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Erica Farmer

Quantum Rise Talent Group Ltd

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

Read more from Erica Farmer

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Are the new apprenticeship funding reforms a half-full packet of crisps?

L&D expert Erica Farmer explores the new apprenticeship funding reforms to see what they are really made of…
Half full packed of crisps

When I read the press release on .gov on Monday 18th March: ‘Prime Minister to announce major reform package to boost apprenticeships and cut red tape for thousands of small businesses’ 

I finally thought, ‘Perhaps this might be the unlocking of apprenticeships and funding for companies like mine?’

But then I read the details...

And then I remembered there’s likely to be a change of government at some point this year.

Anything that supports upskilling and reskilling is a good thing

Don’t get me wrong, everything which can support people upskill and reskill is a good thing in my book. What I don’t agree with (and never have) is the limiting of this new funding based on age brackets. 

My experience in running apprenticeship programmes for corporates such as Virgin and British Gas, and smaller medium organisations such as the Mission Group, is that apprenticeships work best when they are open to all, and attract diverse talent, which includes people over the age of 21 and have a bit of experience in the workplace.

In summary, my metaphor for this one is:

You know when you’re looking for your favourite brand and flavour of crisps, only to open the packet and see it half full? 

Yes, that.

In the latest release, we can see government ministers gushing about how great apprenticeships are for individuals and the economy, such as Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan,

“This Government has built a world-leading apprenticeship system from the ground up – with apprenticeships now available in around 70 per cent of all occupations.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for businesses to develop the skills they need, and these new measures will help more businesses and young people benefit from them.”

But the issue is, if you speak to business owners and learning functions, overwhelmingly they will describe apprenticeships are too structured, and inflexible, and many larger organisations I have worked with in my current role write off most of their levies and are frustrated when asked about it. They end up going into the ‘too difficult’ box unless there is an in-house specialist who genuinely gets it.

“We’ve tried everything”

I was speaking with a Head of OD recently at an onsite event I was delivering at for them and his demeanour completely changed when I brought up the topic of apprenticeships.

 “We’ve tried everything. Literally, everything to make apprenticeships work in our business. And they just don’t,” he announced to me in a grumpy voice.

Now some of this I believe could be down to a lack of full understanding about how things work, or the art of the possible with apprenticeship standards. And perhaps couple that with some burnt fingers with stakeholders. Maybe partnering with an apprenticeship provider who isn’t as flexible as they can be. But all in all, there can be hope.

It is widely published that the current opposition, Labour, isn’t the biggest fan of higher-level apprenticeships and there could be some work to do to influence policymaking if and when they come into power.

Political peacocking or a true transformation?

My take on all this political peacocking is, let’s just get on with what we’re best at in L&D. Let’s future-proof our organisations by creating amazing and empowered career paths through using apprenticeships and other methods. 

It’s easy to get distracted by all the noise when it comes to schemes such as this, and most learning functions I work with say apprenticeships are over-complicated and hard work and I would like the levy to be more open and flexible, for use in other types of learning. 

And I’d say to a degree that this may be true, and I agree with this, a little. But the levy and this new funding opportunity announced by the Tory government is effectively your L&D budget. And you wouldn’t write that off, right?

Interested in this topic? Read Do apprenticeships deliver ‘skills for life’ or are they just good government PR?

Author Profile Picture
Erica Farmer

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

Read more from Erica Farmer

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