Q: When is a tax not a tax? A: When it’s an Apprenticeship Levy! All you need is an open mind, a splash of creative thinking and a few key insights from a fellow HR Director and you’ll be able to show your CEO exactly how you can use an Apprenticeship programme to save money (whilst having more budget than ever for training!).
Despite appearances, the Apprenticeship Levy might just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to boost your training budget and easily demonstrate savings – especially if you don’t already have an Apprenticeship Programme in place. And I know this – because I’ve just lived it and have the receipt to prove it!
If your wage bill is over £3m (approx. 120 employees) then it’s worth investigating whether an Apprenticeship Programme might work for you and give you an opportunity to leverage savings and benefits. Here are two quick wins that will help you to build your business case:
Examine existing training plans and future skills requirements to see what could be funded through the levy
Apprenticeships aren’t just about new trainees, they can also help you upskill your existing workforce. Think about where you need new skills and consider whether you could develop apprenticeships in these areas, funded through the levy.
"Despite appearances, the Apprenticeship Levy might just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for"
This can be extremely powerful when you consider the skills and capabilities your business will need not just now, but in the future, perhaps in the digital arena where the pace of change is rapid, technologies emerge quickly and the impact on roles can be significant. Apprenticeships can help you prepare your workforce with new skills, without creating a drain on your training budget.
You could even ask your CFO how much they are spending on training and qualifications for the finance team – we’ve converted most of our Finance trainees on to Apprenticeship programmes. They’ll still qualify as Accountants with the same qualifications, but we’ve saved a fortune and even enriched the quality of training.
Look at whether you can backfill leavers and vacancies with entry-level talent
Apprenticeship Programmes don’t necessarily require you to create new roles or have additional headcount; trainees can fill your existing headcount, as long as you’re prepared to put some effort into training. If you don’t want to be entirely reactive, take a look at functions or teams where turnover is naturally higher, or where people move on quickly and therefore there is value in building a sustainable pipeline of entry-level talent. This is often a good place to start as managers of these teams will find themselves recruiting a lot and will be more likely to buy into a different more structured and predictable plan.
When you’ve done this – you’ll see the maths stacks up easily and there’s little work for Finance to do! Your challenge now will be to convince the rest of the business, as they’ll be the ones who need to think differently about recruitment or induction. Of course, you’ll also need to create the right Apprenticeship Programme, and here are my top 3 tips for getting started:
"Apprenticeships aren’t just about new trainees, they can also help you upskill your existing workforce"
1. Know where to look to get common sense advise
There are lots of sources of information out there and it can be quite confusing. We have experts in-house which has really helped me navigate and understand the possibilities and make sense of what’s out there. A lot of information is geared towards existing apprenticeship employers, but don’t let that put you off. In fact, this is your chance to get ahead of the competition – there are some great resources to help you understand the basics and dispel the myths e.g. apprentices can be graduates, it’s not just for young people, it can be for existing staff etc. Working with training providers might also help as they can look at what you’re currently doing and advise you on where and how apprenticeships could play a part.
Tribal has an information hub with many resources such as thought leadership blogs and easy to digest guides to support those tasked with apprenticeship delivery.
Or you can join networks such as the Apprenticeship Practitioner’s Forum where you can meet others dealing with common problems.
2. Start small
You don’t need a full-blown business wide programme, so just test the waters with a willing manager. Many good leaders will intuitively like the idea of investing in young people, so think of managers and leaders in your organisation who set a good example in this area – those who get good engagement scores or engage positively in CPD for their team. Offer them the chance to work with you to pilot an idea and if it goes well, it gives them a great opportunity to showcase their success. Just make sure you talk about what you’re doing with other colleagues because it’s surprising how quickly people want to be part of something positive!
3. Consider leading by example
Trying out an apprentice in my own team was a great way of me seeing how it could work first hand and gave me confidence in advocating the approach and really selling the benefits and dispelling the myths. We found it worked so well for us, we’ve recently recruited another.
"I’ve gained far more experience in using Tribal’s software than I thought I would have by this point and in addition to this, have learned lots about business theory." - Jennifer Bryan - Trainee Application Consultant Implementation
For me, in many ways, an Apprenticeship programme is a ‘no brainer’. And for all the CFOs out there resigned to this additional ‘tax’, our HR team has proven that you can turn the Apprenticeship Levy into a mechanism to deliver quantifiable savings – and benefit.
Words our apprentices use to describe their training: Rewarding. Diverse. Educational. Fun. Challenging.
If you’re keen to get started, download our Apprenticeship Starter Pack (complete with a helpful guide to the technology and support you’ll need to consider) or by all means get in touch for a chat about how we went about practicing what we preach!