Evolving business practices have put the focus on people – and how to help workers adapt to the new normal. Apprenticeships funded through the Apprenticeship Levy could offer a way to keep businesses moving forward.
Across hundreds of recent client conversations, the recurring priority has been people. How do we make ;sure our people are safe? How do we ensure our people can still work effectively? How do we protect their wellbeing? And, more recently, how do we return our people back to the new normal, whatever that may look like?
The current situation has highlighted the importance of the skills agenda: both the immediacy of grappling with working from home through to what skills may be required for a different, post-COVID-19 business model. Organisations are revisiting their talent and skills strategy out of necessity but also to capitalise on the opportunity to change the way they do business.
Maximising funds through the Apprenticeship Levy
The Apprenticeship Levy is a versatile tool which, set alongside a clearly defined business need, can be used to deliver the long-term skills strategy.
In an environment where learning and development (L&D) budgets are being squeezed ever harder, many organisations are taking the opportunity to relook at how the levy can be used to fund development programmes. Traditional face-to-face learning has had to pause during lockdown and is likely to be the case while social distancing rules remain in place. Training providers, in the main, have done a good job of transitioning online, and finding innovative ways to continue to make learning stimulating and engaging.
Our clients are seeing a number of areas where they are looking to invest their Apprenticeship Levy to build capability and capacity in the organisation. Two keys areas are leadership and management, and digital skills.
Investing in leadership and management
The role of people managers has never been more important to keep the organisation moving forward and to support the wellbeing of the workforce. Doing this remotely requires different skills and heightened emotional intelligence to really get the best performance from their teams.
Managers need to be checking in far more often and helping people to work productively around personal circumstances while also meeting business requirements. The best managers are drawing on their empathy skills and looking for any indicators that everything is not “all fine”, while also managing their own resilience and being conscious about the shadow they may be casting.
Many organisations are taking a long-term view and are building management development programmes – funded through the levy – at a variety of different levels.
Investing in digital skills
There has been an immediate need to support colleagues to work remotely, from getting access to systems to ensuring people can use collaboration and meeting platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet.
For some businesses the way they deliver goods or services has fundamentally changed – and is likely to have done for the long term. This is leading to a need to find new talent and upskill existing employees to service the new way of working. Think about the traditional retailer now exclusively selling online and the retail assistant now providing consultations and advice using digital platforms. This digital transformation requires coders, data analysts, project managers, digital marketers to name but a few, and many businesses simply don’t have these skills sitting on the bench.
Apprenticeship programmes offer an obvious way to fill this skills gap.
Benefits of apprenticeships
Some of the advantages for employers for developing an apprenticeships strategy:
Using funds from the Apprenticeship Levy that have already been paid by the organisation
Improving employee retention and engagement particularly where people may have been furloughed
Attracting and developing the skills required for the new normal
Building management capability and resilience for productivity and employee wellbeing
The new normal will emerge over time and starting to think now about the skills required to navigate the change is critical.
We have worked with over 2,000 organisations to align their Apprenticeship Levy to their wider workforce development plans. We have also partnered with a small number of high quality training providers to bring co-designed and co-delivered apprenticeships to the market in leadership and development, accountancy and project management.