Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship partnership director, Kaplan

One thing that we are finding a lot when we speak to larger employers is that most do not have one single companywide L & D budget. That might have been an assumption made by policy makers when the levy system was designed - but it isn’t the reality.

Rather most organisations have relatively complicated arrangements, with disparate expenditure channels formed through years of merger, acquisition and organic growth. Multiple mini L&D budgets that grow or shrink to reflect changing fortunes and priorities, as well as non-accounted for budgets that are hidden in non-obvious cost centres and fiefdoms.

Some of the bigger functions have traditionally looked after themselves; as they know what they want. The Finance dept buys Accounting qualifications as and when required, HR buy CIPD quals and so on. There may well also be an Early Careers team looking at recruitment and Graduate programmes, together or separately and somewhere in Ops someone is still wondering what happened to their NVQ, Train 2 Gain scheme…

As for the top brass – senior managers do unstructured coaching and development to suit their needs.

One interesting consequence of the introduction of the Levy is that it is making employers take a more strategic, holistic approach to development. Many companies have sifted through invoices and L&D plans to try and find out what training they do now; where, how and why they do it. And what is the possibly of turning this into something that can tendered as a cohesive apprenticeship programme?.

The rise of the Levy key keepers

In many cases organisations are also nominating someone as their ‘Levy Manager’, someone who will hold the key to the company-levy-store and who will report to the board on plans and spend. This could be someone in Payroll or Procurement but it is usually a HR Manager who has been given this as a ‘special’ project…

Whoever does it, it can be a pivotal role as it is the person that internal customers and external training providers need to petition in order to access the companies Levy funding.

Where it is being done well a unified organisational levy approach has the potential to:

  • Make L&D more impactful. As development budgets become bigger and more consistent - they will have greater visibility and clout
  • Enable different departments to adapt to evolving business priorities – the levy as an agent of change
  • Create greater transparency with regards to promotion and progression, supporting diversity, inclusion and reducing unnecessary staff turnover –connecting employers to their communities and opening their opportunities to a wider base
  • Standardise job roles and functions - reduce complaints and errors
  • Ensure that apprenticeships are deployed only where they are the right training response and add real value - not just spending the levy
  • Help create the database of metrics and data that will be needed to measure ROI - making the business case for time off for training and the continued investment in apprenticeships

If it is done badly a centralised approach can create an unhelpful bottleneck and/or encourage employers to see apprenticeships as the answer to all of their challenges - which will only backfire. However if managed well there is the possibility for the total to be greater than the sum of its parts.

As this is a new role that requires substantial ‘on and off the job’ training I thought I might scope out what would be in an appropriate apprenticeship standard, should one be developed….


A new standard for Levy managers

Role occupation: ‘ Levy manager’ the person responsible for organisational levy mgt

Occupational profile: this apprenticeship has been design for those in charge of Levy funding for large organisations

Requirements of core Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours

Knowledge Skills Behaviours

Apprenticeship Terminology.

Familiarisation with the ever changing apprenticeship landscape and quango gumbo.

A good levy manager knows:

that DAS had become AS before it even started and that the SFA is only half of the ESFA. That Oftsed will only inspect HE in FE if its non-prescribed and that Ofqual will provide EQA for some EPAs whilst the IFA will only step in where this fails



Knows what a training provider really means when they say that their satisfaction survey results are ‘average’



Answers the phone when providers cold call – but always follows the pre agreed company procurement process



Allocating funding to match need and corporate priorities

Able to agree a fair and reasonable contract with a provider



Can keep all departments happy with their allocated share of the levy


Funding rules expert

EG Can explain when training is ‘off the job’ and when is it not & who QAs non-prescribed L6 standards,

Speed reading


Scans all new standards, publications and updates



Is able to tell senior managers “that is not an apprenticeship”! When someone asks for a week’s development in Bermuda,,


Standard Level: Higher apprenticeship level 6 in recognition of the Higher level of skills involved and the speed at which this must all be sorted out…

Duration: until we can find someone else mad enough to do it

Funding band:– er .... do your job well and we will talk about your bonus at year end !

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship partnership director, Kaplan

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