Hello PPMA members and friends

Our blog post this week is from Clive Mallon who is a PPMA Board member and Organisational Development Lead at Somerset County Council. As it’s National Apprenticeship Week we asked him to share some of the excellent work he and his team are doing in this area.

‘It’s National Apprenticeship Week. A chance to celebrate all things ‘apprenticeships’ and promote an incredibly valuable route into the world of work – but it’s so much more than that…

We know it’s often hard for young people to get a foot in the door, let alone two feet on the career ladder. In councils up and down the country we’re changing that and building established pathways into our professions using varying initiatives, such as apprenticeship schemes. These programmes encourage and support younger people to enter and succeed in the workplace; some are doing this incredibly successfully; it was fantastic to see local authorities represented on the DfE Top 100 Apprentice Employers list last summer, quite a group to be mixing with – let’s hope for more on that in a few months’ time.

The introduction of the levy, back in 2017, had a significant impact on the way our organisations utilise apprenticeships. All-sector statistics across the country point to a downturn in apprentice figures since the levy inception, but in the main, local authorities buck this trend.

A handful of obvious reasons contribute to why councils are ‘doing their bit’ to support apprentices; a public sector target, the possibility of losing public money to the treasury and most importantly continuing to bring in (much needed) younger employees with fresh ideas and new skills is imperative to addressing the aging workforce of many councils. Clearly, it’s the right thing to do; everyone deserves the opportunity to begin their career. By encouraging and supporting young people into the workplace its mutually beneficial to apprentices and employers.

Since those early days of the levy many are using the levy inventively to squeeze as much out of it as possible.

Training budgets are often an easy target for a reduction when savings are required, and boy haven’t we had to make our fair share of those in the last few years?! Many have transferred CPD support to staff from traditional training opportunities to apprenticeships qualifications. The scale and scope of qualifications covered by the levy are such that the phrase ‘there’s something for everyone’ stacks up time and time again. Trailblazer groups have been brilliant at opening new opportunities for existing staff to ‘upskill’ via. Close to home here at Somerset County Council we’ve an ambitious ‘grow our own’ programme of Social Workers, having frequently tapped into Step Up, Frontline, and traditional University routes it has been fantastic to offer existing staff the chance to become our social workers of the future. We’ve supported 35 colleagues to date, more than £800k of levy commitment – a healthy training budget right there and a proven retention tool, too! More and more of these stories are cropping up nationally.

Another area of growth within the public sector has been the levy pledging initiative, supporting apprentices into roles in other organisations. Again, this reduces the chance of levy being lost to the treasury, but far more importantly it supports smaller organisations and gives opportunities that in many cases wouldn’t have been possible were it not for financial assistance from the sector. A clever use of pledging comes from those that understand where their future workforce start their careers; some are supporting future employees’ training by bolstering funds to organisations that regularly ‘feed’ their own organisation new recruits. A canny plan and a win-win for all.

I’m frustrated by those in the private sector that see the levy as ‘just another tax’. Next time you’re talking to one of your partner organisations, especially those in the private sector ask if they’re utilising the levy pledge scheme, if they aren’t, help them to help others.

Anyway, less about being frustrated, we’re supposed to be celebrating. Regardless of your organisations success at recruiting an apprentice, upskilling existing members of staff, or pledging levy to others please do take the time to ‘think apprenticeship’ this week and ask yourself the question ‘what more could I be doing?’ Remember, you could be changing someone’s life.’

Clive Mallon

PPMA Board Member and  Organisational Development Lead, Somerset County Council