Setting up for Skilling up: Apprenticeship FAQs
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Setting up for Skilling up: Apprenticeship FAQs

The apprenticeship levy is about to celebrate its first anniversary and National Apprenticeship Week is around the corner. We spoke to our own Head of Apprenticeships, (Jonathan Cresswell – JC), and our Partnership Development Officer for Apprenticeships (Korneel Verhaeghe – KV) at the University of Exeter to put together a 'How To' Guide on apprenticeships.

1. What are the benefits of apprenticeships for a company?

KV: The new apprenticeship levy system obviously provides a massive incentive for companies to recruit apprentices, but they stand to gain much more than simply recovering their apprenticeship levy. For example, I see a lot of companies using apprenticeships as a way of attracting talented, high potential school leavers to their organisation, who would otherwise spend the next few years solely at university.

JC: Apprenticeships are a great way to bring in fresh talent and provide professional development opportunities for our existing staff. This leads to up-skilling of our workforce, diversity, improved retention rates and contributes to organisational cost savings.

KV: It is indeed a great way of bringing new skills, but also new ideas into a company. Apprentices regularly attend lectures and will translate their newly gained knowledge into ideas and often bring suggestions for improvements.

JC: One of the biggest and most unnoticed benefits I’ve come across is that an apprenticeship is not only beneficial for the apprentices themselves, but also for the team they are placed in. What I mean by that is that an apprenticeship will usually also provide line-management opportunities for other team members who may otherwise not have had this option. Here at the University, we provide in-house management and mentor training sessions for team members who take up such roles.

2. What lessons have you learned in implementing an apprenticeship programme?

JC: The most important thing is raising awareness at Senior Management level. You will need top level buy-in to ensure teams, apprentices and their line-managers get the organisational support they need.

KV: Although this is rapidly changing, the word “apprenticeship” often still has a negative undertone to it. An apprenticeship can sometimes be perceived as “less than” a degree, even though it is actually “more than”, because apprentices will graduate with both a degree qualification and an apprenticeship certificate.

JC: There are indeed a lot of myths surrounding apprenticeships that need to be dispelled. It’s important to appreciate the high standard the Institute of Apprenticeships is setting for these programmes, including the integral role industry plays in creating relevant apprenticeship standards.

3. How do you choose a Training Provider?

JC: Training Providers are always very helpful. We approach and compare several institutions when looking for a Training Provider and make a decision based on the best fit in terms of OFSTED rating, programme content, delivery model and apprentice support.

KV: Exactly, I completely agree with Jon. It is important to find a Training Provider that fulfils your specific organisational needs. I would recommend approaching and comparing at least 3 Training Providers before making a decision. Especially when it comes to Degree Level apprenticeships, delivery models can vary widely, from block releases, to day-release or a blended model of residential and distance learning.

4. At what level should I pitch the work I give my apprentice?

JC: There can be confusion about this, but the answer is straightforward: an apprentice’s job should be equivalent to the level of qualification they are undertaking, not the level they have previously qualified for.  

KV: Employers can be unsure about recruiting an apprentice because they are unsure about what level of work they should be doing. Simply put: a level 3 apprentice should do level 3 work, not level 2 work; a degree apprentice should be given degree level work, and so on.

JC: Apprentices should be given the right experience to complement their training and to enable them to successfully complete their End Point Assessment. From experience, I would argue that apprentices are generally highly motivated, proactive and committed to both their job and their studies, making them great employees and quickly earning them the trust of their team and managers.

5. The 20% rule is a rather big commitment, especially in busy times for our company. Are there alternatives or solutions?

JC: Whilst there may be an initial loss of productivity due to the time away from the day-job, in the longer term, the new skills that the person brings back to the workplace should compensate for this. Therefore, it’s important to look at the longer term benefits and future increase in productivity through staff development. As mentioned before, the benefits also stretch beyond the apprentice into the wider team, where team member can be given mentor or management responsibilities and further develop their own skills, leading to better succession planning.

KV: As a Training Provider, the University aims to be responsive to industry’s needs. Our IT degree apprenticeship, for example, is delivered via a blended model of block and distance learning. Ideally the apprentice will complete the weekly distance learning on a day set aside for studying, however we provide a level of flexibility so the apprentices can structure their work during busy times. In those circumstances, we simply ask that they complete their weekly distance learning before the next week’s teaching.

If you would like to find out more about the University’s current degree apprenticeship offering or have an informal chat about setting up an apprenticeship programme, please get in touch via the contact button below.


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