The Apprenticeship Levy has been with us almost a year now. Whilst training providers and employers have had significant challenges to face in the sweeping and fundamental changes to the way apprenticeships are both funded and structured, we believe there is much to be positive about in the world of apprenticeships.
As such we wanted to address some of the myths around apprenticeships, particularly recent articles featuring inaccurate descriptions of the mechanics of the levy and tenuous speculation around employers using apprenticeship schemes for unethical recruitment practices.
What is an apprenticeship? It is a way to train and support individuals to become proficient in a particular career whilst they gain real hands on experience in that job role, all whilst earning a suitable and fair wage.
Myth 1: Apprenticeships are just a way of exploiting young people for cheap labour
SR response: In our experience we have seen levy funds being used not only to recruit new talent but also to upskill and develop existing staff members. Apprentices who are existing staff still receive the same wage as they always did as a non-apprentice but are given the opportunity to spend the next few months/years learning new skills and gaining an accredited qualification at work to further their career development.
Myth 2: Ok, but where apprenticeships are being used to recruit young people, the pay is low and the job roles are low-skilled
SR response: Whilst there are instances where employers are paying the minimum apprentice wage (£3.70 an hour), in our experience it is a competitive market out there in terms of young talented school leavers who are much more switched on to the wealth of new opportunities out there. We encourage our employers to pay a fair and competitive wage to attract apprentices who will genuinely be entering into a long-term career with the company.
Apprenticeships are a perfect method of matching up intelligent, enthusiastic yet inexperienced applicants with companies that need entry level roles filling. The whole point of an entry level apprenticeship is that it takes an individual who is new to the industry, introduces them to the grass roots delivery of the company’s service and provides structured training and onward progression for the individual to develop a long-term career in the organisation.
Myth 3: Apprenticeships do not provide real training
SR response: If done properly, an apprenticeship scheme is designed to address specific training needs and practical skills that are both relevant to the employer and transferrable throughout the apprentice’s career.
SR Education conduct a full documented analysis of each client’s specific apprenticeship requirement, this explores the company’s nature of business, vision, strengths, areas of improvement/training gaps and explores how these can be effectively supported through apprenticeship training. It also helps guide the employer in forecasting their levy spend and making effective use of the funds rather than seeing it as an additional tax.
Myth 4: The 20% off the job stipulation makes it virtually impossible to support staff members through apprenticeship without significant impact on the business
SR response: Again, if properly planned, the fact that the apprenticeship is upskilling the individual in a particular job role should mean that a great deal of the 20% off the job learning can be factored in to new job tasks that still contribute to the running of your business.
SR Education maps out the off the job element at the apprentice’s initial induction session, this is then monitored and updated monthly to ensure the apprentice is not slipping behind. If a programme has been specifically designed with the employer and the particular individual job role in mind then the 20% rule should not mean you see staff members out of the business one day per week.
Plenty to be positive about!
Whilst there will no doubt be examples of bad practice and areas of improvement, we would argue that this has always been the case when you take a sweeping view of apprenticeships and training across our sprawling network of UK businesses and how they recruit, train and incentivise their staff
We believe the levy and the switch to standards has bolstered the key benefits and purpose of apprenticeships. The programmes are now even more closely aligned to the specific skills, knowledge and behaviours required for each job role. Apprenticeship standards are also much more flexible in terms of how they can be delivered and how this fits in to the practical experience side of the role. Most importantly they have put employers firmly in charge of their own apprenticeship training spend – and we as training providers have hopefully responded by ensuring what we deliver is fit for purpose and provides good value for money.
Written by: Andy Buncall – Senior Relationship Manager