What type of apprenticeship provider/operating model suits your organisation

In anticipation of the long awaited Apprenticeship Levy which formally commences today, many employers have established their apprenticeship strategy and subsequent programmes but are still yet to agree their apprenticeship operating model and provider/s of choice. Emma O’Dell, Head of Financial Services Apprenticeships and Strategic Partnerships at BPP explains the different types of models available and what to look for when choosing an apprenticeship provider.

With employers planning to use the levy to train existing staff or new hires from entry level talent to senior management through a range of cross-divisional apprenticeship programmes, disciplines, levels and locations, it’s no wonder why corporates are still undecided as to the which operating model to deploy to help them resource and programme manage such complexity across the full apprenticeship lifecycle.

With different options available – choose a main apprenticeship provider, work with multiple apprenticeship providers or become an employer apprenticeship provider – and with 1708 providers on the approved provider list – it’s not a simple or quick decision. The decision may be borne out of many factors; the number, volume and complexity of an employer’s apprenticeship programme proposition, an employer’s ability to be able to deliver part or all apprenticeship training, or the amount of internal resource (whether that be in Early Career, Talent, L&D or Resourcing) they have to align to apprenticeships especially as apprenticeships are administration heavy and highly regulated.

We are already seeing various trends with some models being more akin to certain sectors; Legal and Professional Services sectors favouring a main provider model, Financial Services opting for a main provider who can also manage specialist providers on their behalf and the Public sector opting for multi-providers. Only 8% of employers across all sectors are considering becoming an employer provider mostly in the Retail, Public or Professional services industries.*

The associated pros and cons of each model will affect an employer’s decision. The main benefit of choosing a main provider is that they can deliver the majority of an employer’s programme needs, manage subcontractors where gaps exist, remove the burden of programme administration and DAS management as well as ensure all Ofsted and compliance in relation to SFA funding and programme quality is met.

Employer providers, (who want to provide training to their own staff) will have the flexibility to lead their own apprenticeship programmes. Apprentices would be trained by internal staff so only highly relevant information would be imparted to the apprentice. They can dictate the content of what is delivered within the constraints of the apprenticeship rules and the learning outcomes of the Apprenticeship Standard, and reclaim resource cost for delivery of off the job training. They will however carry the burden of and be subject to Ofsted and compliance – unless they act as a subcontractor to an appointed main provider. In this instance, the main provider delivers the majority of their programme needs (and is responsible for Ofsted and compliance) but the employer provider can invoice their main provider for delivery of skills and behaviours elements of programme they own internally.

A multi-provider model can help firms plug specialist skills gaps and spread the risk associated with buying apprenticeship training provision with just one provider. But this will mean that apprentices on different programmes in different divisions in one firm may experience an inconsistent learning journey, MI reporting around all programmes and the associated programme management/supplier management will be more complex and overall, managing more providers will require more internal resource.

Regardless of which model employers choose, they will also need to consider their selection criteria to identify their provider/s of choice. These might be; end to end levy/apprenticeship consultation, industry and client experience, breadth of standards, national coverage, choice of delivery modes, complementary offerings (e.g. professional qualifications and professional development programmes) and whether or not they offer a managed service provision (including recruitment support, DAS management, levy modelling / cash flow monitoring and programme MI reporting).

BPP have been helping employers through this decision making process and have been / will be working with different clients in different ways whether that being as a managed service provider, a main provider, as part of a consortium of providers and or as a subcontracted provider. The levy has made all models possible but it’s down to the employer to choose the route that best fits their business and strategic objectives around the levy and apprenticeships.

Statistics taken from BPP *Apprenticeship Levy report which targeted Guardian UK 300 employers.