Mar 18

Apprenticeships: what's changed for employers?

Posted on Thursday 8th March 2018

2017 was a time of change for apprenticeships in adult social care with the introduction of the levy and the new apprenticeship standards. A double-whammy for employers to deal with but what impact do these changes actually have? And is it all negative as some stories may portray?

The levy

First of all, what is the levy? If you’re a UK employer with an annual pay bill of over £3m then you have to pay a Government levy which you can only use for the training and assessment of apprentices. You’ll have to pay 0.5% of your payroll over £3m into your digital account or levy pot. The Government adds an additional 10% to whatever you pay in. Once you’ve agreed an apprenticeship training programme with a learning provider, you’ll pay directly from this pot. If the cost of the training is more than is currently in the pot (up to a maximum level set by government), then you’ll have to top-up your levy pot and the Government will contribute 90% of these additional costs. To see the journey of a levy paying organisation in detail click here.

If your annual pay bill is less than £3m, you’re classed a non-levy payer and the funding works differently. The government will pay up to 90% of the cost of an apprenticeship training programme and you’ll have to pay the remaining 10%. To see the full journey of a non-levy paying organisation click here.

The apprenticeship standards

In 2013 the government announced a major reform of apprenticeships. Employer groups, known as ‘trailblazer’ groups were established to design the new apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches across all sectors. Fast forward to 2016 and the new apprenticeship standards were published for level 2 and 3 in adult social care, with level 4 and 5 to follow in September 2018.

The three-page documents set out the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for the apprentice to be competent in their role. The training must run for a minimum of 12 months and 20% of the training must be delivered off-the-job but in paid working time. The apprentice has to be assessed throughout but the key phase will be an end-point assessment by an independent organisation.

Some organisations are finding the 20% off-the-training job training difficult to manage but this isn’t a new requirement for apprenticeships. Click here for more information on off-the-job training. Others are concerned that the end-point assessment test will be off-putting to potential apprentices.

We’ve spoken to four levy-paying companies who are using the new apprenticeship standards to hear their experiences first hand. We asked Katie Rankin, Qualifications and Apprenticeships Manager from Anchor how they were accommodating the 20% off-the-job training requirement.  She told us “We already offered this as part of our programmes, delivering behavioural training as part of our apprentice away days. The only thing we now do differently is to formally record the off-the-job training in a log.”

Emma Croston, Learning and Development Manager at NorseCare Ltd, told us that they “…conducted a cross check of all the development we offer staff throughout any given year, dependent on job level. We support staff through active classroom development, online e-provision, resource library access/self-directed learning, shadowing and mentoring as well as care home rotations to watch best practice in action. We actively promote a learning culture throughout the organisation and have the ability to upload central learning logs and reflective accounts, as well as establishing timely reports on whole workforce capability progress. This allows us to evidence our existing opportunities for staff, which satisfies the 20% off-the-job learning requirement.”

We also spoke to Katie about the impact of the end-point assessment. She said “…I feel that if this is pitched correctly to apprentices throughout their programme and the programme is delivered to a high standard then it should not be a challenge.”

Emma agreed and added that “We think the end-point assessment is positive as this will support the quality of the programmes which will add weight to gaining any given diploma level… we are working hard to support with additional resources, local support from a learning and development coordinator and ongoing discussion about preparation from our provider.”

When we asked Jenny Docherty, Distance Learning Manager from Housing & Care 21, what advice she would give other employers wanting to use the new standards, her advice was “Go for it! If you have any queries about a standard, talk to the trailblazer groups, although we’re not currently part of one, I have found them very helpful for advice.”

To read their stories in full click here.

For more information about apprenticeships including the more details about the standards, funding and the levy click here. Alternatively, contact Skills for Care and find out how we can support you with understanding apprenticeships standards and apprenticeship reform.