Beyond the Sales Talk:
‘It’s like the wild wild west out here – just this land ain’t got no sheriff’.
So, observed a former employee to me. She had moved from working in an arts organisation to working in the Independent Training Provider sector. She was shocked by the sharp practices, underhand tactics and blatant misrepresentation she occasionally witnessed. But it was only occasionally. There are a few cowboys but most of my colleagues in this sector are honourable people, who work in education out of passion and not just profit and who try to do the best they can for the learners and the employers.
But you might meet one of the few cowboys when looking to select an apprentice training provider so here are eight questions, created by the Creative Alliance team, that might help you work out who to work with and who to avoid.
Ask each Training Provider you encounter:
- Do I really need an apprentice?
A good provider would tell you if an apprenticeship wasn’t the right option for your business. It might be that the role you need someone to fill requires someone with the ability to come in immediately to do a job of work rather than take a few months to learn how to do it properly. Better for all parties concerned to start out knowing that an apprenticeship has a realistic chance of success.
- The role I have is xxx. Do you provide appropriate apprenticeships for that role?
An honest provider will tell you if they weren’t the best provider for you. This will probably be because the role you want to recruit to is better suited to an apprenticeship that that provider doesn’t offer. It is likely, however, that another provider will offer it. I have met apprentices who were learning how to become video content producers and were stuck on a business administration apprenticeship. The provider hadn’t told them or the employer that there was a creative & digital media apprenticeship available. It’s just they didn’t offer it although other training providers did. They didn’t want to lose the ‘sale’ irrespective of whether it was the right option for the learner and employer. If you want to see if there is a suitable apprenticeship available for your role you can check here: https://www.gov.uk/recruit-apprentice
- What do I have to do as the employer?
If they make it sound like they will do everything and you have nothing to think about they’re probably not being entirely straight with you. The legal definition of an apprenticeship is ‘a job with training’. The training is provided by both the employer and provider and should be reflected in a Training Plan attached to the agreement the Provider sets up with the employer. Being clear about everyone’s roles and responsibilities from the outset helps manage expectations and more importantly ensure success.
- How will I get the right apprentice for my workplace?
Ask the provider about their approach to recruitment. Some will have a ‘closed pool’ approach to recruitment. They have an existing pool of learners on other courses and they are looking to progress those learners onto apprenticeships. Your opportunity will only be available to this closed pool. Others have an ‘open stream’ approach and will advertise your vacancy regionally and nationally so you will select from talent looking for apprenticeship opportunities. Don’t forget though, an apprenticeship does not have to be a new start. You can progress an existing member of your team onto an apprenticeship if you want them to develop new knowledge and skills.
- What happens if the apprentice is having difficulties?
For many people, an apprenticeship marks the transition from centre based (schools, college, university) to work based learning. Like any transition in life, this can be challenging. Adjusting to the world of work and thinking of themselves as a professional and not a student can create issues. If there is ‘stuff’ going on in their personal life this can make these challenges appear more difficult. However, life happens, so ask the Training Provider what they’re done to help an apprentice sort out any problems they may be experiencing.
- Will I get someone who becomes ready to work for me?
The Training Provider should work with the employer and apprentice to tailor the apprenticeship to the best fit possible for your workplace. Apprenticeships are work based learning: the focus should be on the job not the classroom. You’ll want the apprentice to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to work for you. Does the Training Provider give you the confidence, in reply to your questions, that they’ll work with you so you get a quality employee ready to work in your industry?
- How is progress monitored and reviewed?
The Training Provider should talk about a mandatory Individual Learning Plan that is created with you and the apprentice during the first month of the apprenticeships and then a minimum of quarterly formal progress reviews. They should talk about an e-portfolio system that you have access to. More importantly you should have a sense of who you can talk to about any questions you have and get a sense that decisions are owned and acted upon.
And ask about their Qualification Success Rates for that apprenticeship. Every Training Provider has QSRs for the apprenticeships they provide issued by the Education & Skills Funding Agency.
- What happens at the end of the apprenticeship?
You should be informed that you are under no obligation to keep an apprentice on after the apprenticeship is over BUT that you should enter into the apprenticeship in the spirit of creating a job at the end of it, should business conditions allow and the apprentice prove themselves worthy of the position. All Independent Training providers are obliged to help the apprentice move on if staying with the employer is not an option. They should have the Matrix kitemark to verify the quality of their careers advice and guidance.
If you get a sense that the Training Provider is happy to replace this year’s apprentice with an identikit apprentice next year then they’re working against the spirit of the Education & Skills Funding Agency rules. What other corners will they be cutting with you?
Now you may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned checking the Ofsted Grade of a Provider. It’s a good indicator and definitely needs asking about but just bear this is mind.
- Ofsted inspect the quality of teaching & learning and assessment: critical but not the whole picture. You’ll also need to look at the quality of their employer liaison, recruitment & progression into employment credentials amongst other things.
- Ask them when they were last inspected. Those with Grade 1 Ofsted ratings may not have had a full Ofsted inspection for 7 years.
- There are many good quality Training Providers that, due to previous funding regimes, did not have their own direct government contract and had to sub-contract to deliver all their apprenticeships. If they were a sub-contractor they will have never had an independent Ofsted inspection.
The likelihood is that you will find a good quality Apprenticeship Training Provider: most are. But the more informed you are as a customer the better quality all of us Training Providers have to become.