Public Sector Focus

15.08.19

Growing in confidence: Meeting the targets of Apprenticeship Levy

Source: PSE: Aug/Sep 19

Debbie Rayfield, corporate apprenticeship manager at Sefton Council, discusses her role within the council’s Apprenticeship Team and the challenges that can be faced meeting the targets of the Apprenticeship Levy.

I initially joined the Apprenticeship Team in 2016 on a secondment from Personnel and the team had been delivering a successful Apprenticeship Programme since 2010. Apprentices were recruited to various council departments when a position was identified that would be suitable for an apprenticeship role and lead to succession planning for the council and its ageing workforce profile. My role includes the recruitment, appointment and on-programme support for the apprentices during their fixed-term contract, including liaising with training providers to deliver the qualification. 

Alongside the recruitment of apprentices is the opportunity for the existing workforce to upskill and gain qualifications via apprenticeships.    

Since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, the Apprenticeship Team has been stretched to meet targets set by government for public sector organisations, whereby 2.3% of the headcount should be engaged on apprenticeship training. For Sefton Council, this figure equates to 136 apprentices. During the first year (2017-18) we reported 100 staff were undertaking apprenticeships and the following year, (2018-19), we reported 128 apprentices - showing we are moving in the right direction. 

Some of the issues faced are getting existing staff to understand that they can access training via apprenticeships and that there is no upper age limit. Having higher level qualifications is no longer a barrier to accessing apprenticeship training which is a positive for existing staff who can now study for qualifications which previously may not have been available to them. The 20% off-the-job requirement can be difficult to broker with managers who sometimes don’t understand that this doesn’t necessarily mean a day out of the office.

Spending the levy money on higher level qualifications is imperative. Historically we have recruited Level 2, 3 and 4 Apprentices. Now that standards are replacing frameworks there are new qualifications available that meet the needs of a local authority like Sefton at higher levels. The cost of the training has increased, but also the length of time on programme.   This will impact on our length of contracts for apprentices who are recruited to the organisation and our salaries budget. 

The programme has seen apprentices gain employment within the council and go on to higher level qualifications. It is very rewarding to see people of all ages grow in confidence and gain new skills.

Image: Steve Rotheram (second left), metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region, with apprentices who recently completed their apprenticeship training with rail company Stadler.

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