For local authority HR teams, grappling with the apprenticeship levy and public sector targets can feel rather overwhelming and burdensome – but don’t lose sight of the opportunities. The government changes to apprenticeships open up amazing new possibilities for your workforce and those you recruit.

2017 saw the implementation of the apprenticeship levy which, although it affects only about 3% of employers, is likely to impact most local authorities across England. The size and diversity of local authorities could be seen as a curse, but in reality provides you with an enormous opportunity to re-think how apprenticeships could support your skills and talent development.

So, first the challenges…

SDN is not naive to the pressure that the apprenticeship levy and public sector targets places on many local authorities. From our discussions with many different authorities around the country, the challenges (although varied), tend to fall into certain themes:

  • Procurement requirements mean that many local authorities are spending a good deal of time developing and implementing elaborate procurement arrangements to ensure that the diversity of apprenticeships on offer can be efficiently procured across the various departments. With new apprenticeship standards being developed all of the time, it is challenging to keep up with what could be of benefit and ensure it can be made available at the right time and in the right place
  • The size and diversity of many local authorities means that there is a tendency toward de-centralised recruitment, selection and talent development. This has been reported to lead to, at best, inconsistencies or duplication within apprenticeship strategic planning and at worst inertia with teams thinking that this is the responsibility of someone else
  • Like many employers, local authority staff and HR teams have variable levels of understanding about what apprenticeships are and what they can do. Some staff have a great deal of knowledge – others have a real suspicion of apprenticeships based on myths that relate to experience of a very different time, sometimes decades ago. Simple changes like the development of higher and degree apprenticeships and the ability to retrain through apprenticeships to support a career changes are just two of the exciting ways in which apprenticeships can support individuals and organisations equally
  • Many local authorities have an apprenticeship delivery team. The changes to apprenticeships are leading many to consider how their internal provision should be developed to meet future needs and how this sits alongside the local authority workforce strategy. For example, which sectors are ripe for future development by the internal team? How does this fit with external procurement? How are decisions made between internal provision and externally procured support? All good questions that are vexing some local authorities.

Local authorities have a balancing act between the needs of the community and ensuring excellent value for money. Both of these challenges can be supported through investing in a far reaching apprenticeship strategy that also helps to meet the 2.3% local authority apprenticeship target.

So, to the opportunities…

SDN, as an independent support organisation, has been working with employers of different sizes and sectors for many years and in particular, supporting local authorities with all aspects of the apprenticeship levy, strategy and development.

Here’s a couple of ways we’ve worked with local authorities to directly combat the issues outlined above:

  • Our team work directly with procurement teams, supporting them to carefully set out their apprenticeship requirements so their systems make sense, are easy for providers to access and ensure the organisation has the right high-quality list of apprenticeship providers to choose from
  • Working alongside internal teams, we have often provided an infrastructure of support to raise awareness and gain commitment from staff. Our solid understanding of the types, levels and new standards under development means we not only dispel myths, but provide in-depth knowledge on the content, delivery and assessment of the vast array of apprenticeship standards available
  • We support with practical solutions too, helping teams feel confident to take immediate action, start their apprenticeship implementation journey and feel confident they are using the apprenticeship levy effectively. We have excellent examples of what has worked well in other authorities, and can help you shape your strategy, policy and practice as a result

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