West Midlands Local Authorities come together to tackle the Apprenticeship Levy.

Eleven local Councils have joined forces to tackle and navigate their way through the Apprenticeship Levy and it is proving a successful partnership.

With little support back in April 2017; many organisations have struggled to understand the Government’s reform of The Apprenticeship Levy.

The West Midlands Levy Network Group was formed in October 2017 by the Leads within Council’s to look at the best ways to invest in staff development and succession planning by utilising the Levy.

The launch of the Levy in April 2017 took a lot of employers by surprise as the infrastructure wasn’t in place internally and only now employers are able to plan co-hort intakes with Senior Management buy in; that said 24 months to collectively spend over £10 million annually is no mean feat.

With figures for the first quarter down by 59% for Apprenticeship starts we can understand why.

With 22,000 companies affected by the Apprenticeship Levy the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and Local Government Association (LGA) have only recently ramped up the support for large employers.

With the delay of some key Standards from the Institute For Apprenticeships (IFA); it has proved difficult within certain sectors within the business to take on specific Apprentices and upskill staff.

For example, Social Work Degree Apprenticeships are of great interest as it is a fantastic opportunity to tackle the national shortage, however this standard has been in development for a number of years now which limits co-hort intakes before the end of the Government reform.

On a positive, we have been able to offer some fantastic programmes for staff that are not only more specific to roles within the Council but also aligning the skills needed.

Figures from the LGA in regards to the 2.3% Public Sector target indicates that around six Councils have hit this figure in year one; with one Council from the West Midlands reaching this.

Not surprising really when so many factors contribute to this, such as managing the 20% OTJ within departments that are already stretched, delays in standards, delays for training providers having to interpret the assessment plans to offer new standards and some SMT’s or LA Schools not engaging or fully understand the Levy.

Planned profiling starts indicate that more Councils will achieve their 2.3% target in year two and with the support of shared best practice across Local Authority Councils on how to engage with Councillors, Senior Management Teams and Local Authority Schools will help immensely.

Believe me this Levy game has been a learning curve for everyone involved; Employers, Colleges/Training providers, EPAO’s and enrolled delegates; particularly managing the 20% off the job…

Let’s hope it continues past this current government reform as we are only just getting into our stride!

Louise Ward, Apprenticeship Levy Manager at Coventry City Council

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