Seven steps to create a successful apprenticeship scheme

In this month’s blog, Business Relations Director, Sam Coulstock FIH, shares his top tips on implementing a robust apprenticeship scheme in your business.

The apprenticeship landscape is a minefield. The variety of providers, services, programmes available to employers today are vast. Add in the new standards and the Levy and we can see why creating the right apprenticeship programme for your business can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. However, once your programme is alive and kicking, the return on investment, and time, is evident – skills gaps are filled, an enthusiastic pipeline of talent raring to get going, engagement, motivation and much more.

Having helped more than 80 businesses design and launch an apprenticeship scheme perfect for their organisation, I’ve pinpointed seven critical steps in the process to help you implement a robust scheme which gets results.

  1. Choose a provider that matches your needs 

Employers are rightly enquiring about providers and their provision plus their ability to work with them. Things to look for are:

Employer and learner feedback from FE Choices

Public data is available for you to review and offers you a glimpse into what it’s like to really work with that provider. Overall satisfaction ratings are a real tell so recommend you start here and avoid anyone with less than 95% ratings.

Ofsted inspection reports

These are publicly available however remember that not all providers have been inspected yet so don’t let this be the only measure for your business. For those who have, grade 2 and grade one are recognised as a good or outstanding provider.

Approach to the new standards

Review the providers approach to the new standards: You must see how the provider intends to support your apprentices to achieve their apprenticeship. The new standards are 50% more than the traditional frameworks, so you must consider how they ensure their training, coaching and delivery models work for your business. The old school “tick box” methodology is no longer in fitting with the standards.

Questions to ask:

What is their approach to end point assessment?

Do they have mock assessments to ensure readiness for the end point assessment? How do they stretch and challenge apprentices to ensure a “pass” or a “distinction”?

How will the provider support you with 20% Off-Job training? What virtual learning environments, technology and other curriculum design can they offer you? Do they have support networks for your apprentices? Where applicable do they have the facilities to accommodate any group training sessions that may be needed?

Who are their business partners?

Do they fit your market place? Consider not only national providers but local and specialist providers – this is about the right fit for you

How will they demonstrate a return of investment with your levy?

Do they offer workplace mentor training to your supervisors/line managers?

  1. WHAT DO YOU NEED? Don’t be shy with your requests

Once you have established your provider, ask them to design a programme for you based on your training needs analysis. This means you need to have a clear idea of what you need from an apprenticeship as a good provider will ensure they find the right solution for your business and needs. Be sure your provider can deliver to the volume and agreed training needs analyses. Sometimes an apprenticeship programme may not be the solution and finding that shorter bespoke workshops are best for you and your workforce. Have the conversation and together create the right approach for your business and your people.

A good apprenticeship programme will also have a workplace mentor to support the training. This, in my opinion, is a vital ingredient to the programme especially for apprenticeships. Having someone the learner can turn to for advice and guidance and for our Learning & Development Managers to discuss the schemes of work/lesson plans with and prepare the apprentice for end point assessment is a real gamechanger in terms of success rates.

  1. PLANNING – its all in the strategies

To have the best impact, you need to spend quality time planning and designing of a programme with a clear idea of what success will look like at the end. The key word here is time – planning the whole year with your provider is good practice (of course including an element of flexibility to the various business demands which can get in the way). Always think about the operation and when this will work best for your organisation.

Another fundamental part, is ensuring your line and senior managers are completely on board and know how to support the apprentices along with the diary allocations. Without buy-in at the top, it’s harder to embed an apprenticeship programme within the DNA of the business.

  1. LAUNCH – Generate excitement

Launching any programme is a key part. Make it exciting and something that everyone should be wanting to do. Examples of good practice are “teaser campaigns” including posters, flyers along with Information, Advice and Guidance sessions on your premises, special events for both external and internal interest. The bigger the campaign the more excited your workforce will be!

  1. REVIEW – keep the key measures formal

Keep reviewing the programme once it’s launched, ask questions such as are we seeing results quickly or do we need to adapt something? Frequent business reviews with your provider are essential. Measure your return on investment with your provider. Have they really delivered a X Value of your levy paid to them? Is each visit their team has made been worth your monthly payment made on The Apprenticeship Service or more? Would you personally pay that amount?

  1. RELATIONSHIPS – vital to making your apprenticeship work

It is a partnership between the learning provider and employer to support the apprenticeship and help them achieve the goals that have been set out and, in turn, having an impact and getting amazing results and return on investment.

The ultimate key success is down to the strength of the relationship between the employer and provider. The best results are found when the provider is seen as part of the employer’s workforce and are fully embedded into the company. Providers should be an extension to your team.

  1. GET GOING and trust

In the words of Walt Disney “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” 

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