Lisa Clark runs iSales Academy Ltd, a specialist technical and leadership apprenticeship training provider who works with small local employers mostly in the Watford area and they are currently supporting around 50 apprentices.
iSales Academy works in partnership with West Herts College and provides courses that they don’t. The bulk of the apprentices who Lisa works with are school and college leavers and graduates, across a range of sectors. Increasingly however it is the businesses looking to upskill their existing workforce who Lisa is keen to reach out to and work with. Lisa hopes to grow awareness of the apprenticeship levy fund for employers and increase the number of apprenticeships in the region.
Lisa comments: “A lot of employers are not aware that they can use their apprenticeship levy funds to upskill their existing team members. For example, for one local employer we have put together a bespoke training programme using the funding, which is being used to train all of their existing managers and upskill their management capability across the business.”
For a business wanting to access the levy funding, Lisa’s advice is simple: “If the employer is a levy payer, then the total cost of the training will come from their levy fund. If they are a smaller employer, the maximum amount that they pay is 5% of the cost of the training, with the remaining 95% paid for by the levy pot. Therefore, training is highly subsidised for many businesses, but many are not aware of it or how to access it.”
“All of the apprenticeship training which we offer comes with qualifications at the end of them, of varying different levels. The courses also vary in length, with the shortest a 13 month course. The longest course is 24 months, but often apprentices will extend them for longer to enable them to complete everything. This also means part time workers can still have access to the apprenticeship training, but the course would take them longer to complete, as they have to spend 20% of their working time doing the training.”
“The great thing about apprenticeships noww is that they are accessible to all, regardless of age and many people are using them to help change career after a number of years in another role. They are also being used by people returning to the workforce after taking time out to raise a family, care for loved ones or if they have been in poor health. It’s also a good way to refresh existing skills, for example if you want to work in marketing but have been taught more traditional methods and now need to understand and learn more about the digital world.”
“Many employers, especially smaller firms don’t know how to access the funding and the training or don’t have the time to look into it and set it up. Our job is to step in and to support them and to make it as easy as possible for them and their team. We take them through all the paperwork and give them guidance and assistance. Ultimately all businesses can benefit from the scheme, as it can help them to retain staff and it can help them to grow, especially if they can develop key competencies in their managers or their sales team.”
Finally, there is also an opportunity for employers to create their own training standards. Lisa concludes: “It requires the collaboration of employers and they can develop a new standard and a new apprenticeship programme that meets their needs using a trailblazer process. I’ve been involved in a couple of them and the employers have the power to say this is what we want them to be and the skills we want them to be developing, which are best aligned to their business.”