Learner of the year, apprenticeship programme of the year, provider of the year: the apprenticeship industry has a whole range of awards and ceremonies across every sector. These awards act as recognition for outstanding, industry-leading programmes which make a tangible difference to businesses.

There are steps you can take to realise your programme’s full potential says Business Development Director Marie Vickery from Lifetime Training. Before an apprenticeship training programme is award-wining, it must first be successful.

From planning to launch, Marie explains how to make sure your programme performs, before offering tips to transform it into an award-winning programme.

Planning an award-winning programme

The planning stage is important: there are many steps you can take to ensure your programme is a success at this crucial phase.

The journey to an award-winning apprenticeship programme begins before launch, so consider these three points while deciding initial strategy.

1. Find the right partner

Selecting the right apprenticeship training provider is important, as they’ll act as an extension of your team.

Use initial meetings to ask direct questions about programme delivery to gain an insight into the quality of provision. Do they employ dedicated, full-time trainers? Is marketing and comms support available to drive engagement across your business? Are reporting tools bespoke? Will course materials and curriculum engage learners?

It’s important to find a provider that understands your company values and can provide courses that make a positive business impact. Most of all it’s important to find a provider that is an expert in their field to offer advice, guidance, and a consultative approach.

2. Understand what apprenticeships are now

Apprenticeships have gone through many different changes and reforms over the years. NVQs in frameworks, diplomas in frameworks, standards without diplomas… Add traineeships, Youth Training Schemes, and other programmes aimed at NEETs, and there can be a whole array of misconceptions around apprenticeships.

A crucial part of realising a programme’s full potential is to understand what apprenticeships are today. A good apprenticeship Training Provider will provide detailed advice to help you understand the opportunities available.

3. Identify legitimate business reason for introducing apprenticeships

Work with your provider to define the core business reasons for introducing the apprenticeship programme. This could be to meet genuine needs to upskill your existing team or attract new talent.

From these baseline aims you will have clear avenues for measuring programme success. Every business and sector will have a different measure of success, whether that be improving retention rates or the skills of your teams.

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Launching an award-winning programme

Properly embedding apprenticeships in your business is crucial for the success of the programme after launch. Consider the following three points to ensure apprenticeships are an ongoing success.

1. Align, engage, embed

To ensure a high-level of engagement, your programme should be aligned with company values and embedded within your business. Trainers should understand your unique company culture so you can treat your provider as an extension of your team.

Align existing training materials to apprenticeships to achieve consistency. Where possible, map your internal career ladder to the different levels of apprenticeships. This alignment lets learners see where there are opportunities to progress.

Perform monthly reviews with your Training Provider to ensure programme is on track and embedded.

2. Knowledge is key

Once an apprenticeship programme is set up, internal engagement and communication is an important factor in its success. Ensure managers are fully informed about the programme, understanding the nominations process and the support they’ll receive from trainers.

Learners will develop skills that help improve the business, and many courses have business projects included. If key stakeholders are involved in the apprentice’s journey, these projects can be aligned to make tangible difference to the business.

Challenge your apprenticeship training provider to educate and inform your stakeholders. Providers should offer bespoke marketing materials to educate both learners and managers. This approach can help to make sure the right people are on the right programme.

3. Account management and reporting

A well-managed programme needs reliable data and reports from your apprenticeship provider. Understanding learner progression is key to properly gauging programme success. A full suite of reporting tools should also include the ability to plot and forecast levy spend, to keep fully informed of all aspects of the programme.

Data capture and reporting is important when entering any apprenticeship awards, as you’ll need to provide tangible evidence to back up any claims.

Five tips for winning an award

You’ve launched a successful programme which is aligned to your business aims. What are the next steps to gaining recognition for your programme of excellence?

1. Actively seek awards

The key thing is to be actively seeking awards to enter, mapping out all relevant awards and categories in your sector. Your apprenticeship training provider should lead on seeking award opportunities. Take note of the category and entry requirements and plot the deadlines across the year.

2. Understand what judges are looking for

Study the criteria closely! All awards will differ, but generally judges will be seeking tangible proof of a successful programme. This means evidence of how it went above and beyond for learners, how it impacted positively on team members, or how it affected the business and improved your bottom line.

3. Collect evidence throughout the year

Collect relevant evidence throughout the year through case studies. Learner case studies take time to collect, so it’s worth collecting a bank of them to use when needed.

4. Focus on tangible facts and figures

Judges value tangible facts and figures to back up any claims made in your entry. Useful figures could include retention rates, productivity levels in sites with apprentices, and mystery shop scores before and after introducing apprenticeships.

Utilise the regular reports you should receive from your training provider to back up your entry.

5. Apply with plenty of time

Most entries are made up of multiple questions which take time to properly complete. Make sure you start your entry well ahead of the deadline date so the entry can be scrutinised and proofread.

Marie Vickery, Business Development Director, Lifetime Training

About Marie: A Director on the Executive Team at Lifetime Training and leads the Business Development, Marketing and Partnership Launch functions.

With thirteen years of extensive knowledge of the pre and post-levy apprenticeship landscape, Marie has supported hundreds of national companies to successfully introduce apprenticeships into their business.

Marie has written thought pieces on the positive impact of apprenticeships and continues to provide impartial advice and guidance to boost the industry’s profile.

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