Using apprenticeships as a model for work-based learning

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Jamie Lawrence
Managing Editor
TrainingZone
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This is an interview with Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights at Towards Maturity, and was conducted off the back of the release of Towards Maturity's free new report, In-Focus: The Work-Based Learning Dividend.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: How can we use apprenticeships as a model for effective work-based learning?

Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: To answer this it’s essential we have a clear grasp on what we mean when we refer to work-based learning (WBL).   

Work-based learning is a knowledge-to-competency strategy. It provides learners with real-life, work-related experiences where they can apply behavioural and professional skills and develop their employability.

Work-based learning deliberately merges theory with practice and acknowledges the intersection of explicit and tacit forms of knowing. From an organisation’s perspective, WBL can add significant value if it’s set up professionally and offered to both internal and external staff, prospective employees and across all job roles.

For employers, successful WBL should cover a number of areas and showcase their brand and their employees’ employability and possible career routes.

For the individual, WBL can have very positive benefits on earnings potential and subsequent employment prospects as well as qualifications and skills levels.

So how does WBL tie in with apprenticeships?

Ultimately they can both deliver significant value to an organisation.

WBL provides learners with real-life experiences where they can apply behavioural and professional skills in a 'safe' environment. Apprenticeships are very similar.  The core purpose of an apprenticeship is to increase employability and enhance a talent pipeline/skills need, both for the organisation and for the individual and throughout an apprenticeship the individual is doing a real job and consistently providing evidence that they are competent in each area.

Our research shows that apprenticeships offer a great modelling opportunity for WBL with:

  • 89% of apprentices seek out opportunities to gain new skills in the workplace and
  • 83% of apprentices are motivated by being able to do their job better or faster.

For the apprentice, building up real-world competence and experience through practice and application in the workplace gives them an edge when it comes to improving their future employability as well as the chance to build valuable relationships within and beyond the business.

Funding benefits are no longer restricted by age and even the most senior staff might benefit from higher level and degree apprenticeships.

Preparing for apprenticeship delivery

The changes in the structure and funding for apprenticeships have caught many employers unprepared. The committees involved in articulating the standards for trailblazer job families included small business representation, but gaps in knowledge have opened up about the consequences of the changes amongst others.

Even many large employers subject to the new Apprenticeship Levy have yet to embrace the changes and consider how apprentices might contribute within their workforce.

These are the top barriers to apprenticeships being utilised:

  1. They are complicated and complex to run
  2. Perception/stigma of apprentices in the workplace
  3. End-Point Assessment
  4. Slow approval of standards
  5. Knowing how to utilise the levy
  6. HR/L&D awareness and capability
  7. Line manager capability

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What are the driving forces behind employers choosing apprenticeships?

Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: Apprentices deliver great value to the UK economy – one report put the value at around £1.8 billion in 2014. For every £1 spent, the government can expect to generate an additional £26 (Level 2) to £28 (Level 3) in productivity gains and benefits reduction.

Employers can expect substantial benefits from apprenticeships. These benefits derive from improved labour supply, more efficient staff recruitment and retention and productivity gains from workers with the ‘right’ skills and who have embraced company values.

An apprenticeship strategy set up to enhance the organisation’s talent pipeline, skills, risks and employability plan (such as brand value, diversity, social mobility etc) will add value to the people plan. The new Apprenticeship Levy also allows specific talent paths to be part-funded and employers can also reduce employer national insurance contributions against many programs. 

We ran a number of focus groups in early 2017 with senior leaders and learning professionals who categorise eight key reasons why employers are choosing apprenticeships:

  1. Organisational leaders can mitigate a number of their future talent risks and grow the knowledge and competence of their existing managers/L&D teams and workforce
  2. Apprenticeships can add significant value, diversity and professionalism (through specific qualifications) to the talent pipeline
  3. Apprenticeships can increase brand value and attract a more diverse and qualified workforce
  4. Apprentices are skilled up to do the jobs that are actually needed, helping to address talent shortages and tackle skills gaps
  5. Learning and demonstration of competence are taking place on the job – reducing the potential disruption of classroom training courses and maximising impact
  6. The apprenticeship value proposition can include many dividends if set up well. For example, a social mobility increase, a more diverse and inclusive workforce, higher levels of engagement, loyalty and improved turnover rates. Business impact could be: improvements in productivity or knowledge transfer and expertise can be harnessed to support the succession planning process
  7. Smart organisations are using the apprenticeship platform to set up mutually beneficial partnerships with schools, Higher Education, Universities and appropriate institutes/bodies so they can be involved in transforming the early careers arena
  8. Specific talent paths can be part-funded by the Apprenticeship Levy and there is no employer National Insurance contribution

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: How do organisations move from merely hiring apprentices to having a coherent apprenticeship strategy?

Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: An apprenticeship strategy must be aligned, planned, tracked and reported to add value to the four critical levers of business: profit, productivity, growth and transformation and it must fit with the organisation’s future talent and people plan.

A robust apprenticeship strategy should include a holistic workforce engagement plan, offer apprentices professional and joined-up experiences, be intrinsically linked to the workforce plan and outline the long-term talent and career-path opportunities for the organisation and apprentices.

Moving to a coherent strategy will require leaders and HR/L&D to be up-skilled in modern apprenticeship best-practice.

For those in L&D just getting to grips with the implications of the changes in their organisation our recent report, In Focus: The Work-Based Learning Dividend, identified five key ways to maximise the returns from apprenticeships:

  1. Align apprenticeships with the business strategy
  2. Conduct a skills audit
  3. Take an integrated approach
  4. Be diligent when choosing an apprenticeship provider
  5. Engage and support employees

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: Are people professionals ready for the new apprentices?

Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: L&D leaders tell us they are not ready for the changes coming in the UK in April/May 2017, for several reasons:

  1. Their organisation is not fully aware of the new reforms and are still reticent about embracing the changes
  2. Leaders are not clear on how apprenticeships fit into their learning strategy
  3. Some companies are seeing the new Apprenticeship Levy as a tax
  4. They worry about the quality and relevance of training from external providers
  5. They don’t know how to gain accreditation for their own internal standards or become employer-providers themselves
  6. Trailblazers have been a nightmare and the approval process is too slow and many are struggling with the constant changes still being made by government

Our research has also uncovered some key challenges for people professionals involved in setting up or managing apprenticeships. People professionals need to look to the longer-term opportunities of how innovative apprenticeships can add value to a modern learning strategy.

They need to intelligently engage the business, overcome the ‘perception’ obstacles and look beyond the implications of the new levy. How will they support their apprentices and integrate their off-the-job training into innovative, technology-enhanced, workplace learning?

The apprenticeship landscape is fragmented:

Some student/parent/school forums, universities and business schools that businesses are already linked to still have a low perception of apprenticeships and this is making them nervous.

The perception of apprentices in the workplace can be quite outdated:

  • The apprenticeship ‘brand’ conjures up negative emotions
  • Colleagues don’t understand what apprentices are and could be within the organisation
  • Apprentices are being treated differently from other staff – and this perception is two-way
  • Apprentices have called other employees ‘mainstream staff’

Preparing for apprenticeship delivery

The changes in the structure and funding for apprenticeship have caught many employers unprepared. The committees involved in articulating the standards for trailblazer job families included small business representation, but gaps in knowledge have opened up about the consequences of the changes amongst others.

Even many large employers subject to the new Apprenticeship Levy have yet to embrace the changes and consider how apprentices might contribute within their workforce.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: How can organisations improve the quality of the apprenticeship itself?

Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: Organisations are not taking the opportunity to listen to apprentices who are working at their organisation and therefore missing vital opportunities to improve the quality and provision of what they provide.

Apprentices can be at any age or stage in their career, working in more or less any job role or at any level. What emerges from our research is that apprentices are generally resourceful, self-directed, motivated and digitally-confident individuals:

  • 83% are motivated by being able to do their job better or faster
  • 76% are excited by using new technologies in learning

They are keen to get on with their career, their current job and their colleagues and they like to learn:

  • 88% seek out opportunities to gain new skills in the workplace
  • 84% are happy to take online learning without prompting
  • 58% are motivated by a desire to progress their career

They look for support from their manager, their mentor, their colleagues and peers – indeed building an effective internal network is an essential part of their approach:

  • 89% find support from their manager essential
  • 65% want the support of internal networks and communities
  • 61% rely on mentoring by a more experienced colleague

However, they may need help to build the confidence to contribute to communities of practice themselves. Despite the ring-fenced time for formal learning away from the job, 45% still report a lack of time for self-study and one in five struggle to find the learning that they need in the workplace:

  • 76% have agreed their learning plan with their manager
  • 79% agree that their company clearly communicates the learning

Key summary of delivering high quality apprenticeships

  1. Appoint responsibility to a senior leader, up-skill leaders and HR/L&D and use internal and external networking to drive quality and value through apprenticeship best practice sharing
  2. Set up robust governance processes to agree and operate quality partnerships e.g. to recruit, design and deliver or join a working group to create a new professional standard etc 
  3. Engage the entire workforce and organisational ecosystem e.g. the appropriate areas of the end-to-end supply chain in the strategy. Use this platform to share great stories 
  4. Upskill and support managers to coach and mentor apprentices 
  5. Set up the apprentices for success and continually engage them 

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15th Sep 2017 07:05

Very interesting article. I fully agree that the training of employees is very important, because in order to keep up with the development of modern technology, you need to constantly update your knowledge, add something new, etc. Best regards, https://hireessaywriter.org/ expert.

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