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Employers: Own your apprenticeship training


Apprenticeships are under the spotlight with funding reforms currently going through government consultation. James Taylor from Tribal Group examines what this means for employers.

Following the Richard Review of November 2012, the government is conducting a consultation on funding reform for apprenticeships in England with the consultation ending on 1 October. Three proposed funding models have been tabled with each ensuring that funding for apprenticeships is directed through employers.

Scott Johnson, UKCES Commissioner explains, “Employers must become the true customers of apprenticeships and this means that the funding must flow to them directly as opposed to colleges or training providers.”

Barry Brooks, group strategy director at Tribal Group said, “As employers we have the opportunity to shape the changes, link broader business developments, internships and apprenticeships and create a coherent development programme. I believe that in the next two or three years the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (CES) models currently being tested out are destined to be the prime means of securing and sustaining workplace training and skills development. This is the time for employers to take hold of this opportunity, shape it and make it work for them, their businesses and workforce.”

Taking ownership of the design and delivery of qualifications

Employers are undoubtedly keen to take more ownership of the design and delivery of qualifications and the government consultations seek to find better ways for employers to be incentivised to take a bigger role in training and qualifications.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs at British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) explained, “As Doug Richard’s recent review for the government made clear, we need an employer-driven market for training, which in turn will increase demand for apprenticeships and a higher-skilled UK workforce.”

The theory behind the proposals in the Richard Review is that if the funding for training goes directly to employers then the qualifications will be better designed to meet the business objectives and its specific needs. Employers will also have the freedom to select and pay for the best training providers for their needs – or to carry out training in-house.

" the next two or three years the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (CES) models currently being tested out are destined to be the prime means of securing and sustaining workplace training and skills development."

To create a new qualification requires the approval of the Sector Skills Councils along with awarding organisations. When employers are awarded funding directly they should find it easier to get more relevant qualifications off the ground. In the future, large employers such as Tesco could accredit their own qualifications, or a group of companies (Industrial Partnership) in one sector could come together to offer qualifications.

Employer ownership pilots

A change in funding models is required to speed up the way that qualifications are approved and to ensure that qualifications are available in all relevant areas of training. There are a number of organisations already taking the step from apprenticeship buyer to apprenticeship designer and deliverer. Those in the Employer Ownership Pilots round 1 and 2 are good examples, including the likes of Siemens and Nissan.

For these pilots the monies are being delivered straight from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to empower the organisations to design and deliver their own training programmes.

Potentially employers and their supply chain partners could come together to pool resources into qualifications and training. For example, a large retail organisation may commission a member of its supply chain (which has expertise in time management) to deliver training to its staff. Not only would relationships be strengthened, but sharing the delivery would play to the expertise within individual organisation and ensure that best practice is identified.

Undoubtedly employers understand their skills gaps. However, successful qualifications of this kind must also demonstrate rigorous systems aligned to business processes and to demonstrate occupational competency as well as learning pedagogy and the support mechanisms they have in place.

There are five essential elements within the framework qualifications:

  • Knowledge elements – which provide the learner with the skills to do the job
  • Competency element – which is the assessment of occupational competency
  • Employer rights and responsibilities – covering areas such as legal and induction
  • Personal learning and thinking – this is often wrapped into the technical certificate and covers areas such as team work
  • Transferable skills – Functional English, maths and ICT

Barry Brooks concluded, “Employers developing frameworks is absolutely pivotal for the future of workforce learning. We want to secure deep learning and competence and we want to help employers to assess an individual’s skills."

James Taylor is head of business development: apprenticeships and skills at Tribal

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James Taylor

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