Apprenticeships are for anyone – young or old – who wants to make a start or change in their career. And they’re a great vehicle for upskilling staff, especially if you’re already paying the Apprenticeships Levy. So how do you get started?
Find out whether you’re paying the Apprenticeship Levy
Any company can offer an apprenticeship, but if your annual pay bill is over £3m you automatically pay into the levy whether you’re offering apprenticeships or not.
“So there are funds there to pay for apprenticeship training,” says Karen Taylor, Head of Apprenticeships at The London Institute of Banking & Finance. “If you’re a levy-paying company that’s money that you’re paying anyway. It’s gone out of your pot, so it’s in your interests to take advantage of it, especially as any levy funds roll off after two years.”
If your wage bill is under £3m you may want to consider co-investment, which means the government pays 95% of your apprenticeship training bill and you pay 5%. “That is obviously a big plus for small companies,” says Karen.
Identify your skills gaps
“You should, as an employer, have a good idea of the roles you need to fill or the skills gaps in your organisation and what your business needs in the future,” says Karen.
She uses digital skills as an example. “You know digital skills are going to be a big focus in your organisation in the future and that’s an area you want to develop at this stage. That way, in three or four years’ time you’ve got people who are ready to provide the skills you need.”
Think about the problem you want to solve
Do you want to retain staff, upskill workers for management roles or recruit to fill a skills gap?
An apprenticeship scheme might slot into or build on your current learning and development programme. If you’re paying the levy in any case, why not use it to solve a human resources problem?
Sometimes employers ask Karen how to do exactly that.
“I have many conversations with employers about their needs and what we can offer. They go back to the business areas in their company, to see if that would be a good fit with their business. It’s an evolving process.”
See if there’s an apprenticeship standard for the role that you need to fill
Apprenticeship standards set out what an apprentice should be doing and the knowledge and skills required of them, by job role. Standards are developed by employer groups known as ‘trailblazers’.
This means that if for example, there’s a need for a new apprenticeship, a group of employers will come together and start developing the standard. There are rules about who qualifies to be in a trailblazer group and, when the standards are developed, they go through the approvals process at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
Get the right training provider
As an employer, you will need to invest time to make an apprenticeship scheme work. “That’s where the training provider – a good one – should come in,” says Karen.
There are currently over 2,100 registered training providers. To help you identify a suitable provider, there are certain questions you should ask potential providers and qualities you should look out for.
The training provider should be:
- listening to you and answering your questions
- making your life easier by helping you understand and navigate the process
- helping you co-create the programme you want, that's tailored to your needs so that you get a return on your investment
- able and willing to support your apprentice with everything from pastoral care to learning and teaching support.
Karen says, “Ultimately, the training provider is there to help you as an apprentice employer. They should be able to guide you through the whole process.”
Is it worth it?
The figures speak for themselves. The government’s apprenticeship evaluation survey of employers in 2017 reported that 74% of employers believe apprentices improve products or service quality, and 78% say apprentices improve productivity.
Karen adds it’s also about developing staff with “the wider skills who are the right fit in your organisation”.
“It’s about retaining staff as well, because you’ve invested in their future career,” she says.
Find out how apprenticeships can help your business