Among the changes to the ways in which apprenticeships are developed, approved and funded, one of the most fundamental reforms centres on the move from the frameworks to standards. Often lost amid the chatter about the headline grabbing Apprenticeship Levy, in fact the new standards regime promises to revolutionise the traditional way in which on-the-job training is provided in the UK.
The previous system of frameworks was designed to be used by many different organisations: large and small employers, training providers, schools and colleges. Under the old regime, a framework was designed by an academic, with a view to applying it to a job in the workplace.
Now, though, as Jason Moss, chief executive of Arch Apprentices, explains, under the new standards system, the key designer is the employer. “It’s no longer about starting with a qualification and wrapping that round a job role; now it’s more about delivering the right skills for the job, with the training providers designing qualifications to meet that. So the emphasis has changed.”
So what does that mean in practice for employers interested in setting up an apprenticeship scheme? Ultimately, Moss says, the first question for employers is simple: “What job role so I need to fill, and what is the best standard to fit that need?”
“Once they know what they want, they can then begin to design the right standard for their company.”
Getting the right fit
For example, a company in need of filling a technology management role can be more specific in what they need: they may decide to pursue a digital marketing or data analytics standard since they are the skills they need in their business. Training providers like Arch are trying to help employers understand what the new standards will mean and how to make sure they pursue the right path.
Previously, frameworks were widely perceived as entry and not progression but that has changed. The further benefit from investing in standards, Moss explains, will allow anyone doing an apprenticeship at the start of their career, or upskilling later on, to get a qualification that will be widely recognized across industry sectors.
“That opens the door for people to re-train,” Moss says.
In addition to a simplification of the training regime, the standards system will introduce end point assessment, where an independent person with relevant industry experience will review and grade the apprentice.
End point assessment allows for greater discretion over grading, with an end to simply ‘pass’ and ‘fail’. Instead, apprentices can be recognised for their achievements by earning merit and distinction if they demonstrate a greater depth and breadth of knowledge.
The price is right
And it’s not just quality that will be improved by standards. Costs will also improve: whereas previously the funding for frameworks was complicated and antiquated, it has now been simplified; and the Levy will aid that process even further.
Under the new standards system, there are now 15 bands, with most of the IT and Digital standards in the top ten in terms of popularity. “Once the employer understands which band the standard they are interested is in, they will find that sitting down with the provider to negotiate the cost of training is far simpler than what we had before.
In addition to a simpler way of calculating costs, under the new system, any employer with fewer than 100 employees will get 100% of the funding provided, so there’s no cost to small businesses to take on a 16-18 year old.
For the larger employer paying the Levy, then the voucher is covering your training costs, and if you’re outside that, the government pays 90% of the cost with the employer covering the remainder. “That gives 3 models to work from, which make it a lot easier to understand than the previous system,” says Moss. “And the employer and the provider get £1k if they take on a 16 years old, so it rewards that type of activity.
A simpler solution
Ultimately, Moss says the standards regime will make life easier for everyone involved: employers, apprentices, training providers and the government. “By switching to standards everyone involved is able to make better decisions: employers can choose the right standards to meet their skills needs; employees are better informed in choosing their training options; training providers can deliver advice and support more efficiently; and the government is better able to monitor and improve the standards as they evolve.”
For more information on setting up apprenticeship scheme visit https://www.archapprentices.co.uk/