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Fastest 50: Apprenticeships mean business as revolution looms

Frank Suttie
Frank Suttie
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With just a few weeks to go until the start of a new era for apprenticeships, businesses are coming to terms with not just the prospect of the apprenticeship levy but also potentially a new opportunity to build a highly skilled workforce.

A wealth of new apprenticeship standards devised with hands-on support from representatives of industry sectors means that we now live in an age in which training achieved through apprenticeships can support business growth strategies across the entire economy.

By far the most important point for employers to understand is the recognition that apprenticeship training carries against more traditional educational qualifications. There are six recognised levels of apprenticeships, ranging from level 2 (equivalent to good GCSE passes) to level 7, which carries the recognition of a Masters degree.

Much is changing around the procedures for engaging apprentices. There are revised rules around eligibility, set flexibly to allow existing personnel to be brought into the programme and with financial incentives for all employers, not just those that are levied. Indeed, for the smaller employer a Government funding contribution of 90 per cent of training costs leaves employers with responsibility for the apprentice’s wage and a 10 per cent employer contribution.

Whilst there has been much concern expressed by major employers and industry representatives around the apprenticeship levy, including requests to defer implementation, the Government is determined not be blown off course.

Here are a few signposts for employers on making the most of apprenticeships:

Look at how your business can best take advantage – are there skills gaps, changing job functions perhaps as a result of the introduction of technology, or do you have employees that will become more efficient and effective if taken through an apprenticeship programme?

Ensure that any party who offers to support your training needs is on the SFA register of apprenticeship training providers.

Be wary about involving intermediaries who may offer to manage your relationship with a training provider and provide administrative services. This should be unnecessary.

Ensure that your contract with the training provider allocates responsibilities and financial consequences appropriately – it is your funding that is being managed and you will be liable for clawbacks.

The refreshed apprenticeship scheme is expected to lead to a significant uptake in apprenticeship opportunities.

As concerns around the initiative recede and employers recognise the benefits of having an enhanced skill base, the potential business growth is most definitely there.

For further information on the issues raised by this article, contact Frank Suttie at frank.suttie@wardhadaway.com or on 0113 205 6783.