New levy, new opportunity – but organisations need a strategy too

It’s no secret that organisations have long been battling skills shortages and seeking much better standards of on-the-job learning, but have also needed greater confidence about the return on investment of the learning programmes. The apprenticeship levy is an attempt to solve all these issues.

As the apprenticeship levy is paid by every business with an annual payroll size of £3 million or more, its aim is to bring genuine universality to learning. No matter what their industry or where they are based in the UK, organisations will now be encouraged to use or lose their levy to pay for the development of talent in sectors and regions not previously used to such investment. By reviving the relevance and content of apprenticeships, the hope is that a transformation will follow in how employers view learning.

But having the levy is only one half of the equation. For most levy-paying organisations, having apprentices will be a much greater undertaking, requiring the need for businesses to have a whole new learning and development strategy. No longer will having apprentices be purely a job creation function as now organisations will need to look at how apprenticeships fit into their overall talent management strategy.

At Knowledgepool we’ve already noticed there has been a drop in new apprentice starts since May, arguably a reflection of the fact organisations are still working out how to broaden the conversation about how they manage a much larger training programme.

However, we’re at a key moment in time to ensure organisations don’t waste the opportunity that being a levy-paying company gives them. Developing a learning strategy will not be an easy task, but it’s vital organisations have one in place to ensure the management of their learning is aligned to organisational goals, and to ensure it addresses current or future skills shortages which, if tackled strategically, will unlock productivity.

Managing this new learning landscape requires organisations to audit their short, mid and long-term skills needs properly. As apprenticeship content moves away from the previous frameworks system to employer-created standards, so the delivery of apprenticeship learning needs to be evermore relevant to organisations.

It’s welcoming, however, to see that the levy has encouraged learning partners to up their game, to be more aligned to organisations’ learning outcomes and to make sure organisations embark on a well thought out learning journey. Employers, quite rightly, demand that their providers are innovative and are able to adapt.

Knowledgepool is working hard in all these areas, precisely to ensure organisations are using their levy in the most efficient way, to ensure their learning strategy is created in true partnership. This has included reorganising our business to ensure our apprentice delivery and learning management services are now one and the same, and investing in a new apprenticeship platform that improves the learner’s experience by giving apprentices the ability to talk to each other online and share their peer-to-peer experiences.

In addition, Knowledgepool is reaching out to universities and business schools, to find precisely the right people to deliver and create the level of content organisations now want and expect.

It’s important this change happened. So much of learning, especially apprenticeship learning, used to be predicated on evidencing learning. Now, as in many areas of learning, the emphasis is moving much more towards the experience of learning. With the new approach we take, and by making the process of learning more enjoyable and more effective, the apprenticeship-learning path is something more employers will want to embrace.

Learning really is reaching an important crossroads. Old perceptions about apprenticeships are changing. Evidence reveals more top talent is choosing to go down the apprenticeship route, the earn and learn option where apprentices have a real job, either at the start of their career or midway through it. Employers who embrace the levy will have a new-found ability to shape and develop their workforce in a way they can control.

The one thing we know for certain is that the best strategies are those created in partnership. Employers need help, but there is a collective desire from learning providers that wants them to meet their learning challenges. The levy is a great new opportunity for both employees and their employers alike to boost learner outcomes for the benefit of all.

Visit us on stand D150 at the World of Learning Exhibition, October 17-18 2017, Birmingham NEC 

Tel 0800 029 450