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27 May 2019
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Employers can use the apprenticeship levy to upskill existing staff, says Lori Douglas.

© Landmarc Support Services

04 March 2019 | Lori Douglas 

Now in its 12th year, the 2019 National Apprenticeship Week’s theme is ‘Blaze A Trail’, highlighting how apprenticeships can be a viable alternative to further education and future career prospects.

Much of this has been made possible via the government’s apprenticeship levy, which came into force in April 2017. The levy, equivalent to 0.5 per cent of a company’s payroll, requires all eligible employers in England with a pay bill of over £3 million each year to invest in apprenticeships, enabling UK investment to double by 2020 from 2010 levels, to £2.5 billion.

However, many employers are ignoring a key component of the levy – a training budget that is available to all businesses that pay in to the fund through a new digital account.

Training fund requirements

The training fund presents employers with an opportunity to create greater career potential for employees through life-long learning, as it can be used to upskill existing workforces as well as to bring new apprentices into the business. 

A key requirement of the new fund is that each participant is ‘upskilled’, meaning that training must offer additional skills or qualifications to those that are already held, offering lifelong learning opportunities for employees.

In addition, employers are required to focus on the skills necessary for the specific job role, concentrating on task-orientated knowledge and behaviour training, alongside more traditional academic or vocational qualifications.

For internal HR managers, the training fund presents compelling opportunities, but it is important to instigate a number of best practices to ensure funding reaches the right teams and that training has a positive impact.

Appoint an apprenticeship manager

Using the fund takes up plenty of administration time, so it will pay dividends to have a dedicated resource in the form of an apprenticeship manager to liaise with the apprenticeship provider and manage the funds within the levy to ensure that they are being invested in the right types of training.

Schedule learning 

Communicate with each apprentice or trainee’s line manager to build training into the daily or weekly workload. Our apprenticeship programmes are at least a year in length and require time away from the day job one day a month.  

To achieve best results, employees need adequate time to work towards their qualification rather than expecting them to fit in training outside of their working schedule. 

Organisations and specifically the line manager need to consider how they will ensure the work gets done whilst learners are completing their programmes. Line managers should consider staggering the number of learners on apprenticeship programmes to ensure there is adequate cover.

Choose the right training partner

In the past, the availability and location of sufficient Ofsted-approved training providers has been a barrier, especially for businesses such as Landmarc with a wide geographical spread and often in rural areas of the UK.

Employers should assess the wide range of alternative training methods now available, combining virtual and remote learning, with job-based competency assessments. 

For FM providers in particular, there could be a lot to be gained by working with third-party organisations, such as local colleges, universities and government-approved training providers, to help deliver training in areas that may not be core to the business. Organisations should explore the various programmes and not limit themselves to construction or FM programmes – pursuing development in management skills is just one example.

Formalising skills

Many FM organisations employ a wealth of skilled people, with practical, hands-on backgrounds, but without formal qualifications. This is where the training fund really comes in to its own. Companies can upscale their current workforce’s skills without having to allocate additional budget. 

This is beneficial for employee retention and helps individuals keen to further their personal development. It also enables a business to continue benefitting from the skills it needs for sustained growth, helping with succession planning and ensuring that valuable skills transition and lifelong learning opportunities can be made available throughout the organisation.

The cultural change that the apprenticeship levy will deliver over the next few years should not be underestimated. Securing sufficient budget for training has always been a challenge for HR teams and the apprenticeship levy is opening up new possibilities to provide opportunities that are sustainable and beneficial for all.

Lori Douglas is learning and development manager at Landmarc Support Services