Dave Cormack, strategic partnerships director at national transport and logistics training provider System Group, says the opportunity is there for the Apprenticeship Levy to embrace broader skills requirements, as well as apprenticeships.
There really shouldn't be any need for uncertainty over the levy's prospects, despite concerns around the level of apprenticeship take up and current levels of engagement. It's critical to retain confidence in a scheme that supports one of the most relevant and plausible paths to career success in the transport and logistics – apprenticeship training.
While there are concerns (and it would be right to question the validity of a such an important scheme), the levy's here, and likely to be so for some time. So, the opportunity is there for those employers to seize the moment, engaging training partners, who operate with integrity and transparency, and take a step forward into a bright and rewarding training and learning skills landscape.
The Government's commitment to dealing with the national skills shortage by opening up millions more apprenticeships has to be seen as a welcome move. But clearly it has to be paid for too. The Levy's ambition is to drive an increase in both the scope and quality of the training undertaken by employers.
By turns, this boosts volume, creating opportunity for training providers, who combine integrity and experience to deliver the requisite support. This helps employers navigate issues of cost, while simultaneously expanding their horizons so they can see the benefits of training and how a well-equipped, highly skilled and motivated workforce delivers a competitive, cutting edge for UK plc.
It's quite possible that more needs to be done by the larger levy payers in investing in planning and operational capacity, but this can only open up more opportunity to invest in HR to get even more value out of training and development budgets. Action is the watchword, and the call-to-arms for more organisations. It's great to see employers being fortified and steered towards thinking more carefully about how they can channel operational L&D efforts to support apprenticeships, rather than on other, less fruitful activities.
As someone at the centre of the skills agenda, I'm truly heartened by the sheer breadth and vociferous conversations that colleagues in the industry are having about apprenticeships - unquestionably, they offer people a beneficial, enriching route into the transport and haulage sector. Reforms have created exciting possibilities for individuals to access opportunities in vibrant new sectors, at new skill levels and in some professions, which are typically the preserve of a traditional cohort of graduate learners.
UK transport and logistic companies have to be competitive. That almost goes without saying. So, by extension it helps to develop and retain the high levels of skills these companies need to drive their operations forward and keep the wheels of their vehicle turning. This is something we must encourage and support. If it helps businesses of all sizes to up-skill their existing workforce, while allowing time for study towards higher-level qualifications, surely it has to be encouraged and supported.
Personnel and development bodies such as the CIPD advocate an expanded levy, one that can cover training beyond apprenticeships that deliver myriad high quality, relevant and cost affective skills to create a next generation workforce. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this – it's a standpoint that can be supported by training providers such as System Group, who are on the frontline of designing flexible and measurable training programmes.
With the digital era upon us, System Group will be working with private and public-sector organisations who are making the necessary investments to improve the management of quality assurance around their training programmes, in developing existing skills to get current and future employers and apprentices ready for a change in their current skillset.
Training providers such as System Group can ensure they provide this support through specified training - employee knowledge will cease to change but skills needed will differ. From production all the way through to customer service, the next generation workforce will require a new skillset. It's about being ready to embrace this new way of thinking and ensuring that the necessary changes are put in place to arm apprentices and support employers with the skills necessary to retain the highest level of knowledge.
And what of universities offering degree apprenticeships that blend the best of technical and academic learning?
Despite early teething problems and scepticism, the fact that universities are seriously invested in apprenticeships for the first time should be welcomed. This includes the new degree-level apprenticeship standard coming to the supply chain sector later in 2018. It's a good positive move, contributing to bringing fresh talent into the sector and improving skills.