We can change employers’ mindset over apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are still the key to a highly skilled workforce – and Progress to Excellence is at the centre of a drive to convince employers this is so.

Six months on from the start of the government’s apprenticeship levy, figures have revealed there has been a 61 percent drop in the number of young people starting apprenticeships. Start-ups between May and July this year amounted to 43,600 - 113,000 less than for the same period in 2016.

However, Cath Goodwin, Director of Business and Commercial Operations at Progress to Excellence Ltd,  believes that employers are still prepared to embrace the challenges of the new system and reap the eventual benefits of producing a workforce of their own “home grown” talent.

She said: “Yes, there has been a drop in the number of apprenticeship start-ups since the creation of the apprenticeship levy back in April. There has been uncertainty among businesses about the effects such wide-ranging changes would have on them - but a lot of that is maybe due to not fully understanding the detail of the reforms and the benefits they can bring.”

At the same time as the release of the number apprenticeship start-ups, the Education and Skills Funding Agency published its latest FE Choices Employer Satisfaction Survey, with Progress to Excellence Ltd announcing that almost all its partner employers are happy with the support and services they receive. Figures showed that 96 per cent of employers were happy with the services provided, a four percent increase on last year.

Cath added: “Our passion for providing high quality training has led us to this great achievement and it’s this passion that is being passed on to the employers and the growing number of apprentices we are training.

“We also believe in partnership working with our employers to determine exactly what they need from us as a training provider and we know that flexibility of training is high on their list of priorities to equip their workforce with vital skills.

“It is crucial therefore for employers to understand that the levy is to pay for further investment in training and to improve the quality of apprenticeships, making them an attractive alternative to university.

“In our own business, we are seeing young people being developed and nurtured in the workplace via apprenticeship programmes. They are earning while they are learning, sometimes resulting in them further up the jobs ladder than their counterparts who have chosen to spend three years working towards a degree. A huge plus here is that there’s no debt and no scrambling by graduates, once they have gained a degree, to convince prospective employers to take them on without any relevant work experience.”

According to Cath, the levy will give employers more control over the design and quality of the apprenticeship training to be delivered. The levy isn’t about redirecting training investment but providing an opportunity to create something genuinely new. As long as the employee is gaining essential new skills and the training is materially different from any other training previously provided, then they tick the right boxes to qualify for levy funding.

Apprenticeship levy funds can also be used whenever a business wants as long as the apprenticeship is done within a 24-month window. After that, the funds will expire. Neither does a business have to spend all its levy funds itself but can transfer 10 percent to its supply chain

Another big bonus for both employers and apprentices is that there is no upper age limit to an apprenticeship, a great option for anyone looking to change career, improve their skills to secure a new role or re-enter the labour market after having taken time out from the workplace. The levy funds can even be used to retrain existing employees if they are moving to a new discipline. 

Once upon a time, apprenticeships were only for practical labour jobs. Now they are available in many and varied disciplines including business administration, management, IT, sales, health and social care, dental nursing, hospitality and catering with seven training levels from Level 2 NVQ up to Level 7 degree.

Employers who would like to find out more about how apprenticeships can benefit their business can contact Cath Goodwin at Progress to Excellence Ltd on 0151-650 6933 or email catherine.goodwin@progresstoexcellence.co.uk



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