Following a speech on adult skills made by prime minister Boris Johnson in 2020, the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced in his March 2021 budget a £7 million fund that will be made available to a number of new agencies set up to employ apprentices and place them with multiple employers under a new flexible apprentice sharing arrangement. In this article, Rubitek CEO Kerry Linley looks at what a flexi-job apprenticeship is and how they will work in practice.
Apprentice sharing arrangements are nothing new – they have been in place for a number of years, however they have been called different things. I had the great privilege to run one of these in my previous role known as a Shared Apprenticeship Scheme and it was designed to support the construction industry with great success. The scheme achieved outstanding completion rates of 85% against an industry average of 57% and featured as a best practice case study in the governments Commission on Apprenticeships. We won apprenticeship scheme of the year in 2017 and at the time, I called myself a professional jigsaw puzzler!
What are flexi-job apprenticeships?
Flexi-job apprenticeships piece together a series of work-based placements, which are completed with different companies, so that apprentices can get the experience they need on a range of different projects in order to meet the minimum duration of an apprenticeship, which is currently 12 months. They are not designed to displace traditional apprenticeships, but in theory should make more apprenticeships possible.
Why are flexi-job apprenticeships needed?
Certain industries don’t have the continuity of work to meet the requirements of an apprenticeship. If we look at construction as the example, a project to erect a new building may include a package of brickwork lasting 4 months. After that, the trades move on and the next phase of the build begins. This isn’t a sufficient length of time for a bricklaying apprentice to get the experience they need. The next project the same employer works on may include no brickwork at all and the apprenticeship then becomes unsustainable.
Flexi-job apprenticeships help sectors that are affected by work that has been described as ‘patchy’ by piecing together a series of placements that enable the apprentice to get the experience needed for a particular apprenticeship and to complete and comply with the minimum duration. A bit like a jigsaw puzzle.
What are the benefits of flexi-job apprenticeships for businesses in the longer term?
Under the new flexi-job schemes, apprentices will gain experience working on different projects and with different employers and their supply chains. It therefore follows that they will also get wider exposure to different ways of working across a sector. In addition, as the scheme will make more apprenticeships possible, sectors that are currently experiencing a skills shortage will benefit from having more skilled workers entering the workforce once qualified. Employers who, up until now, have been unable to spend their apprenticeship levy funds because they have been unable to employ an apprentice for the minimum duration, will be able to do so under the new arrangements.
What lessons can we learn from other similar models?
I know from experience that sharing an apprentice across multiple different placements is challenging. Arranging these placements over the course of an apprenticeship is costly and complex and if an apprentice has a period where they are out of placement, they can disengage from the apprenticeship quickly. However, get it right, and the scheme can be hugely successful.
My advice to anyone considering setting up a flexi-apprenticeship scheme is this:
- Invest in the right systems to support the multi-placement model from the outset.
- Provide the right level of mentoring and pastoral support to apprentices and their placement providers.
- Monitor your apprentice placements closely and apply the same level of scrutiny to every placement – you need to consider things like health and safety multiple times.
- Know well in advance where every apprentice’s next placement is coming from.
- Make sure you have people involved with great connections across the sector and geography your scheme will cover, so when you need to call on your network to help you find a placement, it reaches far and wide.
- Minimise any ‘out of placement’ periods for your apprentices and, if you do have them, make sure they are as short as possible.
- Maintain close communication and conduct regular reviews with your apprentices, their placement providers and their training providers.
- Ensure you have sufficient investment and cash in the bank to finance the scheme and cover any periods when you need to pay apprentice wages whilst they are not on placement.
As I mentioned previously, I have ample experience in deploying and managing successful apprenticeship sharing arrangements and would therefore be happy to offer up my help to anyone considering setting up a similar scheme.
How Does Rubitek Help?
Rubitek Core is a complete apprenticeship management solution that supports apprentice sharing across different projects, departments and even companies.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in