We all recognise there is much change, in the country and in the sector and some of this is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that from 6 April all employers with a wage bill in excess of £3m will be contributing 0.5 per cent to a national levy, giving employers a real opportunity to strengthen and take ownership of their apprenticeship provision.
City & Guilds recently polled 500 senior decision makers from a range of organisations to ask them about their skills and recruitment needs and gauge their opinions about the impending changes to the apprenticeship system and likely impact upon their organisations. Their survey highlights can be found here. One of the major findings was that a third (33%) of UK employers who will be eligible to pay the new apprenticeship levy were not aware of its existence; there is still significant awareness raising and engagement to do.
Equally, there is much opportunity as a result of the levy. £2.5 billion will be invested in apprenticeships by 2019-20, double the amount spent in 2010-11.
Understandably, a lot of discussion is on the levy, but it is important to remember that is one strand in the wider apprenticeship reform agenda, which also includes the introduction of standards (to replace frameworks) and mandatory co-investment by employers. The contracts for the co-investment are still to be issued, and many of the standards are still in development. There is much we still do not know as plans continue to develop.
Does that mean we should stop? Or Wait? No. My view is we absolutely do not stop. We already know the most important things – that excellent customer relationships and brilliant customer service are fundamental; and customer delivery is critical.
So what should we do? Not get distracted by “white noise” and keep a focus on that which will secure a successful future: our colleagues’ engagement, our customers’ experience and our cash flow.