Happy #NAW2024 Employer Tuesday! Strong provider-employer partnerships are the bedrock of effective apprenticeships.
But we also know the pace of change in the workplace has never been greater. For providers, that means regularly reassessing what you offer to employers, how you communicate with them and how you continually grow and retain strong partnerships.
In this blog, SDN Employer Engagement Associate, Phil Golding, gives covers three ways providers can build strong partnerships with employers
How can your apprenticeship provision solve business challenges this year?
Firstly, it’s fair to say that times have been difficult for businesses. So, although most training providers can explain the business benefits of apprenticeship training, there are a couple of specific challenges that are worth considering:
- The impact of inflation hasn’t just hit households and consumers, but companies too. Employers have had to face higher bills and difficult decisions around increasing salaries in response to inflation.
- It’s also still a candidates jobs market. Employers looking to recruit skilled workers are struggling because vacancies are still high, meaning experienced staff can often choose between 3 or 4 different job offers.
These challenges, although difficult, can provide opportunities for training providers – the more you understand what a business is experiencing, the more you can relate to their concerns and identify where your apprenticeship provision can add value.
For example, helping employers to see that:
- Hiring entry-level staff and giving them a package of apprenticeship support might be more economical than leaving a vacancy unfilled for several months whilst they hunt for staff with previous experience.
- Providing existing staff with apprenticeship training can increase loyalty, productivity and bring new ideas to the table which could stop staff from jumping ship for a slightly higher salary elsewhere, as they see the investment their employer is making to their personal development.
Ultimately, your marketing content should articulate the business benefits of apprenticeship training, but your sales team should be able to tease out specific business problems that are relevant in the here and now to your client group and be comfortable explaining how apprenticeships can help to make life easier for the company in the coming years.
Review the reasons why employers work with you to form new partnerships
When considering which employers you want to create new partnerships with and why they might choose you, it’s worth looking back on the success stories of previous years.
There are hundreds of apprenticeship providers working across England, so understanding the business benefits of apprenticeships isn’t enough. It’s also important to know what sets you apart from your others and why a business should buy work with you. Understanding why people worked with you last year, can help you increase market share the following year.
If you have data on the organisations you currently work with, it’s worth reviewing to see if any meaningful intelligence can be garnered. For example, are they all SMEs? Do they work in a specific sector? Do they need a specific order of training to support their roles?
It’s also worth contacting them and asking why they chose to work with you in the first place? Was it price, expertise, customer service? This insight can help you sell in future and may also tease out a couple of case studies for you to put in front of prospective clients.
Understanding ‘why you’ from your existing clients, will help you form partnerships with new clients. This exercise may also help you to uncover new sectors or employer groups that need similar support to your existing clients – opening new markets for you too.
Check you are delivering your promises for repeat business
It’s always worth remembering that winning new business is harder than renewing old business – which is why it’s so important not to oversell and underdeliver.
It’s better to attract fewer employers, who are likely to repeatedly use you for apprenticeship training, than to onboard new employers under false pretences that may not work with you in the following years or put others off from working with you in the future.
To improve this, it’s important that your sales and marketing functions are regularly conversing with your curriculum teams to check what they are promising to employers is the reality on the ground.
For example, if the sales team are telling employers that the order of training can be adjusted to suit their needs, but the reality is that it can no longer be done in this way because of cohort size, the sales team need to know. Taking some time to talk to the curriculum staff and get their feedback on how to present your offer to employers is a worthwhile investment.
Drawing on SDN’s work with over 1,000 apprenticeship providers and 2,500 employers, SDN delivers staff CPD to help you improve the apprenticeship training you provide for employers.
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