Apprenticeship Levy Conference offers insightful advice to providers and employers

App4England has welcomed organisations to an Apprenticeship Levy Conference today, offering insightful talks from a variety of speakers. The event marks the launch of FEcompare, a directory of leading UK training providers designed for Learners and Businesses. Encouraging organisations to sign up and showcase their apprenticeship delivery, FEcompare offered the first month of membership for free, charging £1.25 a day thereafter.

Our Director of Business Development at System Group, attended the event and has highlighted the morning speakers’ key pointers on the biggest challenges of levy.

Offering a provider perspective were Peter Marples of 3aaa, and Beej Kaczmarczyk of Learning Curve Group.

Peter acknowledged the necessary changing of culture and behaviours of front line staff, to meet the changing demand of customers. He noted a difference from the ‘old world’ where the Training Provider was ‘King’, and recognised that as there is no longer a transactional experience, employer relationship is paramount to success.

On resourcing delivery capacity, he reflected that there has been significant investment made and required to reach the current state, with c.£1.5m invested and only c.£150k received through digital account, demanding a long-term strategy and perspective. He expects to see significant numbers of training providers to fail due to cash flow pressures, noting that survival will depend on longer-term vision and financial support. Although there is pressure to offer discounts off funding band price, there is no need.

Beej noted how there is a requirement of significant changes to organisation structure, infrastructure, culture and behaviours. To do so, development of a ‘separate business’ mentality and appropriate separation within the overall business is essential. He advised a built training provider brand / branding for new apprenticeships.

Anne Ashworth of Pearson, and Laura Whitworth of NHS London Procurement Partnership, offered an employer perspective.

Anne spoke of the positioning and integration of England-only apprenticeships within a global business strategy. She advised operational commitment to 20 percent off-the-job, and additional provision of two hours weekly study time for each apprentice, noting that line manager involvement is critical. Pearson has created an ‘Apprenticeship Recognition’ and branding scheme to help promote value of apprenticeships within the business, and set up a ‘levy’ as a cross-functional business project to maximise value and minimise negative impact. They also map internal L&D content to selected apprenticeships. Anne noted that it is critical to have a ‘single-point of contact’ account management.

Laura highlighted the need to implement a dynamic purchasing system to comply with EU procurement regulations, acknowledging the prohibition of choosing a Training Provider from the RoATP. Training Providers are pre-qualified for mini-competitions, and can apply to join any time. She noted how best value is key, to allow potential for price to be reduced. They require 50,000 apprenticeships per year to spend levy – quadruple current numbers – and are working to align to organisational workforce development imperatives. The key focus is on up-skilling existing staff and putting all new roles in bands 1-4 on an apprenticeship.

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