The TJ Awards showcase what training is all about
In December, I was lucky enough to judge the ‘Best Apprenticeship Programme’ at the TJ Awards 2018. The Gala Dinner featured some fantastic training providers and outstanding individuals who have achieved great things through their training and apprenticeships in 2018.
The event, held in the Pavilion at The Tower of London, brought together the best and brightest in the sector to showcase some amazing talent and celebrate their accomplishments in a year that has had its challenges for training and apprenticeships.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service were worthy winners of the ‘Best Apprenticeship Programme’ for their CDDFRS Firefighter Apprentice Scheme. Their problem solving, and forward thinking was clearly outlined in their programme with its tailored and innovative approach.
They revolutionised their training for fire fighters by considering the issues and applying modern initiatives to help their individual learners overcome them.
I am positive that with still so much talent and expertise in the training sector, we will see the uptake of apprenticeships rise.
The awards gave us the opportunity to see how much great work goes on in the sector but 2018 has been challenging for training providers, businesses and employers looking to provide career progression and CPD to the UK workforce.
The uptake in apprenticeship starts has been in steady decline since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017. For many, this has been because of the confusion surrounding the funding. Employers have found it hard to access the information they need to use the funds that are available to them through the levy.
The Chancellor set out in his 2018 Budget positive amends to the levy that will look to ease businesses worries and concerns surrounding it. The changes will allow large businesses to transfer up to 25% of their apprenticeship levy funds to support businesses they work with. Currently this is limited to 10% so will be a welcome change for employers supporting businesses in their supply chain.
SMEs that don’t have to pay into the levy, but benefit from co-investment funding from the government, will only pay half of what they currently pay for apprenticeship training. This is set to decrease from the 10% they pay now to 5%, with the government paying the remaining 95%.
The budget also announced that the government would pledge a further £695m to support the uptake of apprenticeships.
Although positive news when it was announced, this has been tainted with confusion around its implementation. It was originally stated that these changes would take effect from April, but a Treasury spokesperson has since said that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will confirm a date in due course.
This delay in its introduction could mean a further drop in the uptake of apprenticeships due to employers being in limbo and choosing to hold off until it comes into place.
With Brexit also looming, there is apprehension around how this will affect the sector. There is some hope however, that this will have a positive effect on the uptake in apprenticeships as businesses look to train the next generation to fill skills gaps that may increase further as we leave the EU.
Although we face these challenges going into 2019, I am positive that with still so much talent and expertise in the training sector, we will see the uptake of apprenticeships rise. I hope there will be more of a focus on unlocking the potential of individuals throughout the UK too.
Once an official date is confirmed for the changes to the apprenticeship levy, I hope to see the number of employers taking advantage of their levy funds increase and in turn see more people gain the opportunity to build and further their careers.
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