Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 and the recent apprenticeship reforms, many large employers have had to review their current training methods.

Challenges surrounding this and the transition from frameworks to standards have meant that many employers are not making the most of the apprenticeship levy. However, there are a number of ways the levy can be used to help improve the learning and development of staff within your company, whilst taking into account your existing training framework.

Investing in the development of employees greatly impacts your organisation, leaving staff feeling valued and well-equipped to progress within their careers.

With around 400 flexible apprenticeship standards in place for a number of sectors, the apprenticeship levy should not be seen as a hurdle to overcome, but as a bonus that can benefit your company’s learning and development strategy.

Here are some tips on how to use apprenticeship standards to drive your staff learning and development strategy.

Step One: Identify your Development Needs

When it comes to learning and development strategies, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Each business has its own individual development needs, owing to its unique employees and business plan. On top of this, no person is ever done with learning, so the learning and development strategy within your company is something that should grow and change alongside your employees.

Identify the Gaps

To identify your staff development needs, you first need to gain an understanding of the knowledge your business requires to succeed on a daily basis, and the skills it needs to thrive in the future. Once these requirements have been recognised, you can create a core competency framework to help pinpoint skill gaps within your staff base. This can be done through regular appraisals and quality managerial communication.

Cross Reference with Apprentice Standards

Once your skill gaps have been identified, cross reference them with the currently available apprentice standards. When the levy was first introduced, many employers perceived the standards as limited, but over 200 standards have been introduced since then. With the wide range of apprenticeship standards now available, from engineering to digital marketing, your organisation can definitely reap the benefits and successfully fill those knowledge/skill gaps.

Consider Joining a Trailblazer Group

Apprenticeship standards are now designed and delivered by employers, for employers, which makes sense as you are the individuals that best know your sector. If, after reviewing the current apprenticeship standards, the occupational role you’d like to introduce an apprenticeship for at your company is not available, you can create your own with a trailblazer group. A trailblazer group is essentially a body of employers (often supported by trade associations and professional bodies) who come together to create new apprenticeship standards within their sector. These groups provide the knowledge, skills and behavioural requirements needed within their sector to create the apprenticeship standards.

Use a Trusted Training Provider

If your organisation does not have the time or resources to spend on the above, why not consider using a trusted training provider to take the weight off? Offering a number of employer services, training providers can support your business in identifying training priorities, mapping these to current apprenticeship standards, managing supply chains and delivering tailored programmes to your business.

Step Two: Create and Implement your Solution

Creating a learning and development solution or training plan will be different for each company, and, of course, for each member of staff. Do you need to employ new recruits, or will you benefit from upskilling existing staff? Are you aware of your levy fund entitlements? These are all questions that will help you create and implement your optimal training plan.

Recruit New Apprentices

Recruiting new apprentices is one way your levy funds can be used, and a great option if you are looking to bring a fresh mindset to a team. Investing in apprentices benefits both the individuals and your organisation. Spending time showing these new apprentices the ropes and teaching them new skills will, in turn, make them more invested in the company. Statistics also show that 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer after completion of their apprenticeship. Alongside this, 67% of employers agree that their image within the sector improved since hiring apprentices.

Upskill Existing Staff

The apprenticeship levy is not just for hiring new recruits, it can also be used to upskill existing staff – including experienced senior leaders. Investing in your current staff is a great way to aid staff development and bridge skill gaps within your organisation – plus, there is no need to go through the entire recruitment process. Upskilling staff has been shown to increase staff motivation, staff retention and loyalty. There is such a wide range of apprenticeships available at varying skill levels, so there really is something for everyone. Plus, standards can also now be tailored to suit a range of personal and business needs.

Utilise Your Levy Funds

Maybe you’re looking to invest in a large number of training solutions, but wondering what will happen when the levy money runs out. Will the training stop? Will your employees have to cease their apprenticeships before completion? In short, the answer is no. Thanks to the government’s ‘co-investment’ scheme, once your levy funds have been exhausted, the government will contribute 90% of your training and assessment costs.

Choose a Training Provider

To successfully implement your training plan across your organisation, opt to utilise the services of a quality training provider. With plenty of experience in the field, it is the job of training providers like Seetec to help you get the best out of your staff. Training providers can help to design bespoke programmes, manage supply chains for niche requirements and organise off-the-job training, so you don’t have to.

Step Three: Measure and Report your Results

As with any strategy that is put in place, results need to me measured. Analysing and reporting results after the completion of your training plan will ensure a healthy return on investment and provide you with new learnings for the future.

Analyse for Change

Analysing results will allow your learning and development or HR team to evaluate your current processes and make any necessary changes. This will improve the quality of training received and ensure it is always of a high standard. It will also allow you to evaluate your choice of apprenticeship standards. Paying close attention to the impact your learning and development strategy has on the staff within your organisation will also give you a greater understanding of the success of the training. Is morale higher? Are employees more productive? Are they more confident in their abilities? These are all great takeaways.

Receive Reporting from Training Provider

A good training provider can provide a whole host of information to help you manage individual learner progress and understand the effectiveness of training provisions. You should expect to receive the following:

  • E-portfolio and learner-management systems
  • Quality and performance management
  • Management information reporting
  • Communicate Findings with your Training Provider

If you opt to use the services of a training provider, remember to provide them with feedback on the impacts of your learning and development strategy. This will help your provider to deliver a better service, tailoring methods or approaches to better suit your apprentices and your business.

The learning and development of employees should sit at the heart of every business, and with the assistance of the apprenticeship levy, you can turn your organisation into one that puts its people first.

Not only will your current employees gain trust in your approach to staff development, your reputation will also become that of a forward-thinking, dependable firm that cares about its people development.

Instead of sitting on the levy fund or dismissing it as ‘just another tax’, take advantage of it and invest it into the people that hold your company together.