Principal Thoughts – March

How companies can prepare for the upcoming apprenticeships levy and secure the top talent in time

Welcome to the latest edition of Ashley Wheaton’s ‘Principal Thoughts’. This month, Ashley explores how, in light of the upcoming apprenticeship levy, the Built Environment sector can secure the very top talent for their organisations.

Companies can start spending their apprenticeship levy funds from 1 May 2017, but many businesses are yet to begin developing an apprenticeship recruitment strategy. According to Arch Apprentices, a large proportion of UK enterprises haven’t made any firm decisions on how they are going to allocate the levy funds; while XpertHR’s Young Workers Survey 2017 found that 37.9 per cent of organisations said that the levy would have no impact on their recruitment of young workers.

The issue is that whilst the Built Environment sector is well known for hiring apprentices, for some, the introduction of the levy will mean consideration of apprenticeships for the very first time and the process is still new for many companies. And for others, apprenticeships are still purely used to bring in entry-level talent.

However, the risk is, if businesses don’t plan out their approach before May they could miss out on securing the top talent. There will be a race for both the best apprentices and apprenticeship providers, and employers will need to decide in advance what will work best for their business when the funds are released.

Planning is key

Now is the time to consider the bigger picture. Apprenticeships are about helping to put the required skills in place to drive organisations’ objectives, not just to meet the needs of today and tomorrow but also the requirements in years to come. A failure to prepare in time could mean missing out on the top talent if companies aren’t clear on the skills they need.

It could also create more immediate practical problems. For some organisations, the levy could bring hundreds of new apprentices into the workplace, but they may not have considered the need to scale their operations to provide additional support services, such as mentoring.

And for those who already run an apprenticeship scheme, it’s tempting to believe a head start has been made, and therefore plan to simply scale up the existing programme. However, these companies may be expanding a programme that works for the business now but which may fail to take into account where the business needs to be in five years’ time.

Either way, the danger lies in thinking there will be plenty of time to secure the right apprentices for the organisation.

Attracting top talent

As part of the planning, it’s key to consider how to secure the top talent. Apprenticeships are no longer just for school leavers – today they can address a wide range of talent challenges, from attracting graduate trainees to recruiting experienced hires. Therefore, an important aspect of an apprenticeships scheme is the qualifications that apprentices will receive; from A-Level to degree level and beyond.

Another way of securing the best talent is getting the right education provider in place. Considerations should include a partner that offers more than just an educational function, one that builds a scheme around the core skills required and moulds the training to business goals. Also important is an end-to-end apprenticeship management service; helping to source apprentices and support them along the whole journey with progress and learning reviews.

In addition, there should be consideration made for how the apprentices will manage learning with working. For example, can the training be completed flexibly online so this doesn’t conflict with working hours and mean that apprentices can be based anywhere?

Progressing existing talent

Apprenticeships can also be used to progress existing talent as part of engagement and retention. It’s worth thinking about whether there are any suitable people already in the organisation that would benefit from apprenticeships. For example, long-standing employees looking to build on their existing experience and/or take their career in a new direction – alternatively some bright new prospects with real development opportunities.

In 2017, apprenticeship schemes offer a toolset for addressing workforce strategies. So, if the Built Environment sector wants to spend its levy fund wisely, it should be thinking more laterally about how apprenticeships can be used to solve current and future skills challenges.

At UCEM, we partner with businesses to manage their apprenticeship programme from recruitment and training to on-going support – at both level 3 (A-level equivalent) and level 6 & 7 (degree and masters level). For more information about apprenticeship funding, click here, or get in touch with our apprenticeship team to find out how we can support your business.

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