The launch of the Apprenticeship Levy draws near and it seems many companies are overhauling their workforce development plans in advance of the forthcoming legislation.
Last year, The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) claimed that a number of companies were reviewing their training plans ahead of the launch, estimating that the total UK Apprenticeships spend is expected to rise to approximately £3 billion after the legislation comes into force.
The Levy brings with it a swathe of new kinds of apprenticeships, as well as removing barriers to eligibility for those with existing qualifications - presenting myriad opportunities for organisations, whether they’re looking to train up existing employees or take on new staff on the ground floor.
In this guide, we’ll explore just some of the ways you can use the new avenues presented by the Levy to best meet your company’s training and development needs.
It’s all about you
Under the previous system of SASE (Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England) frameworks, organisations were faced with limited choices in terms of how they could utilise apprenticeships.
But with the introduction of the Levy comes a range of new ‘Trailblazer’ standards - designed for employers, by employers - that aim to better-meet the needs of companies of all shapes and sizes.
The content of these courses is also a lot more flexible and as such, it’s no longer a case of a training provider offering a one-size-fits-all course in a certain field, but rather getting to grips with an organisation’s needs and taking a tailored approach that actively matches its workforce development goals.
For more information on how this works in practice, take a look at our Apprenticeship Levy project management service.
Apprenticeship Levy: Trailblazer standards
As we’ve covered in our guide to the new Trailblazer standards, the current system of SASE frameworks is being gradually phased out, with the government aiming to replace all these by the end of the decade.
You can keep track of standards that are approved for delivery as they’re unveiled on the government’s apprenticeship standards hub and more than 500 of these are currently in the works.
These differ from current frameworks in several key ways, including:
Being less prescriptive in terms of course content
Offering greater freedom in delivery
Clearly defined pricing brackets
Collaborative input from employers in terms of both content and outcomes.
Why is the government changing apprenticeships?
Following the Richards Review and the later Sainsbury Review, it was found that the UK lags behind other comparable countries in terms of both productivity and social mobility. Apprenticeships, and other forms of technical education, were identified as targets for an overhaul that would help address this deficit.
By gearing technical education towards practical competencies, the government aims to cater for the needs of businesses in Britain and provide a ‘two pathways, one outcome’ approach to getting people into skilled employment. Whether they opt to take the traditional academic option, or pursue technical training like apprenticeships, their end goal will be to offer a valuable resource to both employers and prospective employers in the country.
Should you take someone in on the ground floor or upskill them?
Whether you’re part of a Levy-paying organisation or fall outside its scope, but want to take advantage of co-investment and other funding opportunities, there’s a number of key considerations to bear in mind when it comes to deciding where best to invest your training budget.
While the criteria for paying the Levy is based on payroll - not the size of your organisation - there’s a couple of incentives that may sway the balance for businesses at the smaller end of the scale, whether or not they’ll be paying in.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees will be exempt from paying the 10 per cent required in co-investment when taking on apprentice between the ages of 16 to 18. There’s also an additional £1,000 incentive (paid across three and 12-month milestones) for organisations taking on under-19s, while providers will also receive a one-off payment of £1,000 to help support apprentices they’re training in this age bracket.
Where you’re based
To support its social mobility goals, the government is offering additional incentives for organisations taking on apprentices from some of the country’s most deprived areas. Using figures from the Index of Multiple Deprivation, additional ‘disadvantage uplift’ payments will be offered as a grant to employers, ranging from £600 to £200 - depending on where abouts in the country the apprentice lives.
This offers organisations a unique chance to give back to their local community, as well as getting a committed staff member they’ll be able to train to meet their exact needs at a discounted rate.
Similarly, some local authorities will be continuing to offer Apprentice Grants for Employers until the end of the year and potentially further. However, the criteria - and whether they’re offered at all - will differ depending on where in the country your organisation is based. They may also be limited by the local authority’s budget and/or offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
It's also worth noting that since training is a devolved policy, you'll only be able to utilise the Levy funds that apply to your workforce in England.
Your business goals
While recouping Levy funds or utilising the extra funding available under the initiative may be a priority for your business, whether you opt to take on new, entry-level staff or invest in broadening the skillset of your existing employees should largely be dictated by what your organisation’s looking to achieve in the short, medium and long term.
The Levy presents a great opportunity for companies to offset their current training spend, but to truly be effective, apprenticeships are best used as part of a concerted workforce development strategy.
It’s important to be clear on the role of an apprentice within your organisation and identify how they can help you meet any gaps in your skills workforce, whether that’s an immediate or developing issue.
Since the new apprenticeship standards are much less prescriptive than current frameworks, there’s a great opportunity for you to engage with the course content and take advantage of bespoke training that offers real business benefits.
The ball’s in your court
While we’ve hopefully shed some light on potential ways to successfully engage with the Apprenticeship Levy, if you’ve got any questions about the topics we’ve covered above, be sure to get in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter.
If you’re looking for bespoke advice on upskilling your existing employees or taking on new apprentices, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of Levy experts or read our free Apprenticeship Levy guide: