Umbrella Training founder, Adele Oxberry, takes a look back over the year since the levy was introduced and how the business has evolved as a result

“No veneer in “ere”

We are almost one year on from the introduction of the Apprenticeship levy and what a year it’s been.  Despite some initial bumps, our sector has embraced the levy and a recent report from People 1st found that nearly two-thirds of employers are either confident or very confident that they will see a return on investment from their levy contribution. This is a finding which echoes the conversation we’ve had with employers across the industry. Businesses we encounter are fully committing to apprenticeships and using them as a valuable recruitment tool and aligning them to their learning & development strategy.

Many will know that Umbrella Training was created with a view to being involved in the creation of the new Apprenticeship standards, helping to shape hospitality’s learning & development future. I was asked to be a part of the SME consortium for Hospitality and, as a result, had first glance and input into the new proposed standards for Chefs and Hospitality Team Members from a very early starting point and this has served us well.

We knew then that for businesses to truly adopt apprenticeships, we recognised that we had to do change perceptions of apprenticeships from within the sector and start to see them as the “THE” training programme for the job role rather than an add on or simply accreditation to existing programmes. There are Apprenticeships that fit nearly each and every job role in the pay spectrum all the way to executive management. The name of the product has perhaps been half the challenge, it doesn’t necessarily fit your preconceptions but once understood as the training programme for each job role then it makes more sense.

The levy has sped up the need to implement Apprenticeships. The levy spend means you want something for your money and we couldn’t agree more. We engaged with businesses and started campaigns such as #levylove to get our sector to embrace the levy and rather than see it as a tax, see it as ring fenced funding for L&D. When you spend your levy you are spending on L&D so you rightfully expect to pay for what you get. I certainly wouldn’t pay vast sums for someone to turn up and simply accredit training that I’ve delivered to my staff. We negotiate a price point based upon what you expect us to do and what you have said you will do. Why would any organisation pay someone else for what they are already doing themselves?

We advocate these bespoke delivery models supporting evolution and adaptation of existing in-house training because the sooner these are mapped to Apprenticeships, the more effective the levy spend. We adopted a completely new training and coaching model that works with each one of our business partners. Our approach is described by some of our business partners as “unique to them”.

More training means more training resources. We have invested in new virtual learning platforms, bespoke resources from sector specialists and authors of well-known books, creating added value clubs for apprentices, masterclass workshops and onsite group training.

Our learner journey model needs employer buy in, work place mentors identified to work hand in hand with our training staff and we provide coaching sessions for the mentors.

Just as importantly we’ve invested in ourselves, so we have the skills to be coaches, mentors, teachers – giving our employer partners and apprentices the support they need. We’ve re-shaped, appointed a Head of Programmes to ensure all delivery is exactly as our business partners expect.

Writing this five years on from our incorporation, I know that the decisions we made then were the right choices. There have been ups and downs and we continue to be selective with our clients, however our approach to apprenticeships is proving to be the right approach. We have a strong reputation for offering an elite service. Our success rates are high and consistent. The return on investment for our employer partners is significant (as stated by them). And we’re able to support beyond apprenticeships to help them access the training their business needs.

We want transparent partnerships which is why we are now working with a handful of employer partners in supporting them with setting up as apprenticeship providers directly. To further embed this and to stay at the cutting edge of the end to end process in Apprenticeships we’ve taken things a little bit further and have started an End Point Assessor agency (Elite Hospitality Assessment Professionals) that holds a wrath of experienced professionals who want to grow further in their experience with apprentices but not leave full time employment in the sector. There is a huge demand for this with employers able to access a new revenue stream by allowing team members to join our bank of elite assessors.

The relevance of a certain advert on television brought me to thinking about our provision and I can whole heartedly state there is “no veneer in ‘ere”. We are proud to be connected to so many excellent employers who are simply known as high-end and the finest in our sector. Our provision must match our employer partners and we will remain purely a specialist hospitality training provider doing what we do to the very highest level.

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