In a year of continued uncertainty, the wellbeing of employees is a high priority. The adoption of flexible or hybrid working, organisational restructuring and recovery plans all bring new challenges.
Stephen Crawley, Chief Operating Officer at one of the UK’s foremost apprenticeship providers, Skills Training UK, gives his expert insight on how apprenticeships training can re-engage employees and support the achievement of strategic goals.
At Skills Training UK, we work in close partnership with employers to ensure all our apprenticeships and traineeships add value. The Apprenticeship Standards themselves are designed by employers, for employers, and they are specific and relevant to today’s modern workplaces.
But to get the best value from them, the right training partner needs to be chosen. A training partner who will proactively seek to first understand your goals, before developing a tailored programme of apprenticeships training for your team to fit, for example, a programme of quality improvement or to support the development of a new stream of managers. It is important to define your goals and choose a training partner who can share your vision.
During the pandemic apprenticeships training as well as enrolment onto apprenticeships programmes has continued uninterrupted online. Interactive webinar calendars for entire courses with subject matter experts, and flexible, supportive coaching by tutors online, has provided continuity of learning which has proven to be motivational and rewarding for the employees during difficult times. In fact, nine out of ten employees who are completing apprenticeships training with Skills Training UK continued on their programmes, while others were able to pause and then re-start by joining different cohort groups.
Easy access to our VLE, as well as the webinar programmes, helps to reinforce and enhance each session’s learning points and enable employees to manage their training flexibly rather than be tied to once-a-month sessions. They can split their activity into manageable chunks dependent on their work schedule needs, whilst still maintaining stipulated learning hour requirements.
For higher level apprentices, access to 1-hour webinars at a time convenient to their diaries has removed barriers that would have prevented these employees previously from joining an apprenticeship programme due to time commitments.
This style of innovative blended delivery using has been welcomed by employers and we will continue with it going forward.
The Apprenticeship Levy – use it or lose it!
An experienced training partner will also help you to understand and make best use of the Apprenticeship Levy in paying for your training, and the available financial incentives. A levy of 0.5% is paid by employers with an annual payroll of more than £3 million and is collected through PAYE. There is a fixed £15,000 annual allowance (£1,250 paid each month) which you can offset against monthly levy payments.
The levy has been operational since April 2017 and levy funds are paid monthly into a Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) online account. They expire 24 months after they enter the account, so be aware that if you do not use your Apprenticeship Levy fund, you will lose it!
A bonus is that for every £1 you contribute, the Government tops up your levy account by 10%. The cost of apprenticeships training is spread across the full length of the programme, with the final 20% paid right at the end, so apprenticeships training is much more affordable than you might think. See later in this article for the financial incentives which are currently available.
By considering your company’s training needs as a whole, an experienced training provider like Skills Training can work with HR to plan the right level and type of apprenticeships to meet your people plan and which maximises the available Apprenticeship Levy funds.
For world-leading cancer centre, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, education and training was crucial for achieving its Five-Year Strategic Plan, launched in 2018. The Apprenticeship Levy has been an excellent opportunity to invest in new and existing staff across clinical and non-clinical teams.
Following competitive procurement, Skills Training UK was selected to develop and deliver a tailored Apprenticeships programme for the Trust which is focusing on two key areas – to support the challenge of new recruitment in new administrative roles, and to further develop the management team with higher level Apprenticeships.
The programmes have included business administration (including a bespoke programme with clinical terminology), continuous quality improvement, customer service, leadership and management. Over 100 employees are currently on programmes and the training is equipping them with skills and knowledge to be practically applied within their workplaces.
When The Royal Marsden was rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, the CQC report specifically mentioned how the Trust’s well-led teams and culture has been used to improve the delivery of high-quality, person-centred care.
Nina Singh, Director of Workforce, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
“As an organisation that has been rated outstanding at CQC level, we believe that our staﬀ are at the heart of driving excellence. Therefore education and training, and in particular Apprenticeships, are a key component to delivering this excellence. Skills Training UK has been the perfect partner to support us along this journey.”
What are your priorities and how can apprenticeships support you?
Business improvement and lean manufacturing strategies (also known as ‘continuous quality improvement’ by NHS Trusts) are an area where the Apprenticeship Standards excel in supporting both private and public sector organisations including Local Authorities.
The suite of Improvement standards, from Level 2 through to Level 6, enable employees in different roles, and with any previous educational experience, to learn the Lean Six Sigma techniques of continuous improvement together.
Employees develop the confidence to identify and make small improvements which add up to make a big difference to efficiency, cost and overall performance.
They work together to identify the things they want to fix and, importantly, are equipped with the improvement techniques to approach the problem solving in a systematic way.
Employers we have worked with to design and implement large scale business improvement training, including advanced manufacturers such as Xaar PLC, have experienced the tangible benefits of improved productivity and reduced waste adding up to hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.
The leadership and management Apprenticeships Standards at Level 3, 4 and 5 are ideal for employers who are looking to progress people into supervisory and junior management roles and build a pipeline of future leaders.
We recently worked with one NHS Trust where we re-worked an existing in-house training programme to fit with the Team Leader Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard so that the employees could achieve recognised qualifications as part of their personal development.
Three cohorts of junior managers have completed the programme (over 100 employees). Some of them were new to their roles while others had a decade or more of experience. The Trust has seen how their Apprenticeship Levy can be used to make a difference at all levels of operation, with seasoned professionals and the newly promoted using their new skills to carry out their roles confidently and effectively.
Current incentives for Apprenticeships and Traineeships
If you are planning recruitment you have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of new financial incentives. If you recruit an apprentice of any age between April and September 2021 you will get £3,000 and an additional £1,000 for every 16-18 -year-old. SME’s (with payrolls less than £3 million per annum) can recruit up to ten apprentices and receive £30,000 incentives.
In July 2020, The Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs announced a £111million investment to triple the number of traineeships available, with a £1,000 incentive for each trainee employers take on for a Traineeship. Greater flexibility means that young people qualified up to Level 3 (rather than up to Level 2) can now join a Traineeship.
Traineeships are a hugely valuable route to harnessing the talent of young people aged 16–24 and Skills Training UK has been at the forefront of their design and delivery since their inception in 2013. Our sector-specific training brings motivated and appropriately experienced candidates to employers and gives young people a kickstart on the career they want. We’re already recruiting for sector-specific programmes in Health and Social Care, Customer Service and Management and Digital Marketing, with new programmes in Engineering and Construction underway.
For you as an employer, a Traineeship involves offering a young person a high-quality work placement of a minimum of 70 hours and this can last for a period of between six weeks and one year, although most traineeships last for less than six months.
Traineeships allow you to get to know and work with young people prior to recruiting. They are an excellent way of helping to increase capacity, are flexible (the programme can be adapted as it develops) and can be a route into an apprenticeship.
For advice and guidance on any aspect of Apprenticeships Standards and how to maximise your levy fund please do not hesitate to contact me via our website or LinkedIn.
As COO of Skills Training UK, Stephen Crawley has ensured that the company is at the forefront nationally for its bespoke, sector specific approach to design and delivery of apprenticeships programmes which add value and achieve employer goals for productive, well-motivated employees who make an effective contribution to performance. Stephen's background is in quality assurance and continuous improvement in manufacturing.