Over recent months I have seen a number of training providers offering a free service to manage employers’ Apprenticeship Levy. Almost all of these service offerings are offered free of charge. Not only are these services offered free, but they are also tailored!!
Forgive my cynicism, but is there really such a thing as a free tailored service? Please do not misunderstand me. What these providers are doing is simply marketing their business and trying to retain or get a piece of the apprenticeship levy pie.
In my opinion, the strategy of these providers is clear; it is to engage with employers and direct the apprenticeship levy spend to their own provision and gain revenue and subsequent profit. Please do not think for one minute that I object to businesses making money – quite the opposite in fact. It does however, make me wonder if this is really a free service or whether it’s a manipulative approach to an engagement service? Is this truly in the best interests of apprenticeship levy-paying employers?
I see the apprenticeship levy as an ideal opportunity for employers to engage with employees more and develop or improve their talent plan. This opportunity opens up avenues for a collaborative approach. Employers are clearly best placed to identify talent, learning and development opportunities and indeed their recruitment needs, but may not be structured to deliver an effective and quality focused apprenticeship.
For employers it is not simply a case of just choosing a training provider with a one size fits all approach. Employers have to ensure that they adopt a strategic process to select training providers that they will, in essence, contract and spend their money with. And how will they manage their chosen training partners? This will also apply to employers who choose to self-deliver their provision. I am quite sure that a number of self-delivering employers will not have all the expertise within their business to deliver the required identified training. Whether they choose to go down the route of a partnership with a specialised training provider or indeed engage with a freelance tutor/assessor/IQA to deliver and support their overall provision, they still require to have stringent process and management procedures in place.
Ensuring that the processes and procedures are in place, together with the effective delivery of the training, all takes time, and in any business time is money. The amount of money is not something that I can quantify as it will undoubtedly depend on each organisation, its size, its needs, its resources, its people.
Adding all this into the mix, employers will have to consider who is not only best placed within the organisation but who has the required appropriate experience, knowledge and understanding? If utilising an existing staff member there is a clear cost implication albeit an indirect one.
Basically, what I am saying is: there is no such thing as a freebie from a commercial business and employers have to ensure they ask themselves what price they put on the quality of the learning and development of their employees.