During the SDN Apprenticeship Breakthrough Conference, many questions were opened to the floor to help front-line staff better navigate apprenticeship standards. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be answering those questions in a series of blogs.
This week we tackle employer engagement questions…
What’s the best way to engage with employers for apprenticeship standards?
All apprenticeship providers, whether they are delivering Level 2, 3, higher or degree-apprenticeships, will have their own individual strategy for engaging with employers. There is no set way to secure business and different things work for different organisations.
However, you must be able to articulate how apprenticeships can drive workforce recruitment and staff development. You must have also considered how you can tailor your programme to fit individual employer requests and circumstances.
Once you’ve established how to communicate the benefits of apprenticeship training – be clear on your own ‘value proposition’. Why should an employer work with you in particular? What makes you different to your competitors? Reflecting on your offer, compared to your competitors, will give you a better understanding of which employers to target. Then get creative with trying marketing channels and messaging to reach your target audience effectively.
Work through the Future Apprenticeship Toolkit’s sections 7 and 8 for further advice.
If a learner goes past a year on-programme, does their employer have to then pay them above apprenticeship wage to at least national minimum wage?
It depends on their age. The apprenticeship minimum wage is £3.90 for all apprentices during the first year of their programme. After 12 months, if the apprentice is under 19, they can continue to be paid below the national minimum wage until they have completed their apprenticeship (at which point the employer will need to pay them minimum wage for their age group). If they are 19 or above, they must be paid at least national minimum wage for their age group after 12 months.
It’s important to thoroughly explain apprenticeship wages to employers before the apprenticeship starts so they know their commitment. It’s equally as important to explain to employers that this is a minimum, paying more will lead to a greater volume of quality applicants and more motivated and loyal apprentices once they start their programme.
How do we help employers to buy into the new apprenticeship process and embrace a shared training model? Too often they see the provider as the focus of learning rather than them being complicit.
Getting employer buy-in starts with explaining the benefits of being involved in the training programme and is an integral part of the modern apprenticeship landscape.
Be clear with employers on how apprenticeship training directly relates to the apprentice’s performance and competence in their job role. Use case studies and statistics to show how employer buy-in improves performance, helps motivate and retain apprentices, and can even improve staff satisfaction amongst mentors and line managers too.
Remind employers that their input towards off-the-job training goes towards the 20% commitment too. If they can understand how shadowing, industry visits and other naturally occurring learning activity can all be incorporated in the commitment, the more will realise it is a worthwhile investment.
Are some small businesses disadvantaged by the rigorous requirements of some end-point assessments?
They shouldn’t be. The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) sets out in its EQA guidance that all standards and assessment plans must meet the following criteria: “assessment instruments and assessments are valid across a range of real work settings and for employers of any size and in any sector.”
In reality, this means that:
- Training providers (that place apprentices working in small businesses on standards) must develop a suitable training plan that will allow the apprentice to obtain all the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to meet the requirements of the standard – even if their day-to-day job doesn’t offer a breadth of opportunity to practice their learning.
- The onus is on End-Point Assessment Organisations to design an assessment that allows apprentices in small businesses to demonstrate they have obtained all the KSBs required. This could mean undertaking the EPA away from the business location, so they can demonstrate they know how to use equipment, tools or systems that the small business does not have access to, but the apprentice has learned through off-the-job training.
It’s also important to remember that end-point assessment is supposed to be robust and rigorous. Apprenticeships are not easy. Only those that meet the standard – and have the transferable skills to work across organisations – should pass their EPA.
How early should an employer think about choosing an EPAO?
It’s a good idea to explain end-point assessment to an employer right from the get go and find out if they have a preference of end-point assessment organisation. If they don’t, it is likely they will look to you, as the provider, for guidance before selecting the EPAO.
However, if the employer is set on a particular EPAO you haven’t dealt with before, uncovering this preference early means you can seek clarification from the EPAO on their end-point assessment methods and follow any guidance they may have issued when designing and delivering the learning programme.
If you need further insight or clarification on apprenticeship standards, and how to successfully approach curriculum design, employer engagement, initial assessment, processes, systems and training delivery – contact the head office about our range of consultancy support.