Since April 2017, businesses with a wage bill of £3m or more have been paying the Apprenticeship Levy, contributing to funding available for apprenticeship training in England.
What many businesses may not know is that they could be accessing funding through this levy to support apprenticeship training not only for school-leavers but also for graduate recruits.
Apprenticeships are a valuable way of combining learning in the workplace, off-the-job training, and the opportunity to apply new skills in a work environment. They allow businesses to create a pipeline of talent by developing staff as they work and embedding them within the business.
Typically, apprenticeships are often associated with school-leavers who join the workforce and gain qualifications as they work, however, many businesses are now also reaping the benefits of maximising the apprenticeship opportunity by providing training programmes for graduate recruits – what is often known as ‘apprenticising’ a graduate programme.
‘Apprenticising’ a graduate programme isn’t the same as offering a degree apprenticeship, which is when a school-leaver joins a business and gains a degree by learning as they work. Apprenticising a degree programme is all about helping new graduates to broaden their skillset through a structured programme of learning.
Michaela Reaney, Managing Director of Gradvert, which specialises in improving business performance by improving people, explains: “When graduates join a business they often have a strong set of technical skills, but may lack broader knowledge in areas such as leadership, agile working and the broader workings of their company.
“We’re working with businesses to create graduate programmes which equip new recruits with the skills and behaviours which are essential for the next generation of leaders in a business.”
Businesses can fund the vast majority of this training through the Apprenticeship Levy, making it a very cost-effective way of building a skilled workforce and creating a pipeline of future talent.
“Not only can businesses fund the training via the Apprenticeship Levy but they can also save a significant amount on National Insurance contributions for those employees that are undergoing training,” said Michaela.
“For example, we’ve recently designed a graduate programme for a client with 140 graduate employees who will save £500,000 on National Insurance contributions alone, so it is definitely an option that more businesses should be considering.”
Employees with an in-depth specialist skillset are sometimes referred to as ‘I-shaped’ employees – graduate recruits are a good example of this as they bring with them in-depth knowledge relating to their area of study.
In the past, graduate programmes have often lacked a focus on developing the behaviours, knowledge and skills that can create what is known as a ‘T-shaped’ member of staff someone who not only possesses in-depth specialist knowledge but who also has a broad base of skills across different areas.
The Apprenticeship Levy gives an opportunity for businesses to create a programme which achieves this in a very cost-effective way.
Graduates taking part in an apprenticised programme benefit from a structured programme of learning, regular feedback and plentiful development opportunities. It is also hoped that by embedding graduates within the business through this rounded programme of learning, retention rates amongst graduates will also be boosted.
“No one works in isolation and all businesses need their staff to have skills in areas like teamwork and leadership. When new graduates join a business it’s the perfect time to make use of the Apprenticeship Levy to provide a training programme which develops them as fully rounded members of the team.” said Michaela.