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The apprentice levy and degree apprenticeships: It's not too late

The apprenticeship levy is coming soon, but it's not too late to get your strategy in place

Even though the apprenticeship levy comes into force this April, there are many good reasons why some organisations do not yet have a strategically-grounded apprenticeship programme in place that delivers the ‘holy trinity’ of enhanced performance, increased efficiency and improved productivity.

The good news is that it is not too late to put in place degree apprenticeships which, as well as the performance, efficiency and productivity benefits, can provide many others too, such as:

  • Avoiding the productivity ‘gap’ – degree apprentices can deliver value even before they have attained their qualification, in contrast to fresh graduates who need time in the organisation gaining work experience before they are able to operate effectively.
  • Cost efficiencies – degree apprenticeship programmes offer an opportunity to bring in and nurture sought-after talent at an earlier stage, at lower salary levels than graduate recruits command.
  • Improved talent attraction – the opportunity to gain a nationally-recognised, degree-level qualification, valuable work experience and earn money is a very attractive proposition, especially as degree-level apprentices are not liable for around £27,000 of tuition fee costs.
  • Better employee retention – integrated, work-based apprenticeship programmes can also be used to develop the skills of existing employees, within a planned personal development programme. This will increase motivation, job satisfaction and loyalty - and can also form part of a post-organisational restructure redeployment programme.
  • Providing valuable opportunities for existing junior line managers – helping them develop their managerial and mentoring skills, and gain valuable early line management experience while supporting the apprentices.

  • With that in mind, here are five steps HR professionals can take to ensure their organisation makes good use of this apprentice levy-catalysed opportunity to maximise the ability of apprenticeships to deliver improved financial and operational performance, and also benefit employees:

    • Align apprenticeships with business strategy
    • Conduct a skills audit
    • Take an integrated approach
    • Be diligent when choosing a training provider
    • Support and engage employees

    1. Align apprenticeships with business strategy

    Ensure the goals of your apprenticeship programme feed in to the strategic objectives of the business.

    2. Conduct a skills audit

    Use the business strategy to inform workforce planning, conduct a skills audit to reveal current skills gaps and highlight what skills will be needed in the future.

    3. Take an integrated approach

    New apprenticeship programmes should be integrated with existing learning programmes, as certain elements of existing training could potentially be substituted for apprenticeship training, saving money.

    4. Be diligent when choosing a training provider

    The training provision marketplace is crowded and can be difficult to pick through to identify the provider which best meets your needs. Here are five questions to consider that will help in the decision-making process:

    • Does the training provider have a proven track record and experience?
    • Can they help with candidate attraction, selection and recruitment?
    • What’s their delivery methodology?
    • Can they access a wide range of standards to meet your needs?
    • Where else can they add value?

    5. Support and engage employees

    Provide support to and engage with existing employees, as apprenticeship programmes could potentially impact organisational culture if they aren’t communicated effectively.

    Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to improve performance and productivity, as well as a whole host of other valuable benefits. But to get the most out of them, ensure they are implemented strategically and fully integrated into your organisation’s business strategy.

    David Willett is head of propositions at The Open University