How to seize opportunities in the changing apprenticeship landscape

  By UNIT-e   - Wednesday 18 October 2017

Recent news stories proclaim the reformed apprenticeship system in the UK is forecast to disappoint, with employers failing to use the levy funding in the correct way, or just being unable to see the benefits involved.

Provisional figures for 1 May to 31 July 2017 – the first quarter after the levy was introduced – show that apprenticeship starts dropped by more than 60% year-on-year, according to the Department for Education report. Yet the numbers also tell us that in the previous quarter, there was a 47% year-on-year increase suggesting a rush by employers to recruit apprentices before the new system was introduced.

We are all aware – however, this is rarely highlighted – that it is early days and the reform needs to become well-established before the merits can be properly documented. We know that FE colleges are just beginning to get ready to deliver new apprenticeship courses and starting to engage or re-engage with commerce, so the building blocks are in place. It may be just too soon to tell whether this initiative is really going to revitalise the apprenticeship market or not.

Let’s take a look at the situation many FE colleges are in now, and what they can do to maximise any reform-related opportunities today and into the future.

The apprenticeship past and the present

Your apprenticeship programme has been running for many years and it’s doing well. However, you find the management and administration of the programme time-consuming and challenging to stay on top of. You have good relationships with a number of businesses and you work with them to match apprentices to the vacant roles they have. You also welcome potential apprentices to your college, work out the best courses for them (possibly instead of A-Levels) and try and match them to the needs your business contacts have. It can be complicated and there are a number of different stakeholders involved, meaning that businesses and potential apprentices could be contacted multiple times by disparate teams. It’s tricky to know exactly what’s going on because there is no one single viewpoint but it’s all working OK. However, you are conscious that other colleges may have a better way of managing everything – and could be building better relationships with local commerce and students.

The present and the future

Since April 2017 everything has changed with the introduction of the apprenticeship reform – or levy. You are able to see the benefits and the reputational and financial opportunities that are out there as a result. Yet it will take time to respond and initiate changes – as well as all the other courses/planning/college management you need to continue running! You might have started to contact larger companies to see how they plan to spend their levy funding, working out which courses are best suited to them and your college – and waiting to see what other colleges and training providers are offering. This opportunity could really elevate your college but it needs to be carefully considered and implemented in order get it right first time.

One single viewpoint to maximise opportunities

If you are making in-roads with connecting with larger companies they will expect to see a well-organised proposition and communication channels. These companies may be liaising with a number of colleges in your area, as well as national training providers, so you could be competing again a variety of different organisations. Businesses need to see that their funding is being spent in the best possible way so you need to present yourselves as highly professional and completely organised. To do this it might be time to say goodbye to paper-based processes and embrace technology for far-reaching improvements. Bring all communication trails, funding information, student status, course details, enquiries and assessment data together into one single place in order to truly impress students and commerce, and create a fantastic platform to seize and maximise the opportunities the reform offers.

Hear how Strode College is already making exciting in-roads and preparing themselves to benefit from apprenticeship reform opportunities.