Special Report: ‘Turn training in to an apprenticeship’

Abta held a seminar for members on a new national apprentices scheme due to start in 2017. Lee Hayhurst reports

Travel firms were urged to consider whether existing in-house training could be eligible for apprenticeship funding before tying up deals with external training providers.

Under a new levy-funded system due to come in next April, firms will have to spend funding they are allocated for apprentice programmes within two years.

The new apprenticeship arrangements have been designed to put employers in the driving seat and have removed the requirement for apprentices to achieve formal qualifications.

Liz Deakin, business development director, employer services, at City & Guilds, said it is providing advice for firms on how best to structure their training.

She said some firms will continue to incorporate formal qualifications, such as NVQs, but others might feel they already have robust training.

“Every day employers are being contacted by training providers saying can we help, let us help you spend your levy. But there’s absolutely no hurry, or necessity, to work with a provider.

“Look at what you can deliver, map it and start to identify where the gaps are, and that will help you identify what type of provider can fill them.”

Andy Smyth, Tui development manager for vocational training, said firms taking on apprentices for the first time may need to consider using external training providers in some areas.

But he said any firm with a properly thought-through training programme has nothing to fear from being a learning provider and scrutiny from the Ofsted and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) watchdogs.

“If you set up your programme properly you won’t have a problem. It really is about taking the time to think about how you set the processes up,” he said.

“The better you make your offer, the more likely you will get what you want out of it and the better your business will perform.”

There are concerns small and medium-sized travel firms will stop taking on apprentices if the new rules are too complex.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has produced a report looking at what its members are looking for from apprenticeship reform.

Doreen McKenzie, director of Knock Travel, said there is “growing concern among small employers that they could lose out”.

McKenzie said apprentices are vital for small agencies as they allow “cost-conscious businesses to provide professional training to staff at heavily reduced, sometimes free, rates”.

According to the FSB, only 24% of small businesses take on apprentices, while the same proportion would consider doing so in the future.

However, one in four say they do not have the time to devote to apprentices and one in three say greater financial incentive would encourage them to employ an apprentice.

“It’s essential the reforms make it easier and more cost effective for small businesses to invest in apprenticeships,” McKenzie said. “We need to simplify things and remove barriers by offering practical and relevant guidance on apprenticeship processes.”

The FSB has called for an apprenticeship calculator to show return on investment, a helpline and levy-paying firms to be able to use unspent funds to support apprentices in partner companies.

Andy’s tips

• Know the funding and inspection rules and play the game accordingly
• Don’t use apprentices in underfunded areas
• Use former apprentices as mentors
• Think about the role the apprentice is expected to master and recruit and set salary levels accordingly
• Use apprenticeships to bring new skills into your business

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