The Apprenticeship Levy six months in: what have we learned?

Peer-to-peer discussion group at the HR Forum on 23 November 2017, Four Seasons, London.

On 1st May 2017, the government introduced the single biggest shake up to post-16 education in a generation. Six months on and many employers are still struggling to get to grips with the Apprenticeship Levy. The opportunities, however, are huge.

The Levy promises to cost-effectively upskill a generation of new talent and help businesses gain an edge in a rapidly evolving economy - provided employers can navigate the legislation and overcome internal hurdles to implementation.

Garrie Owens, Manager of Apprenticeships Development at Pearson TQ, is hosting a problem-solving peer-to-peer discussion group at the HR Forum on 23 November 2017, Four Seasons, London to tackle these issues.

Garrie will be diving into the detail of the Apprenticeship Levy and exploring the key factors impacting upon employers and the successful solutions being deployed.

Upskilling the upskillers

The discussion group is open to existing apprenticeship-delivering employers as well as those looking to enter apprenticeship delivery for the first time.

Employers are invited to share their experiences and expertise and discuss the latest thinking on the reforms - including perspectives from experienced apprenticeship providers and a forward-looking assessment of the emerging issues, from securing funding and setting up infrastructure to balancing graduate recruitment with apprenticeships and getting internal buy-in.

Participants are encouraged to bring their top three issues to tap into the expertise of the group to deliver solutions to current challenges.

A sneak peak at the hot topics…

There’s a lot to talk about, but Garrie expects a few issues will draw particular focus: confusion over '20% off-the-job' requirement and the risk/reward of becoming a certified training provider.

20% off-the-job training - an arbitrary distinction

The Levy stipulates that training must be 20% 'off-the-job', a measure intended to ensure that employers aren’t tempted to combine the day job with apprenticeship programmes. This makes sense on the face of it, but dig a little deeper and it raises more questions than it answers.

Firstly, 20% is an arbitrary figure. It just doesn’t make sense for current learning techniques. The amount was derived from historic apprenticeships which required one day a week (i.e. 20% of the working week) and fails to take into account differences between organisations and each individual’s training requirement. Some apprenticeships will require more, others perhaps less.

Secondly, what does 20% actually correspond to? Full time? Contracted time? Guided learning hours? We need more guidance from the Government here.

Becoming an employer provider - more trouble than it’s worth?

Another key issue is the ability of employers to become training providers. For larger organisations, this makes compelling economic sense. But the complexities and potential pitfalls of training provision could cause problems down the line. Many are simply not aware of the challenge that awaits them.

We’ve seen situations in which poor Ofsted results mean that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) judges that employers are unable to provide the level of training required - thus disbarring them from training staff, while still being obligated to pay the Levy.

One potential way to avoid this is to subcontract the training provision, which reduces the employer’s exposure (and should also increase the quality of training if an experience provider is chosen).

The host: Garrie Owens

Garrie Owens has worked across the vocational skills sector, including FE Colleges, LearnDirect, Awarding Bodies, community and third sector provision, supporting MOD learning, commercial training and founding and owning an Independent training provider, LearnInvicta.

With 20 years’ experience in the sector from the classroom to the boardroom, Garrie has a broad knowledge of funding and delivery methodology. He has specialist knowledge of apprenticeship delivery (including to his own staff) and current reforms, and has designed apprenticeship solutions for a number of large levy organisations.

Garrie is currently assisting a number of large employers in the transition of their apprenticeship delivery to the new standards. He has also worked as part of employer groups creating new apprenticeship standards.