Top ten tips for employers navigating apprenticeships


By Helen Woods, Apprenticeship Delivery Manager, CIPFA

Navigating the world of apprenticeships can sometimes be confusing for both employers and potential apprentices. From the apprenticeship levy to how best to approach the preparation of off-the-job training – there are many factors to consider when making sure apprentices from your organisation have the most rewarding experience.

Drawing on the wealth of knowledge acquired by the apprenticeships team at CIPFA, we’ve gathered a list of our top tips for employers who are new to managing apprenticeships, or need a refresher on how best to approach them.

Find the best bespoke programme for both you and your apprentice

Motivated learners are obviously the ones for whom apprenticeships work best. They meet long-term career goals, are stretching, while also feeling achievable. The training provider should have a structured, meaningful initial assessment process to gauge the suitability of the apprenticeship.

Read up on the apprenticeship levy

Know your funding entitlement and what is and is not covered by the levy. The rules around things like examination fees and membership subscriptions can be complicated, so if in doubt, ask lots of questions until it all feels clear.

Make sure you carry out a robust initial assessment

This shouldn’t just establish that the apprenticeship is right, but also determine your learner’s individual starting point, allowing you to both tailor their learning plan and track their progress from that point.

Help your apprentice draft a well-planned commitment statement

This will contain their learning plan and break down how their time will be spent. It should suit them and the organisation. Knowledge tuition and examinations can be timed to best fit their pressure points and complement their opportunities for relevant experience in the workplace, so the involvement of the apprentice’s line manager at this stage can really help both them and the organisation.

Prepare useful 20% off-the-job training

This time can be a real mix of things from classroom tuition and conferences to shadowing others at work. Time spent getting familiar with the accounting systems you use, the legislation and guidance that apply to expenditure and financial reporting in your sector and the governance structures that you rely on can all count towards shaping a productive member of your team while meeting the requirement for 20% of your apprentice’s time to be spent on activities that develop them.

Regularly review mapped skills and behaviours

As this development starts to pay off, you will see competence growing in the relevant skills and behaviours. Mapping this aids preparation for the end point assessment, but is also motivational and a solid under-pinning to acquiring a life-long habit for continuous professional development.

Support wellbeing

Apprenticeships, like all worthwhile achievements, can also bring some stress and anxiety, particularly when balanced against work and life pressures. Both training providers and employers should make apprentices aware of the resources they can access to manage their wellbeing. Look out for the signs that they are needed and support apprentices to use them.

Have clear sight of the end point assessment

It’s always helpful to have your end goal in sight, so make sure that you understand how full competence is ultimately going to be assessed so you can support that. It’s also the continuation or start of a healthy interest in supporting the development of key staff that makes people want to remain within an organisation.

Communicate clearly and often

Providers have a growing wealth of knowledge, expertise and tools for the apprenticeship model and it undoubtedly works best when it is a real tripartite approach that involves plenty of clear, open, three-way communication.

Celebrate success

An apprenticeship is a big investment of time and energy and completion marks a major milestone in career goals for learners. As apprentices can be geographically dispersed, it can be challenging to find a way to celebrate completion in the way that universities have graduation ceremonies. So sometimes you have to think creatively about opportunities for marking success, which might also spread the positive message about supporting development to a wider audience in your organisation.

This article first appeared in Public Finance. 

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