In April 2017, the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in England, requiring all large employers contribute to a centralised fund to promote the spread and development of apprenticeship programmes. But while the focus has traditionally been on hiring apprentices, many organisations are not making the most of another crucial avenue in which the levy funds can be used – upskilling existing employees.
Alongside significant changes to how apprenticeship funding can be applied, the government has taken steps to widen who can access apprenticeship funds. Whereas apprenticeships were previously reserved for young people, the age cap removal has allowed people of all ages to gain different levels of qualification across a number of different specialties.
The potential to upskill staff using Levy funds is only just being realised by organisations. Employers can use the Levy payments to provide their existing staff with training either in a specialist technology, or with leadership and management skills for internal progression. This is a win-win situation for both employers and employees, but the challenge lies in encouraging the workforce to embrace these opportunities.
How to engage staff
Part of the problem of getting staff to join apprenticeship funded programmes is the stigma attached to apprenticeships in this country. For years, an apprenticeship was a scheme for those just leaving school, or for those who wanted to get a foothold in a particular industry. Now the system has been expanded to provide for employees of all ages, the difficulty lies in proving the benefits to all staff.
From our experience working with other employers, there are a number of ways that these opportunities can be promoted to employees. For Leadership and Management apprenticeships, it’s worth avoiding the term “apprenticeships” altogether. It’s better to focus on the diploma element of this qualification, highlighting the fact that it signposts towards more senior roles and responsibilities.
It’s important to encourage staff to apply for these opportunities, but not to force them. Apprenticeship programs are up to 24 months long, so staff need to recognise the benefits they can take, otherwise they won’t stay with the programme. With enough knowledge on the programme’s demands and content, staff will be better engaged and able to benefit for both themselves and their employer.
What are the benefits?
This is a chance for employees to expand their skillset and develop onto a more senior role within your organisation, without paying the costs directly. Employees will recognise the investment in them, which can boost staff retention and morale. But crucially, it will benefit customers and stakeholders, improving the quality of care and service they receive.
For them to see these benefits, employers need to make sure information on upskilling is accessible to staff. One method which has seen success in other organisations is the use of lunchtime pop-up info sessions that have been advertised, as well as leaflets located in break areas.
Staff might be confused about the choice in apprenticeship training available to them, so it’s worth creating a list of options that would benefit their roles. By providing staff with a list of recommended programmes, they are more likely to see how the opportunity relates to them and their role. This can also prioritise the areas that your organisation might need development, such as team leading and management skills.
During our work with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, one of the key ways we attracted interest in an IT apprenticeship programme was by holding a staff ‘Learning at Work Day’. For this, we had our apprenticeship experts on site answering questions about the programmes we can deliver, and providing information about the benefits of apprenticeships as a whole.
Interested staff were then given a point of contact for any follow-up questions, or to clarify details on any of the programmes. This means that staff could address any concerns directly to us as the training provider, rather than through their manager who may not be so informed about the programme.
Good quality information and guidance will show the staff the opportunities available, and inspire them to drive their development, to the benefit of their careers, their teams and the wider organisation.Want further information?
If you have any questions about the Levy, Skills Team’s apprenticeship services, or our leadership, management, IT, digital and business services apprenticeships, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3174 1100.