From education to employment

The solution to off-the-job compliance in 2022/23? A clear planned curriculum

David Lockhart-Hawkins is SDN’s Strategic Associate for funding and compliance, and lead consultant at Lockhart Hawkins. Here, David tackles an important change in the apprenticeship funding rules that every provider needs to consider this year.

“The start of a new academic year is rapidly approaching and with it comes new and updated funding rules. For Apprenticeships, there are some important updates and though the final wording is still to be confirmed, we have draft rules that show a direction of travel and several policy areas that are definitely changing.

In August I’ll be delivering my annual “Implementing the funding rules” webinar, something that involves several weeks of preparation as we look more closely at how the rule updates affect each part of the apprenticeship journey in sequence and outline operational and strategic recommendations to not just change, but change effectively.

One area of change this year is off-the-job training and programme design. These are the foundations of an apprenticeship programme, but it’s been a foundation that has needed to shift.”

So, what’s changing?

“Ever since May 2017, rules required an apprentice to train for a minimum of 20% of their own working hours; this meant that an apprentice who worked longer hours had a higher volume of off-the-job training required for the same duration of programme as someone working fewer hours, even though they would have the same learning objectives. This meant a higher threshold for eligibility because if the need of learning was less than 20% across a duration of at least 12 months they were ineligible for funding. On a practical training period of 12 months the threshold, if you worked 30 hours, was 278.4 hours and 348 if you worked 37.5 hours a week across the same period. It is / was illogical unless you could shorten the practical period of the higher hours worker but you could never breach the baseline of 12 months.

From 1 August 2022 the off-the-job training policy will change.

The minimum volume of hours will no longer be linked to working hours; instead, we will have a consistent figure, irrespective of the hours worked by the apprentice. This will be 6 hours per week excluding those weeks of statutory leave. The minimum for those working 30 hours a week or more will be 6 hours, though you can still deliver this flexibly (i.e. programme has to average 6 hours a week and may see off-the-job training condensed into block or pattern release).

It is important to understand there is no change to the principle that if you require more off-the-job training in your programme (for example multiple days of study, assignment work and other training) then this is the minimum required for the apprentice. So, this rule is the first of several in this year’s guidance that continues the path we have been walking for several years to having a clear curriculum plan: a clear awareness of what is required to be achieved and how long it would usually take to get there.”

What does this mean in practice?

“The draft funding rules add that planned activities of practical training, shadowing, mentoring, industry visits, competitions can only be included if they have been agreed and documented within the agreed training plan (likely the replacement name for the commitment statement). Previously there was no clarification that the activity had to be planned, though you could say it was implied.

So the direction of travel is about being clear on the hours of your programme and the activities driving those hours – it is this that accounts for the off-the-job training that should be agreed and must (if you wish to use apprenticeship funding) take place in paid time.

We’ve worked with hundreds of apprenticeship providers in recent years, and there are still some providers putting a finger in the air when it comes to the quantity of learning in their programmes and saying “well its about 20% isn’t it”.

Activities have to be planned to count so you can clearly see that it’s the design of your programme. The chapters / modules you design and the method of delivery of those modules (events, quantity and time expectation) needs to be clear.

There is a noticeable focus in the draft rules on the replanning of training if it doesn’t occur as per the plan. If planned off-the-job training doesn’t take place as scheduled, you and the employer must ensure this is rearranged so that the full complement of training set out in the training plan can still be delivered.  You can see here how clearer structure is needed (and tracking of that structure’s implementation) to manage change when it occurs.

The solution here is really one of understanding the learning objectives that need to be met, and the time it takes to learn them – the design of your programme and the impact of change of circumstance upon it. Where is the apprentice in the journey? Where should they be? Can we quantify that?

If you’ve not completed a chapter / module of the programme that should have been achieved at a particular point, and that chapter takes 40 hours, you are behind in your planned off-the-job training. It is unlikely you’d be able to fit the catch-up of that into a working week because you’re going to need a lot of paid time to do that learning. The reality is additional week(s) will likely be necessary, resulting in material changes to the programme’s expected planned end of practical period and expected end date. These will need to be agreed through an updated training plan.

The solution of a clear planned curriculum of chapters / modules is really the only approach that makes sense. If you have robust initial assessment that translates the KSBs into the need of the curriculum (i.e you identify the chapters needed and not needed), then you can confidently plan the programme and any subsequent variations are more easily planned. Module 1 is not achieved on time? Well does it mean the overall programme needs extending? If more off-the-job isn’t given in existing work hours to complete the module, then absolutely it does!”

What can we do to prepare?

“Well for starters these five things will help:

  1. Review the design of your curriculum and ensure you have a clear programme plan for the volume of delivery required for occupational competence in the standard. This will be the same volume of hours for any individual that does not have prior learning.
  2. Ensure the baseline of the programme is an average of at least 6 hours a week after statutory leave.
  3. Ensure the design of programmes in your learning management platform mirrors your programme.
  4. You will want a data field of projected planned end date and projected completion date to allow for planning and monitoring of the real-world journey of an apprentice. This would be prominent in operational reporting and a key feature of progress reviews. You will need processes to ensure these dates are monitored and result in re-agreement of the training plan and (potentially, if the expected end date is to be exceeded) the apprenticeship agreement too. You may want to consider how much of the above is led by trainers/tutors and whether it could be a back-office process.
  5. You will need to train staff to understand how to re-plan programmes and have policies in place that explains how and when.

This is just one of several areas that will require changes in your policy, your programme design, your form design and administrative processes. Managing that change is more complex than just being told the rule has changed.

Other solutions can of course work. But having good curriculum is now not just the necessary solution for quality, it’s now the firm foundation of compliance.”

In-depth webinar – how to practically implement the new apprenticeship funding rules

On 5 August, David is hosting an in-depth webinar where we’ll be going through all the key changes in the apprenticeship funding rules and looking at what this means in practice across your apprenticeship journey and your organisation.

You’ll also receive an in-depth action plan, setting out the rule changes with practical advice on how these can be implemented.

Find out more, and register, here.

David is our go-to for all things compliance and has led hundreds of providers of all shapes and sizes to implement efficient and effective compliant systems as well as consult for several of the leading software suppliers in the industry. His solutions blend quality with compliance and really understands the provider experience.

The content in this blog was accurate as of 22/6/22 and subsequent funding rule changes will likely occur.

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