3 case studies of how the Apprenticeship Levy will help employers

08 June 2017 -


Forward-thinking employers see the new breed of higher Trailblazer apprenticeships as a way to redesign their learning and development; to get a vital competitive edge; and to prove their credentials as an employer to the outside world

  Guest blogger Ian Wylie  

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 is giving organisations the opportunity to review their approach to learning and development (L&D), according to the employers who took part in a Q&A session at CMI’s 2017 Partner Conference, held recently in Birmingham.

The new breed of higher Trailblazer apprenticeships – now a professional route for development for young people joining the workforce and for those already established in their careers – are changing the game for those who want to upskill and remain relevant in a fast-changing workplace.

The Travis Perkins view

At builders merchant group Travis Perkins, for example, Louise Powell, group head of learning and development, is reviewing what L&D activities happen at the centre and what takes place in its various divisions. “We support and help them design the materials from the centre [many are modular-based], but we think the L&D should be done in the division, closer to the customer,” Powell explained.

Powell said Travis Perkins is using apprenticeships to help increase the quality of some of the one-off training that is happening around the organisation, but also building a wider understanding of apprenticeship design.

“L&D has become a little bit obsessed with ‘programmes’ over the years and apprenticeships lean towards that,” she said. “But we are challenging the idea that everything has to be a programme, and explaining to our divisions that often they can do something quick and small that has a big and almost instant impact.”

Powell also warned fellow employers to guard against the risk of underinvesting in L&D again should the economic climate become more difficult.

The Opus Building Services view

“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival,” agreed Gavin Richardson, founder and managing director of north-east electrical contractor Opus Building Services, who has taken on 20 apprentices, from electricians and engineers to plumbers, and has two project managers who are considering the Chartered  Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA).

Richardson said apprenticeships have helped increase buy-in to L&D at Opus and bolstered staff retention, too. “Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity for every business,” he said. “The way I explain it to staff is that we’re in a race, and if you learn a way to be one second ahead of your competitor, you stand more of a chance of winning.”

The British Army view

At the British Army, Brigadier Suzanne Anderson, head of individual development, explained how they are “training for certainty, but educating for uncertainty”. The army follows a “whole life development framework” for its L&D activities as it attracts, recruits, trains, develops, retains and transitions its people into civilian life.

Anderson explained the value of apprenticeships in demonstrating the value of its L&D to the outside world:

“One of the areas we struggle with is converting understanding of our internal training programmes into something that people outside the organisation can recognise,” said Anderson, who described how the army has been working with CMI and other awarding bodies to map every technical trade training course it offers, as well as leadership and management training, against external accreditations.

“It ensures that each time a soldier goes on a course, they have the chance to gain a certified national qualification alongside their army training,” she explained. “It allows us to demonstrate to ourselves and to our workforce the value of that L&D, and is a huge help to our soldiers when they leave the army and try to find a job on civvy street."

CMI has developed bespoke information on management apprenticeship programmes for employers and managers

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