Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University

Many apprentices aren’t receiving the organisational support they need to succeed, according to a new study from The Open University.

Nearly half (45%) of apprentices struggle to find time to study, despite the requirement to spend 20 per cent of their working hours in off-the-job training. One in five (20%) apprentices lacks support from their line manager

But technology-enabled learning enables faster delivery and study, saving time for apprentices and employers

In Focus: The Work-based Learning Dividend – authored by Towards Maturity and developed through a series of interviews with business executives, learning and development leaders and apprentices in training – found that nearly half (45%) of apprentices don’t have enough time to study, despite the new apprenticeship standards requiring that at least 20 per cent of working hours are ring-fenced for off-the-job training.

The ‘20 per cent off-the-job apprenticeship funding rule’ is a new requirement enforced this month which stipulates that, in order to access funding, employers must have evidence that the apprentice spends at least 20 per cent of their time on off-the-job learning. However, the findings suggest that many organisations are struggling to fulfil this.

In fact, despite the majority (93%) of employers having good intentions to fully integrate learning into the workplace, in reality just 15% have managed to achieve this.

With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last month, many more employers in England are considering apprenticeships for the first time and how to use the funding effectively to meet their business objectives. The impact on organisational culture - that is, ensuring all staff are informed, engaged and managed through the changes - is just one of many important points employers need to address to ensure smooth integration.

Line manager support is critical to the success of apprenticeships – three in five (61%) apprentices rely on mentoring from a more experienced colleague as part of their work-based training. Yet the study found that one in five (20%) apprentices do not receive enough support from their line manager, suggesting more help is needed for both apprentices and those working with them.

According to recent research from the UKCES, close to half (48%) of employers don’t train their managers, and yet these are the most influential people for most apprentices. Buy-in from senior management is also an issue in many organisations, with just 41% of senior managers demonstrating a commitment to learning.

However, those organisations that have successfully embedded workplace learning are reaping the benefits. The study found they are five times more likely to report increased performance and agility, and three times more likely to report improved efficiency and fine-tuning of business processes – indicating the crucial impact the right workplace training programmes can have for employers and their staff.

Technology-enabled learning is playing a critical role in this and offers a solution for employers wanting to ensure they fulfil the 20% off-the-job training rule. The study found that by using technology, learning is delivered 27% faster and apprentices are able to study 21% more efficiently, thereby reducing overall time away from the workplace and with greater learning impact.

Using technology, two thirds (66%) of apprentices are also able to access an online support network to help them learn, whether that is finding support from an online tutor, or collaborating with other learners, providing flexible and efficient delivery and keeping employees engaged.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of leaders in L&D agree that by introducing technology-enabled learning apprentices have up-skilled faster as a result.

Steve Hill 100x100Commenting on the research, Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University, said: "Addressing the talent deficit is crucial to tackling productivity and ensuring the UK remains competitive on the world stage. Never has there been a stronger need for the 'learning organisation' – an employer that values the development of adaptability and agility in its employees.

“Supporting a culture of learning is central to this. And it’s up to the influencers in the organisation, senior and line managers, mentors and teams to build an environment where the apprentice becomes a confident and respected team member making a valued contribution to the business. Using technology will also alleviate concerns around the requirements to deliver work-based training, by significantly reducing time for all involved.

“But employers are not alone. Training providers can do more to help organisations build these learner support networks. Here at The Open University we provide training for apprentices’ line managers and mentors to ensure they can support and fully integrate work and learning, and our technology-enabled learning model not only enables flexible delivery but consistent delivery at scale, helping organisations achieve their business goals.”

Jane Daly, co-author and Head of Strategic Insights at Towards Maturity, adds: “Taking into account Towards Maturity’s 13 years of evidence-based research with more than 5,500 L&D leaders and more than 35,000 learners globally, I have been inspired by the apprentices and leaders I was privileged to interview as part of this research.

“This latest research has highlighted that leaders and people professionals not only need a growth mindset, but also the ability to create long-term, networked and boundary-less talent experiences. Smart work-based learning experiences will pay out huge dividends if they are intrinsically linked to a learning organisation prepared to listen, learn and continuously transform itself.”

Their report, "In Focus: The Work-based Learning Dividend - Creating impact through innovative work-based learning", aims to stimulate new ways of thinking about learning innovation, apprenticeships and the wider workplace learning agenda, looking at how technology and listening to the voice of apprentices themselves can help to redefine good practice.

The opportunities for apprenticeship are rapidly increasing in the UK. With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 and new technologies to support programme delivery and achievement, it is all the more important for employers and training providers to listen to and understand the learner voice.

Research methodology - Data for the report is drawn from:

A Learning Landscape audit with over 300 apprentices, interns and trainees gathered between October 2016 and February 2017

Four focus groups held during February and March 2017 with C-suite executives, L&D leaders, apprenticeship providers and apprentices

Towards Maturity 2016 Benchmark research with over 600 L&D leaders

Towards Maturity’s Learning Landscape™ research, gathered online during 2016 from a sample of 4,500 workers, The Learner Voice: Part 3.

About The Open University: The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in supported, flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has worked with over 2,400 organisations, taught more than 2 million students and has almost 180,000 current students, including more than 7,000 overseas.

76% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and 88% of FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework, 2014), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

Regarded as Britain’s major distance learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.9million unique visitors in 2015/16, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 70 million downloads.

About Towards Maturity: Towards Maturity is an independent research company that provides expert advice and support to help organisations accelerate business performance through learning. It leverages the data of its longitudinal Benchmark Study, the largest learning strategy benchmark in the world. Since 2003, over 5,500 organisations and 35,000 learners have contributed to the Towards Maturity Benchmark.

Thanks to the support of Towards Maturity Ambassadors, annual benchmark reports, case studies and resources are available to download for free. Towards Maturity Ambassadors work together as agents of change, identifying and improving on effective practice, raising awareness and driving the learning profession forward.

Towards Maturity Ambassadors include strategic partner the CIPD, publishing partner Emerald Group Publishing, the founding Ambassadors: Learning Technologies, LEO, Charity Learning Consortium, Acteon, Kallidus and Speexx, plus: Bray Leino Learning, Clear Lessons, Cognician, City and Guilds Kineo, CrossKnowledge, Degreed, Docebo, Dossier, DPG plc, getAbstract, GoodPractice, KPMG, Learning Pool, Lumesse, PurpleMedia, Raytheon Professional Services, Redware, Saba Software, Skillsoft, Sponge UK and Workstar.

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