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Are you on track to achieve a return on your apprenticeship investment?

Annette Allmark, Director of Strategic Policy, People 1st

It’s now six months since the apprenticeship levy was introduced, enough time to make an initial assessment of how the system is being received by employers and how it is working in practice. To find out how employers in the visitor economy are dealing with the changes, we undertook a snapshot survey of employers across our Apprenticeship Network.

What’s clear is that the levy has had a considerable impact in the way employers are investing in apprenticeships. Nearly half (47%) said that the levy is driving their company’s focus on apprenticeships, with only 14 percent describing it as not being particularly important to their thinking.

It is also striking that six out of 10 employers (59%) said they are satisfied or very satisfied with their progress to date, even though most still have a long way to go in terms of implementing the changes. Almost a third believe that they have made ‘some’ headway, with just over a quarter saying they are only now ‘embarking on the journey’. Overall however, only nine percent of employers described themselves as having fully implemented the changes.  

The vast majority of employers therefore are still on a journey. And while their routes may vary, there are certain key points that every employer needs to pass if they’re going to put in place a successful and sustainable apprenticeship strategy.

So, at this six month milestone, what progress has your organisation made through these essential steps to deliver an outstanding programme and achieve your return on investment?

Step 1: Develop a strategy to maximise your return on your levy investment

The message back in April was to not panic about using the levy because there’s 24 months before it expires from the time it enters your apprenticeship service account. It's surprising how quickly six months passes. And, with 18 months left, your planning stage should be in good shape because the clock is starting to tick for employers that have not as yet invested their levy in apprenticeships.

TOP TIP: Strategically, it’s important to review your talent and training strategies to ensure that they incorporate apprenticeships relevant to occupations across the business. You should also determine how the apprenticeship offer will be launched, received and supported across the business. Make sure all relevant stakeholders are involved in this, that you have the buy-in of the business more widely and that you communicate the businesses’ goals and aspirations for the new apprenticeships clearly. 

Step 2: Identify the key job roles where apprenticeships will make a difference and how these map to the standards

The best way to determine which apprenticeships will benefit your business, is to undertake an analysis of the skills and job roles it requires and to start thinking about what that might look like in the future.

TOP TIP: Think about how apprenticeships can be used to further develop and improve the skills that are important to your business. Explore the new standards, covering entry level through to higher level managerial roles and consider how they can be used to develop talent right across your business.

Step 3: Map your high-quality, relevant in-house training for the chosen roles to the standards

Carrying out a mapping exercise is important in order to understand what training you already have in place and what parts of the standards  it already covers. Only when you have done that can you identify the gaps in your training and decide how you are going to fill them.

TOP TIP: It’s also critical to consider the people  that will be supporting your apprentices. Many employers have linked poor management skills to increasing staff turnover, therefore it’s essential that your managers have all the support they need to give apprentices a positive learning experience and ensure they understand how their involvement has a direct impact on the what the business is aiming to achieve as a whole.

Step 4: Choose your preferred training option

Based on the mapping of your skills analysis, existing training and the standards, you’ll be able to determine if the training will be conducted internally or externally and how the levy will support this.

TOP TIP: If you choose to work with a training provider to support the delivery of the apprenticeship, you should develop a tender specification to support the process which will help you to identify the provider that will best meet your business’ needs. As you start out on an apprenticeship journey, you’ll be looking for a long-term partnership with a provider that delivers a tailored solution, and has a good cultural fit with your business. Our network of gold standard apprenticeship providers is a great place to start your search, as they have proven that they are able to deliver outstanding service that helps businesses achieve the best return on investment.

Step 5: Set out a programme and delivery plan

If using an external provider, award the delivery contract and draw up a service level agreement to ensure the provider delivers to the agreed terms. You’ll also need to choose an assessment organisation to carry out the end-point assessment (EPA), and your training provider will contract with them on your behalf You may receive a recommendation from your provider on which assessment organisation to select, but ultimately the decision is yours.

If you’re delivering the training yourself, then both the selection and contracting of the assessment organisation sits directly with the employer.

TOP TIP: Make sure you build in plans to review the services offered by the provider against the service level agreement and determine the quality of service and return on investment. The on-going management review of providers is critical in order to maintain performance and ensure the apprenticeship approach remains true to the strategy.

Step 6: Revisit the strategy and measure your return

It is important to work closely with the wider business including colleagues responsible for finance to evaluate how the return on investment from apprenticeships is measured. It’s important to include all the associated costs such as the management of the programme.

TOP TIP: An outstanding apprenticeship programme will require regular review along the way to ensure its meeting the business’ objectives effectively and efficiently. Having the right metrics in place is essential to track the performance of apprentices, and evidence their return on investment. We recommend a holistic approach to this exercise.  Measuring the impact of the apprenticeship against wider business priorities such as labour turnover, customer satisfaction, retention and spend will help further align your apprenticeship and talent strategy with your wider business strategy.

For support on maximising your apprenticeship investment, contact apprenticeshipnetwork@people1st.co.uk.

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