Brexit; the apprenticeship levy; widening skills gaps: the challenges facing large and medium sized employers are several and serious.
With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017, more organisations are thinking about how they can generate maximum value from their levy contributions. Importantly, the levy should not be viewed solely as a tax—it represents a vital opportunity for business to start thinking innovatively about how they are going to equip their workforces with the skills needed, not just today, but 5, 10 and 15 years from now. Businesses need to ensure training needs of key sectors are met, not just for the sake of their own productivity, but for the competitiveness and growth of the UK.
Moving Away from Traditional Models
There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to the delivery of skills provision. Education and training providers know that they need to respond flexibly to the needs of employers and the demands of learners. This will involve a move away from the traditional ‘seller and buyer’ relationship towards broader partnerships that are founded on – and built for – mutual long-term benefit. The training needs of large employers are complex— some have brought their training operations entirely in house, partly as a means of efficiency, but also because individual training providers are not fully equipped to meet their needs. Large and medium sized employers are looking for a single point of access, wide geographical coverage, and a varied curriculum that covers the entire spectrum of their training and workforce development requirements. For any one provider, this may pose a challenge, but this is where the benefits of a partnership model come into play.
The importance of Partnership Working
We believe that partnership models offer a unique way for providers to take advantage of the opportunities brought about by the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. Working in partnership has distinct advantages, not least the fact that individual selling points can be combined into a collective offer. This kind of package appears more attractive to employers who are assured of a wide curriculum and comprehensive geographical coverage through a responsive national delivery network, giving employers the chance to fill their skills and training needs, simplify their contractual arrangements and buy into a consistent delivery model. Consequently, employers are assured of a replicable service regardless of geographical location, and an assurance of quality, customisation and flexibility. For example, the model perused by the Collab Group of colleges and Mindful Education synthesis a national deliver network with innovative learning technologies to deliver an innovative training product for learners that produces skills ready individuals ready to engage with the world.
In the future, we firmly believe that partnership models will be key in allowing employers to equip their workforce with the kinds of skills needed to drive productivity and economic growth. The skills landscape is ever changing, reflecting the changing nature of the British economy, but there have never been greater opportunities for education providers to discover new commercial opportunities by working in partnership with others.