Start an Apprenticeship

Start an Apprenticeship

It is now just over a year since the implementation of the new Apprenticeship Reforms. Statistics show that sadly, the government’s intention to boost UK productivity through an increased take-up in apprenticeship training is not yet working. New ‘starts’ of apprentices from August 2017 to March 2018 are down by 28% overall, compared to the same period the year before, putting the government’s target of reaching 3m starts by 2020 severely at risk.

There has been much debate around the reason for the decline in take-up but most commentators put this down to three main reasons:

i) Changes to the funding of apprenticeship training

ii) Lack of understanding of the new process

iii) The requirement for ‘off-the-job’ training.

Funding changes mean that employers now have to contribute 10% to the price agreed for training, with the government meeting the balance (90%). Previously, the government would have funded the cost in full, certainly for those apprentices aged 16 to 18. Assuming an average price of an apprenticeship course of £3,000, then the new employer contribution would be £300. This is not an insignificant amount, particularly at a time when employers are already having to cope with increases in business rates; an increase in the minimum wage; the introduction of workplace pensions; and any costs associated with incorporating GDPR requirements. All this before we even speak of potential consequences of Brexit.

However, on the ‘flip side’ an employer can gain a valuable, qualified member of staff for this initial investment. Also, the new incentive available from government for employing apprentices aged 16 to 18, of £1,000 (£500 paid after 3 months and the remainder on successful completion) means that the employer contribution can be fully recovered in certain instances. In addition, a small employer (one that employs less than 50 staff) will have their 10% contribution paid by the government for this age of apprentice (16 -18 years), meaning that an employer can actually get back more than they put in!

I recently had the pleasure of being a judge at a local Business Awards event and a common theme raised was the difficulty for employers to recruit new staff.  It struck me that what better way to attract young talent than to offer an apprenticeship, where the employer is shown to take an interest in staff training and development?

There is no doubt that the reforms take a little more understanding than the previous model and change on any scale can take time to adjust to. However, a training provider should be able to guide an employer through the process, making it as simple as possible. JACE is very adept at doing this and can also help in the recruitment of apprentices, free of charge, which again helps to mitigate against the new employer contribution.

The requirement for employers to provide a minimum of 20% “off the job training” is clearly proving a further worry to some firms.  In truth, this requirement was always an expectation of an apprenticeship programme, which combines theoretical learning with practical application. It is an important element that provides the apprentice with a greater chance of succeeding in their qualification and thereby assisting a company to grow, whilst evidencing commitment to staff development, favoured by regulatory bodies. Also, it is likely to reflect the pay scale agreed for an apprentice, against a more qualified member of staff.

Both the government and Ofsted are likely to take a dim view of employers and providers that flout this ruling, particularly if when inspected, apprentices are deemed to be either behind in their studies or worse failing to succeed, as a result of not being allowed time to develop their knowledge, skills and behaviour, during the training programme. I’m sure that parents of an apprentice, an influential group in shaping their children’s career, would want to know that their sons and daughters were working within a firm that supported their career development. Also, there is evidence to show that firms that allow staff time away to study or train, can be more creative and therefore add so much more in the long run.

As an organisation that employs and trains our own apprentices in the childcare and catering sectors, we also recognise the difficulties that employers may foresee in meeting this funding requirement i.e. to receive 90% of the cost of training from tax-payers money, in return for providing “off the job training”. However, with careful planning and a flexible approach, the employer and provider can work together to achieve this and create a win:win:win situation for all three parties: the employer gains a knowledgeable and engaged staff member; the apprentice gains from achieving their qualification; and the training provider achieves satisfaction from both parties reaching their goals.

It should be noted that the “off-the-job” time does not have to relate entirely to classroom learning outside of the employer base, nor does it need to be rigorously spread, evenly over the duration of the apprenticeship. It can cover a multitude of activities, both in the workplace and outside. Just so long as it relates to the apprenticeship programme (standard or framework); that it is undertaken during normal working hours; that it is not part of normal working duties; and supports the development of new behaviours, skills and knowledge relevant to the vocation, it can count. Typically, this can include employer inductions; lectures/tutorials; role play; simulation exercises; on-line learning; shadowing; mentoring; relevant practical training in the workplace (including soft skills); preparing for professional discussion; and time spent writing assessments and assignments.

We at JACE are happy to work with employers and plan this element of the training programme at the outset and help monitor and evidence its delivery.

Together, we can achieve this requirement and lead your apprentice to successful achievement of their qualification, to help them and your business grow. For further information, contact one of our JACE Centres. To see the benefits of taking on an apprentice, visit our website and view some of the case studies demonstrating how the programme can help develop your future talent pipeline.

Blog written by

Stephen Drummond, JACE Training Director



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