The Government’s vision for 2020 and the introduction of the Apprenticeships Levy are set to change the landscape of how employers and Providers interact to drive high quality Apprenticeship provision. Undoubtedly the impact on Providers will be significant, but taking into account the knowns versus the unknowns, what can they do to ensure they are prepared for the next phase of Apprenticeship delivery?
There are clearly many questions yet to be answered when it comes to the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy:
- How will it apply across devolved nations?
- How will non-levy payers access the funds?
- What are the deadlines for employers to spend their contributions?
- Will a new set of criteria be created to form a new eligible list of Apprenticeship Providers?
- What will happen to the ‘unspent’ funds?
- Will these lead to employers pushing new staff through apprenticeships with little concern for quality?
And these questions don’t even touch upon the concepts of ‘top-ups’, how much can be drawn-down for each apprentice, what incentives will remain for recruiting 16-18 year olds, how payments will work for English and Maths, and possibly most contentiously how SMEs will be involved in delivering the 3 million target.
With significant uncertainty, it may seem difficult to deduce how the reforms will impact Providers, and in particular how Providers prepare themselves for the forthcoming changes.
However, as a market-leading MIS supplier, we have made sure we are in a position to support Providers as they tackle the inevitable challenges these reforms will deliver.
1. Reducing the inevitable administrative headache
Whatever the intricacies of the new mechanism, Providers will certainly need to further streamline their data management processes in order to maintain the records required to accurately and efficiently track progression and claim funding. Data quality and effective validation will be critical as increased employer engagement will likely result in a greater attention to progress and achievement reports, whilst funding claims will naturally continue to draw scrutiny.
The ability to provide live, accurate financial information from our MIS solution is something that sets Maytas apart from other systems and is an attribute we have honed over the years. During periods of change for Wales and England we have supported providers through both XML and FIS developments.
Whatever the details of the reforms it is imperative that Providers ensure that their business processes are efficient and effective. We continue to support Providers through this process delivering scalable change consultancy ranging from short term engagements to wholesale transformational change helping to deliver refined business processes and wide ranging ROI.
Another factor affecting how cumbersome or efficient administrative process will be is the number of systems Providers choose to run in order to manage their learners. Many still retain separate systems for their MIS and their ePortfolio but more and more are looking to technology providers to ease the pressure on their MIS function and deliver a better experience for the learner. We have long held the belief that to achieve high levels of achievement and progression requires a level of efficiency, data accuracy and learner experience that can only be sustained with a single-system approach. Aligned to this is our view that providers can maximise efficiencies through the effective and efficient use of technology.
2. Managing performance and making it visible
The involvement of employers, along with what is perceived by many as the most critical factor in the reforms – quality of provision - will require Providers to ensure the performance of their programmes is transparent. This in turn will put pressure on Managers to affect that performance, regardless of location, sector and range of delivery. Taking this a step further, employers may end up offering apprenticeship programmes to their supply chain, in which case the MIS needs to cater for a variety of third-party access for each tier. So, an employer may log-on to check learner progress, whereas a subcontractor might require real-time access to reporting data. Senior leaders will therefore make higher demands of the Business Intelligence capabilities of their MIS as they strive to work proactively rather than reactively to keep costs down, aid performance management and ensure high achievement rates.
3. Fulfilling Ofsted’s mandatory quality requirements and addressing the ‘quality’ questions
It is yet to be seen if Ofsted’s criteria will be affected, but Continuous Quality Improvement has, and will continue to be, critical to Providers’ success in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Demonstrating progress through robust Quality Improvement Plans generated from robust self-evaluation judgements will be pivotal in an apprenticeships world where quality is seen as paramount. Taking into account the potential supply chain complication, the ability to plan for continuous quality improvement across all levels of the organisation and supply chain, means providers would be wise to adopt a system like our own ActionPlan+, which simplifies and brings rigour and accountability to the process.
4. Maximising revenue and maintaining an audit-ready position
Maintaining the integrity of data is critical to the success of Providers, helping avoid claw-back of funding and also ensuring that organisations are ready for audit. Providers therefore need to ensure their systems and staff are brought up to speed with the latest guidance and funding rules. This can be an onerous task but in times of significant change and uncertainty embedding this business critical information could prove even more challenging to Providers. As a result we anticipate heavier demands on our on-demand MIS experts as services like data quality checks, funding optimization advice and audit checking services become high priorities for Providers.
5. Ensuring technology is ‘Levy-ready’
In this changing and uncertain landscape Providers will require both their own staff and their technology suppliers to be ‘Levy ready’.
In order to remain responsive to the changing needs of our customers as well as the regulatory and funding bodies we are actively working to stay close to all key stakeholders. As funding reforms are implemented we continue to refine and adapt every aspect of our offering to Providers, from MIS to ePortfolio through to Continuous Quality Improvement software and excellence in MIS consultancy. Whatever the implications of the announcements over the coming months we are committed to ensuring that our solutions, whether they be software or services, are ‘levy ready’.
Although many details remain uncertain what is certain is that throughout 2016 we will continue to further develop our solutions. Our objective is to ensure that Providers have confidence in their data, their business intelligence, their financial management and the progress tracking capability required to engage effectively with employers to increase both the quantity and quality of Apprenticeships delivery.
As more information is made public about the levy, we will continue to provide updates on how we will respond to these challenges. Over the next 2 months Tribal will be forming a group of leading thinkers/authorities from within the sector to help inform how best we can support the Provider network.
If you would like more information on this or would like to nominate yourself or a colleague to join this group please contact – James Hill on 07795 478888 or email email@example.com