Recent headlines suggest the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April last year hasn’t been plain sailing for some employers. Leah Shortt, operations manager from Learning Unlimited, offers some top tips on how to navigate those potentially choppy waters.

The success of the apprenticeship reforms has been widely debated.

Recent studies claim the Levy isn’t popular – an administration burden and too inflexible. Statistics from the Institute of Directors reflect this – only one-in-seven employers feel it is fit for purpose.

Nationally, the number of apprenticeship starts fell 24 per cent in the 12 months following the Levy’s introduction. However, at Learning Unlimited we saw a 14 per cent increase in the first quarter of the last academic.

So it isn’t all doom and gloom – a lot of organisations see the real benefits apprentices can bring to their business, while others believe the decline of apprenticeship starts could be because larger Levy-paying companies are taking time to adjust their learning and development strategies.

Love it or loathe it, for now at least, we have to work with the Levy.  We’re extremely proud to have supported companies large and small across a variety of sectors to navigate the changes, ensuring they get a return on their investment and fill their skills gaps.

We’ve learnt a thing or two in that time, so we’ve put together five useful top tips:

  1. Use the experts

Industry bodies and training providers can help you navigate the intricacies of the Levy. We have Levy experts who will really get to know your business and be able to advise and find the answers, helping you make sense of all the information.

  1. Find the right partner

Training providers should be able to offer your business the expertise, quality of service and level of detail you need to develop your workforce. Apprenticeship achievement and progression rates will give you a good indication of the quality you will get from a provider but their knowledge of your industry and their ability to help you understand the intricacies of the changing apprenticeship landscape are also things to look out for.

  1. Be strategic

Develop a training and development plan which fits with your organisation’s strategy and gives you the skills you need. Think about progression and how that will impact on your business and your ability to maximise your Levy funds.

  1. Take your team with you

The Levy probably means your training budget spend has had to change. See this as an opportunity to re-evaluate your workforce development plan. If you’re making changes to your learning and development strategy, involve your employees and communicate how it will meet the needs of the business as well as their personal development and career aspirations.

  1. Keep up to date

In the absence of a reliable model – or a crystal ball – the best strategy is to watch this space. We’re keeping a close eye on how apprenticeships are developing and what that means for the employers we work with to ensure they can make the most of the opportunities which already exist and prepare them for changes which might affect them, too.