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    Recently I commented on a post about the current state of the Apprenticeships and skills contracts, it has been a difficult year for many providers in respect of tenders put out and withdrawn, allocations not being quite what was hoped or expected, caps applied where previously there had been none.

    The post spoke about what particularly independent learning providers could be certain of in these uncertain times. My comment was not a flippant remark, it is a view I have long held and in past roles have spoken about so if I am preaching to the already converted I apologise!

    Many private training providers have cyclically pursued different funding pots – Apprenticeships, adult education budget, ESF and 16-18 study programme to name a few. All these have tender processes and have led to providers partnering or seeking sub-contracting where they have needed to with no guarantee of success or no certainty of lead contractors being able to honour commitments due to funding decisions outside of their control. In many of the funding streams employer engagement has either been required or is seen as desirable. So if successful in securing employer relationships how have these providers developed and explored these relationships?

    If a business has little or no HR and training capacity have these providers sought to become their virtual training team? Many businesses now outsource their HR expertise, it would seem a small step to offer an outsourced training service.

    The business has identified a need for an Apprenticeship programme – for one or many – in doing so the business will have considered its’ needs, what is their motivation? It may be growth, succession planning, product development? How might a provider explore this decision with them and look at the business as a whole? It is widely known that it is smaller businesses that create the largest number of Apprenticeships, providers have a relationship with each of them, how many businesses were involved in delivering over 2 million apprentices to date?

    In my contact with businesses it was a small step from talking about why they wanted an apprentice to what other skills issues they had.

    I never held back, what were they doing, had they people in the business who had the potential with training to fill roles and had they thought of using Apprenticeship funding to do this? Had they thought of asking a training provider if they might be able to help? Not too many had thought outside the box – recruiting an apprentice for a role, typically a new young recruit, though the implementation of the Apprenticeship levy is changing this in larger firms.

    What opportunities are being missed?

    This is very hard to quantify, but with all the talk of skills shortages and an ageing workforce, upskilling and succession planning across the whole of a business is key to its’ success.

    There are very skilled people in the provider workforce who can work with a business to analyse their training needs and help set out a plan -it is the businesses plan so they need to own it- but here’s where a provider can look at how they might deliver that to the business, how much it would cost and what the return on investment would be. Some providers will be able to bring public funding to the business to meet some of their needs- but inevitably some aspects will not attract funding and the business will need to pay.

    As a customer I do this all the time – my need is X but I buy Y because I get added value – it could be more of the same so leads to a lower unit price or a complimentary product or service thereby enhancing my initial purchase. I calculate the value to me and make a decision.

    In the current climate of diminishing public funding, our exit from the EU and the loss of ESF with no successor funding in place, relying on allocations from non-levy Apprenticeship funds, AEB and study programme could seriously impact the survival rate of providers. Also, rather scarily, it seems little work being done within the sector to prepare for the loss of EU funds

    Businesses recruit and train people for a role- they have done this for years, providers could offer a “recruit and train” service working alongside the business in a longer term relationship to enable them to plan their staff development to meet the business needs.

    There are now individuals looking for Apprenticeships who either feel its better for them to earn and learn or don't want student debt. Are providers linking this with HR and recruitment in their campaigns? 

    This must be an avenue worth exploring……

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director, In Future ltd

    About In Future Ltd: An innovative consultancy helping small businesses create and execute successful growth strategies to achieve big results.

    The founders have over two decades of experience in the skills sector in small and large businesses across the private and public sector, we provide strategic advice, practical development and support leading to improved business results at affordable rates.

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