% off-the-job can often be a little misunderstood by employers. The myth is that a learner is off-the-job and away from the business for one day a week, which on paper seems crippling. However in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“20% off-the-job can be captured in many different ways. We work with employers to understand the job roles and business environment and put together a plan that captures this 20% in a way that’s engaging, relevant and productive. This could involve opportunities for coaching and mentoring, or utilising technology for webinars, Skype meetings and accessing additional reading and resources. Seetec uses a Learner Management System that makes it easy to track, monitor and report on this activity.”
From your experience how are employers adapting to the apprenticeship reforms?
“Some employers are slightly ahead of the game because they’ve taken on apprentices in the past and understand the benefits, but the levy is still new to them. Other employers are unsure what they can and can’t use the apprenticeship levy for. There’s also some confusion around the way in which programmes are delivered.
“Our aim is to provide employers with the information, advice and guidance they need to make the right decisions. We want to help them use their levy in the most effective way possible for their business.”
For more information about the apprenticeship levy – or to book a no-obligation consultation - contact us today.