More doors than ever have been opened by the latest ESFA apprenticeship funding rules. The policies lay out additional support for apprentices that experience a change in employer mid-course and those needing to do a secondment. But they also cement opportunities for asylum seekers and open up apprenticeships (in certain circumstances) to prisoners wishing to upskill. It’s clear the rules offer a new level of inclusivity not seen before, widening the scope for apprenticeship recruitment.
What’s more, with off-the-job training now being capped at the equivalent of six hours a week, it is more feasible to combine this requirement with day-to-day responsibilities in the workplace. In addition, a level 2 pass in functional skills maths and English is no longer required before EPA, making it easier for more level 2 apprentices to complete an apprenticeship.
Add to this the learning support guidance recently issued by government, which outlines adjustments for those with a learning difficulty or disability, and these announcements could amount to a significant step forward for apprenticeship provision and assessment.
But for these policies and guidance to translate into increased levels of diversity and inclusion, as an industry we must actively embrace these opportunities to see real change. Here are several ways that we can support these changes and encourage a greater range of people to undertake apprenticeships.
Invest time in understanding the rules
The first potential barrier to reaping the benefits of these new opportunities is a lack of awareness of their possible impact. The funding rules came with a bucketful of other changes and narratives, including important discussion on the impact for training plans.
However, as providers and assessors we must examine these changes through the lens of diversity and inclusion. Through this we can kickstart discussion about how to facilitate real change and reach out to recruit people who previously would not have considered enrolling on an apprenticeship.
Spread the word
In the short term, we can get the word out within our networks, speaking to colleagues and other industry leaders. In the longer term, we can consider widening our networking opportunities to reach these new audiences and make them aware that they could now be eligible for an apprenticeship.
It’s also important to inform employers of the new rules and support them in reaching out to the wider audience when they recruit, helping the trickle-down effect where possible.
Reconsider risk adversities
Some of the groups now eligible for apprenticeships won’t have been targeted for recruitment before, and so understandably there could be some hesitation from employers around changing recruitment strategies or apprenticeship delivery to suit this wider audience.
As providers and EPAOs, we should encourage employers to consider the greater business benefits of more inclusive apprenticeships. For example, they can fill skills gaps with new talent, achieve a competitive edge over those who haven’t adjusted their strategies and maximise their return from their apprenticeship levy.
Update owned channels
Creating content around these changes will no doubt raise awareness among the target groups as they go to search online or scroll through social media. Importantly, ensuring websites and marketing collateral reflect the updates could assist with this greater awareness piece.
Keep asking for more
These changes aren’t the golden ticket for entirely inclusive apprenticeships. While by their very nature the courses open the door for training to those that may otherwise struggle to access them, more can still be done from the top-down.
For example, if government could incentivise employers to direct more of their levy funds to non-management positions, additional avenues of progression could open up for lower-level apprenticeships.
Embracing these new opportunities could lead to greater number, and importantly a wider variety of people accessing education and training. It’s key we keep talking and put thoughts into action to further improve the inclusivity of apprenticeships.