Andrew Cleaves looks ahead to a post-apprenticeship levy environment, where he says colleges will have to tailor their training far more to employers.

In 10 years’ time the FE landscape is going to look very different from today; the apprenticeship levy is going to be a real game-changer.

While traditional sources of funding continue to be under pressure, the apprenticeship levy represents a significant opportunity for colleges to develop and grow.

In the West Midlands alone it is estimated there will be in the region of £150m to £180m brought into skills training and because it is raised from employers, for their own use, the levy will change the way businesses think about skills and the way they relate to skills providers.

We will need to design more and more training that isn’t based around term times

It is already clear that wise companies will invest carefully, to change the way they recruit, retain and develop talent.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that we will see huge changes on both sides of the supply and demand for skills provision.

On the demand side, employers will become more engaged and have an active involvement in the design and content of their training, with sectors and supply chains also pulling together more effectively.

As employers get the value that they need and want from education, they will clearly identify their requirements and be willing to take an active role in skills training.

On the supply side, FE colleges will likewise have to think and act differently, and become fleet of foot in their response to the employer imperative.

We will need to design more and more training that isn’t based around term times, isn’t run around what we perceive to be the normal working week, and is aimed at what individual employers require.

We will also have to think more carefully about progression in work, with the potential to create new career pathways that by-pass some of the more traditional graduate entry routes and give employers a real opportunity to grow their own talent.

Increasingly, I believe colleges will not be able to offer off the shelf ‘construction training’ — it will have to be training that has been designed for, and in partnership with, particular employers.

And as these partnerships develop, FE colleges will be an importance source of new talent, much more involved in pre-employment activity so that we can increase the range of potential recruits that we’re able to bring to the table.

Just recently, BMet launched two career colleges, an exciting step towards real employer-led education which will see the curriculum of each college being designed by employers, for employment.

Our two career colleges will provide specialist vocational education in the professional services, and the digital and creative sectors, with leading employers in the region feeding directly into the curriculum.

Both the professional services, and digital and creative, have been identified by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership as key growth sectors for the region.

So they will address the skills gap that firms are experiencing, at the same time as providing our students with direct access to the world of work.

As with many colleges across the UK, this concept is not new.

The work BMet has done with Wesleyan, one of our leading local financial services firms, is a good example of an existing partnership with business.

We put young people through a really strenuous course so they get the proper qualification, but they also gain that invaluable experience in the workplace with an employer who is committed to their future career development.

For many of our students, this is increasingly a safer option than the traditional university route.

The more employers we engage with on apprenticeships, the more that other students benefit because of the knowledge and experience our tutors and assessors bring back in to the wider vocational curriculum.

At BMet, we’re confident that success lies in helping more young people get the technical and professional skills they need to be effective in the workplace.