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It’s time to tackle the apprenticeship stigma

This artical originally featured on Training Journal: https://bit.ly/2K371Mc

 

Along with the stigma surrounding apprenticeships comes a cloud of confusion about the levy and how it can be used, creating barriers which are preventing mid and senior level employees from accessing valuable training funds to improve their leadership and management skills and capabilities.

With recent studies revealing over 50% of middle and senior managers were unwilling to be seen as an apprentice, and only 57% of employers eligible to pay the levy using it, its worth taking a moment to consider the valuable opportunities that apprenticeships present and understand how businesses can benefit from the new system as well as exploring how to remove the stigma in managers minds.

 

Valuable training funds

Since the changes to government funding for apprenticeships in England were introduced, requiring employers with a pay bill over three million pounds per year to contribute to an apprenticeship levy, training providers, industry bodies and employers have come together to ensure apprenticeships are tailored to suit the needs of businesses, industry sectors and the wider economy.

Although the new apprenticeship system may have room for improvement, it does provide accessible, valuable training funds from which employers can draw, allowing them to choose and pay for apprenticeship training more easily.

It has essentially given employers the means to invest in developing home-grown talent with added support and guidance from training providers and the government and has in fact, made apprenticeship training more affordable for all, regardless of whether they pay the levy.

 

The apprenticeship stigma

Despite being an accessible and efficient way to upskill and reskill the workforce and offering employers and employees great advantages, a lack of understanding of apprenticeships and what they entail, along with negative perceptions towards them remain rife.

Although it is encouraging to see some businesses already on board with management apprenticeships, understanding their value and impact, many are yet to experience the benefits. It appears from research carried out by ILM, which surveyed over 1,000 UK HR decision makers that there are deep-rooted associations with low pay, low skilled positions with little or no room for progression.

This is not the case. Apprenticeships are highly effective ways for employees to develop sought after and transferrable skills that business require, providing a quality route for career progression, all whilst gaining relevant real-world experience and a nationally recognised qualification.

 

Apprenticeships are not what they use to be

Apprenticeships have now modernised and developed, growing into programmes that work across different subjects and sectors, helping them to appeal to a broader range of individuals and businesses.

As such, the new apprenticeships, designed by employers for employers, now have much wider applications and present the opportunity to develop low cost, high quality, flexible accredited programmes for staff regardless of age or career level; and a chance to finally address those skill gaps and skill shortages, including training for mid and senior level managers and leaders, making apprenticeships much more responsive to the needs of both the individual and the business.

 

Value and impact

Apprenticeships are fundamentally about combining work, learning and earning, which is an attractive combination for many. Due to their practicality and business-focused nature, apprenticeships provide individuals with the strategies and tools to make a positive difference to their own performance, their teams, their working relationships and their results.

As individuals develop their knowledge and skills, they will apply what they learn into the workplace; growing in confidence, building relationships, innovating, developing a positive culture and ultimately delivering results and future business growth.

Government publications revealed that nearly all learners felt that they acquired or improved their skills as a direct result of their apprenticeship, and over 90% found that their ability to do their job had improved and their career prospects were greater.

Employers also reap the benefits. Asides from providing the opportunity to develop and grow a more qualified workforce aligned to their future strategy, they can increase staff loyalty and retention, improve productivity, boost morale and improve the bottom line, to name but a few.

 

Lifting the barrier

To overcome the apprenticeship stigma and achieve the value and impact which they provide, misconceptions need addressing and employees need educating on the opportunities and benefits that are available to them from apprenticeships.

The motivation behind those undertaking leadership and management training is likely to be to improve their skill set and career progression opportunities, so employers should emphasis the fact that the new apprenticeship standards were in fact created by employers for employers, to do exactly that.

Selecting an apprenticeship provider who can design specific solutions aligned to your organisational needs and values is crucial. You want to ensure your employees are, and know they are, getting the relevant training to develop the skills needed to succeed whilst bring tangible benefits to the business.

Proactive promotion is also key to lifting these barriers. The benefits of apprenticeships are often overlooked, which is why transparently communicating their value is essential. Encourage early enrollers to share their progress and the senior management team to act as a sponsor to champion the programme and demonstrate the value of apprenticeships to other employees.

Lastly, create a company culture that celebrates learning and achievements. Celebrating recognises efforts and accomplishments and shows gratitude to the individuals involved. In doing so, you’ll reinforce the motivation that will carry people through the next achievement, which is important for the individual, other employees as well as the business.

 

With fears of skill shortages in leadership and management, upskilling and reskilling the workforce through apprenticeships would appear to be the pragmatic solution.

It is fundamental that businesses and employees have a greater understanding of the benefits and opportunities that apprenticeships can offer. To lift the barriers and remove the stigma we need to adopt an open-minded approach and embrace apprenticeships for what they are – effective routes for employees to develop sought after skills that business require, whilst providing pathways for progression.

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