The new apprenticeship levy is presenting a much more dynamic and responsive approach to vocational training and skills development in local authorities, writes Jason Stevens.
Some local authorities have pounced on the opportunity to extend their internal training capabilities. Others now recognise the new opportunity to capitalise on the practical experience and training expertise of like-minded employers. Either way, the new apprenticeship levy is presenting a much more dynamic and responsive approach to vocational training and skills development in our local authorities.
The publication of the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP) has paved the way for employers to take full advantage of the new approach to apprenticeships and recoup the costs they will be incurring from the compulsory levy. Significantly, the register shows we are now entering a new era for workplace development and redefining the term ‘apprentice’. This is reflected in the Government’s target of three million apprenticeships by 2020 and its challenge to the public sector to recruit or convert 2.3% of all employees to be apprentices.
Today, opportunity and choice really are the key words. Certainly, the personal development opportunities for employees are now wider and more varied than ever before – regardless of age, experience or background. This is because apprenticeship development programmes can now be delivered by other approved training providers – including employers. This will, of course, help to open up new options for apprenticeship programmes and is widely expected to raise the quantity and quality of apprenticeships in all sectors of industry. It will also improve the scope for off-the-job training to be more accurately defined and applied.
For local councils this is very reassuring. They will now be able to draw on the practical experience of training providers with previous experience in delivering off-the-job training to their own staff working within the public sector. Of course the world of academia will still have an important role to play. However, there will now be much more choice. Designed by employers for employers, apprenticeship training programmes can now be tailored more precisely to the needs of employers as well as meeting the specific learning needs and career aspirations of individuals.
Such changes are of particular importance for any organisation keen to ensure it is in tune with societal and technological changes. Local authorities are a very good case in point. Here, the need for effective leadership and development and the right blend of skills are vital to facilitate and provide support for the unavoidable cultural changes that lie ahead. Apprenticeship training programmes that incorporate recognised qualifications from bodies such as the Chartered Management Institute and are delivered by approved training providers open up all kinds of new opportunities for re-engaging mature and experienced staff as a well as the career development of new recruits. And that can only be good news for councils, their staff, their prospective recruits … and, not least, the people they serve.
Jason Stevens is programme director of the NSL Academy
This column was first published in the Municipal Journal