“It’s easier to understand the theory of relativity than learn how to use your Apprenticeship Levy pot.”

“What are you doing with your Levy?” “How’s your Levy?” You can hear these questions uttered under the breath of various HR professionals at networking events. It is one of those questions that almost feels a bit rude to ask. A bit like asking what someone is being paid or even their age!

The Apprenticeship levy has acquired for some this status of a “mythical creature” – only the chosen ones can manage it! One of our new clients said just a couple of weeks ago: “It’s easier to understand the theory of relativity than learn how to use Apprenticeship Levy pot.”

I am happy to report that the Human Resources Director in question states she still struggles with Einstein’s ideas, but now has a full understanding of Apprenticeships and loves her levy! It only took us 15 minutes, a strong cappuccino and willingness to open her mind to possibilities of apprenticeships.

Some myth busters that have come my way:

Myth 1 – “Apprenticeships are the same as NVQs”

Absolutely not! They are miles apart. The biggest difference is the focus on the new learning. The ESFA funding rules state clearly that there has to be new learning for the Apprentice. The apprentice has to be a novice or have substantial development needs in the role. They must be in the job role of the standard i.e. the Commis Chef standard requires the apprentice to be a Commis Chef.

Within the old NVQs and under the ancient framework system, assessors would assess the competence of an existing employee. The new Apprenticeship standards now require experienced and qualified consultants, trainers and teachers to provide the development. Old NVQs/frameworks employed “assessors” who basically ticked a box of competence with some provision.

A question I would ask myself is: Who do you think is better placed to provide substantial learning and who currently develops your employees?

Myth 2 – “You have to jump through too many hoops”

Believe me – You are fully in control. The system used to manage levy is called TAS (The Apprenticeship Service). It is simple and allows you to either add learners yourself or to allow your chosen provider to add learners. You still have the final sign off/approval. You can easily “stop” or “pause” learners on TAS. It is a lot simpler system than accessing the funding through your training provider as in the past.

The reporting function on TAS leaves a lot to be desired but with the right provider, all of the tools to report and calculate the use of your levy are available.

The eligibility criteria is still key, but the focus has shifted from eligibility to suitability of the employees for an apprenticeship. As long as they are both eligible and suitable, your employees can be apprentices.

We have issued an employer guide to support our business partners.

Myth 3 – “Apprenticeships do not fit our brand.”

Find an apprenticeship provider who is focused on bespoke, tailoring and design of your training programmes. Apprenticeship programmes should be a vehicle to support the development of the organisational culture and embedding of organisational values. All of the materials should be designed on brand and with your organisation in mind. If done correctly, apprenticeships could and should have a prime place in your development and recruitment strategies.

Myth 4 – “I need to spend my Levy!”

This is advice that my Finance Director is not going to appreciate me giving you. You do not need to “spend your levy” – you need to develop your employees!

I personally believe in the strategic development of human resources and developing learning and development strategies that support business outcomes. If you are spending the levy, just for the sake of spending it – it is more likely to be a waste of resources. Take time to plan and build your L&D strategy around your levy pot.

Myth 5 – “The quality of the delivery of apprenticeships is going down”

My advice is – do not let the quality slide. If your provider is not delivering what you want, collaborate with them to get the quality of the programme just right for your organisation. The power is firmly in the hands of the industry and employers.

I could write a novel about Ofsted data, new monitoring inspections, the criteria providers need to satisfy, but in essence, it bottles down to this – did you get what you paid for? If not, speak up. You do not need to wait for Ofsted to tell you if the quality is there or not.

In our organisation, our ethos is “You said, we did!”. Make sure your apprenticeship provider is reflective and responsive to your needs.

In summary, apprenticeship delivery is a lot more transparent now than ever before. Gone are the days of the monopoly that big players had over the apprenticeship market and funding. It is about localism and community now. Sector specialists exist (like us) so use them. They truly make a difference.

So to conclude and going back to my theory of relativity! It is your choice, your budget, your programmes and your people. Please make it count and make us all accountable for every single learner, every single outcome and the ROI for your business.

As an industry, we cannot afford to compromise on quality in learning and development of future professionals in the hospitality industry!

Jo Simovic
Director of Excellence – Apprenticeships & Skills
Umbrella Training Ltd

Find out more about Umbrella Training here

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