Time to take your Apprenticeship programmes higher

A photograph of a train station.
A photograph of Dereth Wood, Group Director of Learning, Policy and Strategy

Posted by  Dereth Wood, Group Director of Learning, Policy and Strategy,

It is an interesting time to work in the sector and to have a remit across learning, strategy and policy.  The implications of the Apprenticeship reforms make designing and developing in partnership with our employer customers, really exciting.

You’ll have heard a lot about the Apprenticeship levy which is due to come into play in April 2017.  In my experience, many organisations are definitely thinking more strategically about what they should be doing to prepare for the levy.  In doing so they’re looking beyond entry level Apprenticeships into higher level Apprenticeships and other aspects of talent recruitment and development.  We believe the levy is going to give us more flexibility to design programmes which employers want – ones which help support career progression in their organisations.  

The traditional view of Apprenticeships revolves around employing young people from school at 16 into lower level positions within such industries as automotive, construction, hair and beauty or healthcare.  Whilst this is still the case for a number of Apprenticeships, it’s by no means the whole story.

Government figures show more than 11,000 people started higher Apprenticeships between August 2015 and January 2016. These higher level Apprenticeships begin at the equivalent of a NVQ Level 4, and to qualify individuals typically need to have A-levels, NVQ level 3 or similar qualifications such as advanced Apprenticeships or an advanced level diploma.

Apprenticeship programmes can go up to NVQ Level 6, (equivalent of an undergraduate honours degree) and mean the next generation of engineers, managers, computer developers and chartered accountants can be trained under Apprenticeship programmes.

Higher Apprenticeships can be a ‘win-win’ for both employers and apprentices

In my experience, Higher Apprenticeships have allowed employers to develop the knowledge and occupational competencies demanded by specific job roles within their business, and ensured apprentices are trained specifically for the way their organisation works.

Likewise, Apprenticeships have been used by some clients to develop existing staff by providing a clear, work-based career progression pathway from lower level roles via technical and supervisory posts to professional and managerial positions. They have found this helps improve staff retention and, in some cases, has also attracted higher calibre staff to join them.

We have also noticed that higher or degree Apprenticeship are becoming increasingly attractive to students as they can earn whilst they learn and complete their programmes with a recognised qualification, but without the accompanying debt which they would incur from traditional university study. 

Developing an Apprenticeship progression pathway

In our experience creating a progression pathway for Apprenticeships, can provide large benefits for employers to gain and retain the high level skills needed to survive and grow, at relatively low cost and with minimum disruption to day-to-day activities.

As one of the largest integrated providers of courses and qualifications, training, e-assessment and employment services in the UK, we can help you to develop the Apprenticeship programmes to suit your specific needs and to successfully attract, nurture and retain the best staff.

Each year around 4,000 organisations equip their staff for success with learndirect and over 23,000 individuals start an Apprenticeship with us every year, across a range of subjects including healthcare, business administration, customer service, ICT, management, retail, and more.

So with the Apprenticeship Levy on the horizon, I’d suggest now is the ideal opportunity to assess how widening your Apprenticeship programmes to create career progression routes could benefit your organisation.

And as Apprenticeships are increasingly seen as a credible alternative to traditional academic study their value will be strengthened, meaning that ultimately both students and employers will gain.
Want to know how the Apprenticeship Levy will impact your organisation? Our team of experts offer a free consultancy service to help employers like you prepare for the levy and maximise the benefits you’ll get from the changes. Try our free consultancy service