Embrace apprenticeships

  • 13th October 2023

Apprenticeships specialist James Whybrow highlights how they can be used as part of your school’s workforce

The independent school sector is highly diverse, with more than 1,800 schools offering educational excellence through academic provision and enrichment programmes, boarding and day school options, and ranging in size from 300 to 2,500 pupils.

Independent schools date back to the sixteenth century and while much has changed over time, the underlying principles and philosophies remain consistent albeit updated to reflect the needs of the twenty-first century.

It could be assumed that with their long-standing traditions, heritage, reputation for excellent educational practice and place within communities that independent schools are better placed than state schools and others to attract and retain the talent and skills needed within the workforce. However, while this may be the case for some, it’s certainly not the case for all.

Schools are reliant on recruiting and developing enthusiastic and committed teaching and support staff, recognising that their skill and expertise creates an outstanding and well-managed school. Staff costs are consistently the largest single element of expenditure.

The broad range of job roles offered within schools align well to apprenticeships, with examples where apprenticeships have been used including: leadership and management; information and communication technology; catering; health and safety; administration; finance; HR; facilities management; school business management; and the teacher apprenticeship training programme.

There are approximately 700 different apprenticeship standards approved for delivery, so whether schools are looking to recruit and develop teaching staff, teaching support staff, pastoral, support fundraising, marketing, premises, catering and infrastructure roles, there are apprenticeship standards available.

The Apprenticeship Levy is a levy on UK employers to raise funds to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment. It is charged at 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill, but each levy paying employer receiving an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. Because of the allowance, only employers with an annual pay bill greater than £3 million have to pay the levy. Levy payments are made monthly to HMRC. Employers have 24 months to use their funds once they enter their digital account, after this point funds will expire and become part of general taxation receipts for HMRC. Employers can only spend their levy funds on apprenticeship training in England.

Once an apprenticeship programme and training provider has been selected and a price agreed, your provider will be paid out of your digital account every month.

If you do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy the government will support the cost of the apprenticeship through a co-investment rate where the employer is required to contribute 5% towards the agreed cost of apprenticeship training with the government paying the remaining 95% up to the apprenticeship funding band maximum.

Prioritising the objectives and business areas where apprenticeships are the right option is critical. And you should already be negotiating fees with your procured and chosen training provider to ensure value for money, and already have measures in place to ensure that apprenticeship monies spent are having a positive impact. Additionally, alternative support is available for those business that have spent up to and over their levy, with the government co-investment rate set at 95%. Also, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships have regional funding and grants available, so it’s worth checking with them to see if any additional incentives may be available.

Employers that pay the Apprenticeship Levy can choose to transfer up to 25% of their levy funds each year to other businesses of their choice, to pay for their apprenticeship training and assessment. Employers who are unable to spend their own levy may seek beneficiaries to donate unspent levy monies to.

Employers that pay the levy can also receive Apprenticeship Levy funds from other Apprenticeship Levy paying employers to support the costs of apprenticeship training. Transferring levy funds is a way of supporting other businesses or charities by giving something back to your community. You can decide which sectors, skills or local areas you would like to fund.

Transferred funds can only be used to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment up to the funding band maximum. Transfers can only be used for a new apprentice start. This does not mean the apprentice has to be a new employee. It means you cannot receive transfer funding for an employee who has already started their apprenticeship.

Independent schools use a range of initiatives including staff committees, organisational structures, development programmes, surveys and performance reviews to gain insights and feedback on the development needs of its workforce.

While apprenticeships are not new or the only initiative, they are one of the most effective tools available. An apprenticeship strategy could help to:

• Address skills gaps, increase retention and supply career development opportunities

• Attract future external talent to the business through fulfilment of job opportunities where an apprenticeship programme can support the transition into the job role and widen the access pool of candidates to include those new to the industry and/or those transitioning from one industry to another

• Enable service areas to find skills gaps, embed apprenticeships into their workforce planning and supply a clear pathway for employees to progress within the business, creating a talent pipeline

• Increase the skills and professional qualifications of employees and

• Create talent and succession opportunities across the organisation to nurture talent and reduce an ageing workforce.

There’s no one right way to implement or develop a strategy for apprenticeships. Defining your goals and managing the associated risks will help you maintain your long-term vision.

If you’re just getting started with apprenticeships, or you want to get more from your existing programme, having a proper strategy in place is crucial to achieving an effective apprenticeship programme. It’s worthwhile taking the time to consider the following questions:

• Have you got a specific apprenticeship strategy, or are apprenticeships highlighted in your workforce planning, people or wider talent strategy?

• Have you defined your apprenticeships’ objectives and desired effect?

• Are you clear as to whether your apprenticeship programme is meeting your expectations?

• Is your apprenticeship programme meeting the regulatory requirements of the Education and Skills Funding Agency?

• Are there clear owners and advocates for apprenticeship development and Apprenticeship Levy spending?

• Would you consider your apprenticeship programme to be high quality and delivering impact? Would your apprentices agree?

• Are you highlighting the opportunities and effect apprenticeships have had on the school?

James Whybrow is an associate director for audit, tax and consulting advisor RSM.

James Whybrow

Keep Updated

Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest news.