With National Apprenticeship Week coming to its closing stages, Lizzy Grayson, category manager of HR Services at YPO, discusses the landscape of apprenticeships in the public sector
It’s been almost two years since the apprenticeship levy came into effect and it’s fair to say that the education sector has been on quite a journey during this time. Since April 2017, the funds generated by the 0.5% levy, applicable to businesses and public sector organisations with annual payrolls of over £3m, has been reported to be in the billions. This would be great news to the majority of those who supported the levy when first introduced, yet many paying bodies with the best intentions still find themselves struggling to spend ring-fenced apprenticeship levy funding on training.
So why are so many organisations finding it difficult? There are a number of answers to this question but, ultimately, there is a shared feeling of uncertainty in the education sector about how to spend appropriately and effectively on training, while also finding the funding for the salary of the apprentice.
Many organisations find themselves unsure of how to navigate the evolving landscape of apprenticeship standards and find compliant routes to market, despite hundreds of programmes being readily available. This isn’t to say that these organisations are not interested, but a lack of clarity in how to procure the right training has, unfortunately, contributed to the formation of a large unspent pot of isolated money from both the private and public sector. There is also now an added impetus for organisations to resolve this confusion, as this pot of funding won’t remain isolated for long.
When the levy breaks
From April 2019, unspent apprenticeship levy funds will no longer be ring-fenced for spending on apprenticeship training and begin to filter away from applicable organisations into the central government budget. The rate of this de-allocation has been valued at around £120m per month across the public and private sector by the Open University, with the same study suggesting that only 19% of paying organisations have spent their allocated levy funds on training so far.
With apprenticeship standards continuously being introduced to market it is important for organisations to consider how they can make the most of their share of available apprenticeship training.
In July 2018, YPO opened the first national apprenticeship framework of its kind (covering all standards) to support public sector organisations make the most of their apprenticeship levy funds. The framework acts as a database and service, listing a diverse range of apprenticeship training with registered providers across the country. We currently have 117 providers registered to the framework, offering training in everything from accountancy to policing.
Within YPO’s apprenticeship framework, public sector organisations can access education-specific apprenticeships in teaching, teaching assistants, facilities manager and school business professionals – to name just a few.
Finding the right training is important for any organisation when looking at apprenticeships and, for some, the acquisition of starter roles is not appropriate. There is a common misconception that all apprenticeship training is reserved for lower paid, entry-level roles – but this is not the case. Upskilling programmes for existing staff are available via the YPO framework and can cover high levels of training. Internal training can support the development of individuals, whilst ensuring organisations utilise apprenticeship levy funds effectively.
For a few organisations, relevant apprenticeship standards have yet to be finalised at a national level and this has left many frustrated at a lack of available training options. YPO’s apprenticeship framework is a continually updated dynamic purchasing system (DPS), meaning that new providers are able to register to the framework as new standards are developed across the nation. This allows YPO to provide adaptable solutions to organisations as standards and providers are formed.
The future of apprenticeships
News about the state of apprenticeships in the UK can often be negative, but there is still so much to be optimistic about in 2019. As National Apprenticeship Week draws to a close, we’re calling on public sector organisations to re-evaluate the apprenticeship levy with positivity and investigate the variety of training opportunities available.