Apprenticeships in the UK is a devolved policy. This means there are differing rules, regulations and programmes across the home nations. So, if you’re a successful apprenticeship provider in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland is it worth the risk to adjust your systems, processes and curriculum to deliver provision in England too?
The University of Strathclyde is one such training provider that seems to think so. It now offers a suite of Degree Apprenticeships to English-based apprentices, alongside its successful Scottish Graduate Apprenticeship programme.
SDN caught up with Lynsey Joyce and Helyn Gould to find out why Strathclyde got involved in English apprenticeships, how they deliver their curriculum, and what risks they faced in terms of creating a compliant apprenticeship programme…
Why did you get involved in delivering apprenticeships in England?
“A number of the businesses we already worked with in Scotland, to deliver Graduate Apprenticeships or commercial training, also operate in England. When these businesses started to pay the apprenticeship levy, they approached us to see if we could support them train apprentices in England too.
“As we design all our Scottish-based programmes from scratch, we weren’t particularly phased by apprenticeship standards and knew we could include a Strathclyde Degree as part of a Degree Apprenticeship, so felt we had the necessary experience to create a strong English apprenticeship offer.
“Strathclyde University if famously founded as a ‘place of useful learning’ and preparing students for the world of work. Getting involved in Degree Apprenticeships supported that philosophy, and we’re now working with apprentices and businesses right across England, not just our Scottish clients.”
So, how are you delivering Degree Apprenticeship programmes to apprentices based a long way from Glasgow?
“For our Scottish-based Graduate Apprenticeship offer we have become experienced in using a mix of block release, either on campus in Glasgow or at an employers site, online learning and face-to-face visits – and have adapted this formula to work for Degree Apprenticeships too.
“Most of our learning is done online, which means it’s affordable for employers and flexible around the apprentice’s work commitments. More than that though, the online system not only allows us to create bespoke training modules and formative assessments, but also track how apprentices are managing their workload and tailor our programme based on that insight.
“For example, if we set a task that we expect will take 30-minutes for apprentices to complete, and it takes the majority over an hour – we know that we must tailor our next session to revisit this content using different examples and teaching methods.”
Is your online learning platform useful for keeping track of individual learner progress too?
“Yes, very much so. We can see how often an apprentice is logging into the system. If we feel they are rushing their work or just not spending enough time on study, we talk to them and work with the employer to make sure that on and off-the-job balance is right.
“it is really important to us that employers have bought into the value of an apprenticeship and are giving their staff enough time to learn the underpinning knowledge they gain off-the-job, to support their aptitude longer-term.
“Believe it or not, we even flag to employers when we feel their apprentices are spending too much time off-the-job on our study programme. If this is the case, we work with a line manager to look at an apprentice’s workload and what additional on-the-job tasks they can give them to improve their overall apprenticeship experience.”
What were the challenges in setting up to deliver in England?
“Curriculum design and delivery was fairly straight forward for us, because we’re used to designing tailored work-based training, but there are so many contradictions in the English apprenticeship funding rules that understanding what was and wasn’t fundable was a challenge.
“In the English system every apprentice can have a different starting point, so we needed different initial assessment processes and procedures so that prior learning is captured in line with the English funding rules.
“Understanding the data collection cycle – who at the university will be responsible for collecting data and when – and how that aligns to delivery and integrates with our online platform was another challenge we had to get right.”
How did you overcome those challenges?
“We acknowledged that the biggest risk to our apprenticeship programme was the potential to misinterpret the funding rules or not collect the required data effectively enough and end up having funding clawed back by the ESFA.
“To minimise this risk, we invited SDN’s Compliance Expert, David Lockhart-Hawkins, to Glasgow to deliver a workshop to our staff that allowed us to better understand the funding rules, regulations, and systems and processes we could develop.
“This practical advice and insight (along with follow up support) gave us the clarification we needed to develop a robust wrap around service and be confident we were collecting the data we needed. In fact, the funding requirements are so different between the two nations, we’re actually running two completely separate data systems – one for English apprentices and one for Scottish.”
Do you think it’s been worthwhile setting up to deliver in England? And what advice would you give to other training providers thinking of doing the same?
“If you’re delivering in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and looking to deliver apprenticeship standards in England too, I think it’s important to have a firm understanding of the English apprenticeship funding rules and how they will affect your curriculum model and data collection processes.
“Being confident that we are not over or under claiming funding, has allowed us to forecast the cost of our apprenticeship programmes and maximise their value, so that every pound works for the apprentices and employers we support.
“We are very proud of our work-based learning programmes and delighted that Strathclyde University has been named Scottish University of the year 2020*. To be able to expand our apprenticeship programme into England, helping more people gain work-relevant skills whilst obtaining a Strathclyde Degree, has been well worth the investment.”
For more details of the University of Strathclyde’s apprenticeship offer visit: https://www.strath.ac.uk/studywithus/graduatedegreeapprenticeships/
* Strathclyde University was named Scottish Uni of the Year in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020
Delivering apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales and looking to expand into England?
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