A few years ago I wrote a guidebook for managers which used gardening metaphors to stimulate new ideas and show that effective people management is all about recognising and cultivating the skills of individuals.
As we stand on the threshold of the new Apprenticeship Levy (and to continue my horticultural analogy) the ground has never been more fertile for those employers committed to the personal and professional development of their people.
I’m excited at the possibilities that lie ahead for progressive organisations and forward-looking people of all ages. For many years, there has been an undeniable need for more and better vocational training of people. While it has its critics, the new levy is a direct response to this need and I have no doubt it will create exciting new opportunities for the next generation of apprentices. And, certainly, there’s now an unprecedented incentive for employers to capitalise on the benefits of apprenticeship development programmes.
The Apprenticeship Levy heralds a new dawn for workplace development and consigns the old-fashioned views about apprenticeships to history once and for all. From April this year, apprentices will be from all walks of life, experience and ages. This is particularly significant for local authorities. Here, the levy will act as a catalyst for re-engaging more experienced staff and help them develop new skills and expertise to increase their adaptability and influence as cultural shift and service transformation in the digital age continues to gather momentum.
This will not just fall into the lap of town halls, though. It will require vision, foresight and a new mindset – not to mention a determination in order not to miss out on the opportunity to get the utmost business benefit from the levy deductions.
It will also require careful planning from the outset to ensure relevance and effectiveness for employer and employee alike.Before just ignoring the levy or rushing headlong into the brave new world of apprenticeships, it’s worth remembering a few basic rules.
Apprentices must be employed in real jobs and work towards achieving an approved apprenticeship standard. The training must also last for at least 12 months and an apprentice must spend at least a fifth of their time completing off-the-job training. That might sound like a lot of time away from their day job, but it should be viewed as a valuable investment of quality learning and pragmatic implementation.
Jason Stevens is programme director of the NSL Academy
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