27 Mar RTT – I know you’re not… but is the Government ready for the Apprenticeship Levy?
In spring this year the way the government funds apprenticeships will be changing. From 6th April we will see the introduction of an Apprenticeship Levy that requires UK organisations with a ‘pay bill’ of over £3m a year to invest in apprenticeship schemes.
For many businesses, offering apprenticeship schemes is new territory and will require considerable thought to ensure what’s put in place is fit for purpose. At this Resourcing Think Tank we will be discussing early careers recruitment and delivering a successful apprenticeship scheme.
These are the thoughts and takeaways from a Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Thursday 16th March 2017 hosted at Osborne by Mahesh Odedra (Resourcing Business Partner) titled ‘Responding to the 2017 Apprenticeship Levy’
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent Acquisition professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
During this Think Tank we asked the question ‘what do you want to get out of this event?’. The overwhelming response was a simple understanding of what it actually is. That was the only simple part of the event.
Now I don’t consider myself to be an expert in this subject (probably like most people). This blog is just based purely on my personal thoughts of the Levy, and limited understanding.
The first thing I noted was that our expert stated that she was not an expert but an ‘apprenticeship levy enthusiast’. This is not because she didn’t know much because believe me, her knowledge around the levy was second to none, but more because the government don’t actually know how this is going to pan out. Hence why they are calling the first two years a ‘transition period’ to learn from.
Development Levy vs. Apprenticeship Levy
The first thing I would change in my business would be naming it a ‘Development Levy’ instead of ‘Apprenticeship Levy’. This way it takes the conversation away from what the government are hoping will happen and that everyone employs school leavers and then the employment rate looks great. When in fact why not also concentrate on your current workforce, up-skill them, send them for a Masters while working which will greatly benefit the business.
During the event, not many people knew that this was even an option (myself included) but once I did I saw the benefits this could have rather than companies panicking about how they are going to deal with 10x more apprentices. Potential negative of up-skilling the workforce could be that not many people want to commit to two extra years working for that company and then the conversations moves to the company being able to claw back money (you are not allowed to do this under the rules of the levy) that has been spent. But the question that has always been asked around this is ‘what happens if you don’t up-skill your workforce?’ They will probably leave anyway.
Increasing your resources
If a business really wants to make this work and gain everything they can from the Levy then they really need to make the resource available to manage it effectively, this might include increasing headcount of the current team. I am not sure how someone who already has a role and part to play in the business can then also make more time for everything that is to come with the Levy. It will be a job on its own to make this work and be able to offer the support needed whether the company goes down the school-leaver route or up-skilling the current team. If done the right way a company can really excel with this and absolutely reap the rewards. The government’s actual recommendation is every business that the levy applies to should hire at least one extra person solely for the admin that it will bring.
Embed employees pre-apprenticeship?
One idea that was mooted around the table was the idea of embedding a new starter first. So if you do invest more heavily in school-leavers / graduates off the back of the Levy, why not employ them for 3-6 months before enrolling them in a formal apprenticeship programme? This will provide them with great insight to your business, allow them to get a feel for what they want to do and also highlight where you think they would be best placed in your workforce. This way everyone can decide together what apprenticeship scheme is best suited for that individual, or even that the company might not be a fit for that person. Certain courses run for 4+ years so understanding this will only help with benefitting from the efforts you are putting in.
Career returners, can they benefit?
Career Returnships were a theme from our discussion, but I won’t go into it in too much detail as we are running a specific Think Tank on this topic next month. In a nutshell if you have been out of work for any number of reasons, then on returning how good would it be to put yourself through an apprenticeship to bring yourself up to speed with how things have changed?
Demonstrating a successful apprenticeship scheme
This is the part that really intrigued me with my interest in data. So you think you are doing a great job with bringing people onto an apprentice scheme. But are you? How are you demonstrating to the business that all this money that is going into the Levy is working and that it is having a positive effect on the bottom line profits of the business? Simple answer at the moment is that people are not even thinking of that, which in my mind is a case of short-sightedness. As mentioned before this has the chance to be massive and to be such a boost to any business that does it right. However the right strategy is needed. Scrap that; let’s start with just a strategy. Let’s actually plan what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. Let’s create dashboards that show us the attrition and promotion of people we are putting on an apprenticeship.
To wrap this blog up, I will keep it short and sweet.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” (Benjamin Franklin)