Solent holds first apprenticeships conference
We were proud to hold our first apprenticeships conference last week, focused on educating employers from the local region about apprenticeships and the benefits to their organisations.
The day was packed with informative sessions including information on how employers can maximise their apprenticeship levy, along with support to help SMEs gain 95 per cent funding for apprenticeships.
Welcoming the delegates, Professor Julie Hall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor recognised the importance of apprenticeships in providing essential skills and professional development. Solent offers 20 higher and degree apprenticeships and we're proud to be working with local and regional businesses to support our 500 apprentices on programme.
Central to the apprenticeship programme are the ESFA funding rules. Bruce Hollobone, National Account Manager for ESFA, encouraged businesses to look for quality provision that addressed their specific skills gaps. Acknowledging the recent media attention the 20 per cent off-the-job rule was getting, Bruce reiterated to delegates that it was an essential element of an apprenticeship, and the government had released updated guidance to support businesses and providers.
Sajid Butt, Strategic Skills Manager at Southampton City Council, spoke about the need for less conventional thinking around skills, with the need for businesses to be more adaptive. Key to this, Sajid felt that a more joined up approach between businesses and providers was essential for the future of skills delivery, with a focus on intermediate and higher levels at the forefront.
Picking up on the less conventional thinking idea, John Druce, Learning and Development Manager at Arqiva, gave an insight into his experience as an apprenticeship trailblazer leader. He explained that developing a new pathway offering real world skills to address specific business needs is essential to generate professionalism and productivity. Although he warned the early days of trailblazers was fraught with hurdles, the process has been much simplified, and in most cases new standards are being developed and approved within six months.
Finally, bringing all these threads together, Sarah Tilbury, Apprenticeship Development Lead at Dorset NHS, showed how they were maximising their levy, taking their pre-levy apprenticeship programme from just two courses in healthcare, to over 35 standards being offered across the organisation. Sarah attributed the success of their growing programme to a holistic approach across the county, and understanding and catering for a much more diverse range of apprenticeship opportunities to support their workforce.
The conference also included masterclasses giving delegates the opportunity to gain further knowledge in areas such as the government levy, mini masterclasses in leadership, clinical skills, cyber security for businesses and work versus study options.