Is the Apprenticeship Levy that new a concept?

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Written by Margaret Burnside on 7 September 2017

The Apprenticeship Levy doesn't feel new to me. When I started my L&D career in 1984 (it was called training then) I had to produce an annual report to demonstrate we were entitled to levy exemption from The Distributive Industry Training Board (DITB).

The report focused more on quantity of training days etc rather than outcomes or business impact but it always made us reflect on what we had achieved and meant that we had plenty of support for investing in training. 

The similarity that particularly strikes me is the opportunity to create truly blended and comprehensive programmes for people at all stages of their career. I started with the employer I described above as a management trainee - I was on a two-year programme with a blend of learning opportunities planned in.

It really was our flagship programme and when I became training officer I was responsible for running it. Remember we are talking early 80s and I still benefit from that programme now. Here are just some of the elements that made it such a solid foundation for the rest of my working life: 

  • 3 month assignments in different departments across the business
  • Day release college courses - Year 1 technical, Year 2 - management focused
  • In-house one- and two-day courses - often run by senior managers and specialists in the business on a wide range of business and management topics
  • Involvement in special events - i.e. Ideal Home Show, lining up and presenting a crystal bowl to Her Majesty The Queen, etc. 
  • Entry into related awards (e.g. Chamber of Commerce Trainee of the Year) 
  • Project work
  • Regular documented reviews after each assignment (three months)
  • Learning diary to record progress, reflect on learning during assignments and guide us through the programme
  • Regular access to senior management and real involvement from them throughout 
  • Final graduation ceremony (I still have my photo!)
  • Almost guaranteed promotion at the end but with plenty of support to make the right choice over the first management role. 

The selection process was tough, more than 100 applications were received each year without any advertising and this was whittled down to around eight each year through interviews and assessment centres using a panel of trained senior managers - when I experienced this from the 'other side' I saw how robust the discussions were in the wash up.

So, now we have digital but other than that, I'm not sure how much of what we are doing today is really new. I believe that if we use the Apprenticeship Levy wisely, we will go back to developing people properly.

Bite-sized, elearning, social learning all have their place but as a product of an in-depth, tailored and well supported two-year programme I value the chance to provide others with that type of experience and learning.

All of my fellow trainees went on to have impactful roles quite quickly and of those I have tracked - many reached director levels in their various organisations. Perhaps that's the key, let's train people in management and leadership skills before they are promoted! 


About the author

Margaret Burnside is director, CAKE People Development


Read more about the Apprenticeship Levy here

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