Report of the Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance
The Committee received a report on the Council’s strategy for the delivery of apprenticeships within the Council.
In 2017 the Government introduced a number of changes to the apprenticeship system as part of their strategy to delivery three million apprenticeships by 2020.
The three key changes introduced by the Government were:
· The introduction of the apprenticeship levy;
· The proposed introductions of a public sector apprenticeship target; and
· The transfer from Apprenticeship Framework to new Apprenticeship Standards
The introduction of the levy means that organisations with a payroll bill of over £250,000 per month, (£3m per year) are subject to a levy of 0.5% of their gross monthly pay bill. The Council’s levy is estimated at around £668,000 per year, including that due for maintained schools. A payment is made each month into the Council’s levy account. The Council can draw down from that fund to pay for apprenticeship training. There are strict criteria around the use of the fund, for example it cannot be used to pay wages or non-apprenticeship training costs. There is a maximum of 24 months in which to use each annual levy payment, which operates on a rolling basis, thereafter unspent funds are inaccessible and returned to the Treasury.
The public sector apprenticeship target applies to all public bodies that have 250 or more employees. The annual target requires 2.3% of the workforce to be started on an apprenticeship, Gateshead Council employs approximately 7000 staff including those in maintained schools, therefore this would require approximately 160 apprentices to be enrolled annually to meet the target. The Government have acknowledged that they have set a stretched target and also stated that they expect that all organisations will strive to meet the target and will take steps to improve apprenticeship take up year on year.
Apprenticeship Frameworks are being phased out, with new Apprenticeship Standards introduced which have been developed in collaboration with employers in order to be more specific to individual business need rather than applying broadly to business sectors.
There are over 250 Apprenticeship Standards being phased in over time, covering a wide range of occupations and providing the opportunity to achieve qualifications up to level 7 (Post Graduate level).
Following the introduction of the changes in 2017 two scoping exercises have been undertaken with services to identify demand for apprenticeships across the Council. Discussions took place with Service Directors, and in some cases the management teams, to explore where apprenticeships could be utilised to support transformational change and deliver corporate objectives and service delivery. The scoping activity included looking at areas where the Council provides funding for staff to study for professional qualifications, which could, in future, potentially be covered by an apprenticeship. This would result in a direct saving to the Council as funds would be accessed from the levy rather than from the Council’s revenue budget.
Briefing sessions were also held with senior managers and numerous communications have been sent to employees to promote awareness.
The Council’s Learning Skills service delivers apprenticeship training in a range of subjects including business administration, customer service, leadership and management and Teaching Assistant apprenticeships. To access all other types of apprenticeship training, the Council has been required to establish a procurement process which is compliant with Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) regulations. Providers who meet the criteria in relation to quality of provision, health and safety and safeguarding are included on the Council’s approved list of providers and can bid to deliver apprenticeship training as demand arises.
Despite efforts to publicise apprenticeships across the workforce and put arrangements in place for delivery, the take up of apprenticeships has remained low, with consequential impact on levy spend. This is the general picture across many areas in the public sector.
Low take-up of apprenticeships has been due to a number of issues:
· Concerns from managers over the requirement to spend 20% of time ‘off the job’ in training, and the impact that has on service delivery.
· A lack of available Apprenticeship Standards resulting in the continuation of traditional academic qualifications rather than apprenticeships. This is due to new Apprenticeship Standards being rolled out by the Institute for Apprenticeships as and when they are approved for delivery.
· The essential requirement for all apprentices to evidence English and Maths at GCSE level or Functional Skills level 2, when they may already have degrees and other professional qualifications.
· Insufficient providers being able to successfully join the Council’s ‘Approved
List’ due to failures (or their inability to provide sufficient information) on health and safety and/or safeguarding matters.
· Insufficient providers in the region to deliver the types of apprenticeship
programmes the Council requires.
· Providers in the region cancelling, or deciding (sometimes at a very late stage), not to run apprenticeship training due to insufficient numbers of learners to form viable cohorts.
· Providers failing to submit bids leading to re-runs of procurement competitions which can delay the procurement process, with a knock-on effect of delaying the recruitment of apprentices.
· The disparate way requests for apprenticeship training have been managed
with various elements being managed by different services and an overall lack of corporate resource to provided a co-ordinated approach.
The Council has taken action to address these issues:
· Due to the number of providers failing both the health and safety and safeguarding elements of the procurement process on their first submission, the requirements have been reviewed in conjunction with the Council’s Health and Safety team. It has been agreed that only apprenticeship training which falls within construction/engineering will be subject to high-risk assessment. All other type of the apprenticeship training will be deemed to be low risk and will demonstrate compliance through self-assessment. This should result in few providers failing the procurement process and having to reapply, thus allowing more providers to be listed on the procurement framework.
· With regards to safeguarding the majority of failures were in relation to statutory guidance which is a legal requirement which providers should already have in their policy to comply with the law. Therefore, it has been determined that standards in relation to safeguarding should not be lowered, and that the Council will continue to check that the policy submitted by the provider is legally compliant.
· To maximise levy spend and address some of the issues, an Apprenticeship Co-ordinator has been recruited for a fixed term period of two years. The remit of the Apprenticeship Co-ordinator is to:
o Be responsible for the development and implementation of an apprenticeship strategy and delivery plan.
o Manage the HR aspects of apprenticeships to maximise take up.
o Be responsible for the contract management of providers to ensure apprenticeship training can be delivered to a high standard.
o Manage the technical aspects of the procurement process in terms of the dynamic purchasing system and associated procedures.
o Engage with training providers to encourage participation and drive up apprenticeship delivery.
o Work in partnership with other organisations to share resources and promote joint procurement of training providers.
An apprenticeship strategy has been developed, the aims of the strategy are to:
· Embed a positive apprenticeship culture
· Maximise workforce capability
· Support the continuous professional development of employees
· Develop workforce diversity and inclusivity
· Engage with schools to maximise benefits from the levy
· Engage with training providers and other local authorities and employers to maximise apprenticeship provision with the region
It is also the intention to explore the passporting levy funds to other organisations to fund their apprenticeship training. The intention is to work with organisations in the Council’s supply chain, partners and community and voluntary organisations within the borough to identify opportunities to passport levy funds to support apprenticeships. Priority will be given to allocating the fund to those organisations who are working closely with the Council to deliver the Thrive Agenda.
The LGA will also assist with mapping apprenticeship standards to Council job roles and look at the development of career pathways within a specific service area. The Council will use this framework to replicate the approach in other services.
The next steps are to seek endorsement of the draft strategy from the LGA and within the Council. This will include consulting with LearningSkills, Economic Development and Trade Unions. A delivery plan will be developed which sets out the actions required to deliver the strategy. This will align to the Council’s workforce plan, and once approved, the strategy and delivery plan can be implemented in accordance with agreed timescales.
RESOLVED - (i) That the Committee were satisfied with the draft Apprenticeship Strategy.
(ii) That the Committee were satisfied with the future direction of apprenticeships within the Council.