The L&D leadership challenge: Decreasing budgets and increasing expectations

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Written by Kate Temple-Brown on 18 March 2021 in Features
Features

Kate Temple-Brown offers an innovative, collaborative solution to decreasing budgets using the Apprenticeship Levy.

Over the course of last decade, the learning and development role in most organisations has been tough. More often than not, it’s the first budget to be cut, the easiest function to challenge about impact and the first to be asked to demonstrate efficiency. In 2021, the disconnect between expectation and capitalisation has never been greater.

To make matters yet more challenging, our fast changing working world and environment is intrinsically linked to a burgeoning capability and skills gap that is a growing responsibility for the L&D team in a world where budgets are being cut and teams restructured. It does beg the question that if it’s such a burning issue with clear ownership, why are those budgets being cut and teams amalgamated?

The advent of the 0.5% apprenticeship levy has resulted in many L&D budgets being removed and forcing many L&D leaders to quickly become funding experts in order to regain budget control in the form of apprentice funding.

This has meant navigating the challenging world of apprenticeship standards and the rigour required in order to align these standards to their specific workplace and industry sector. Let alone understanding how to win the hearts and minds of their workforce when they’re presenting this format for learning – something which is still sadly viewed as autocratic and onerous.

The answer lies in partnerships, both internally and externally. Partnerships between internal functions and supported with external specialists. Connecting L&D strategy with recruitment and diversity teams

But what if you don’t want to deliver year-long programmes based on generic standardised curricula with names like water process operative or gas network craftsperson?

Levy, levy everywhere but not a pound to spend

I am sure it feels like the worst of both worlds; ‘levy, levy everywhere but not a pound to spend.’ At least not on relevant and behavioural or capability changing programmes that fit with your learning culture and business goals. The net result, unspent levy continues. Learning programmes diminish as L&D leaders struggle to make the transition.

However the apprenticeship opportunity is a great way for L&D to maximise budgets and put development at the heart of their business strategic goals. A radical approach and it’s not going to happen overnight. And, potentially, it’s going to take more than one organisation or those huge enough to have specific apprentice teams who can fathom this out, to make the shift.

The answer lies in partnerships, both internally and externally. Partnerships between internal functions and supported with external specialists. Connecting L&D strategy with recruitment and diversity teams. 

A host of new and unique new skills and capabilities are going to be required in order for employers to succeed. The best solution is to hire for motivation and transferable skills and then put all new hires onto a relevant apprenticeship as an orientation and foundation or introduction to your industry.

However, not all of your employees will need the same level of development and, as stated before, budgets are tight.

Fortunately, it’s possible to partner with some training partners in a consultative and supportive manner in order to ensure that once a number of learners are fully funded through the levy they can be more flexible in sharing elements of the apprenticeship more broadly across your existing employee population

Innovative thinking

You need to look at the knowledge, skills and behaviours delivered through a standard and consider the specific learning requirements for your organisation or industry sector.

For example, you could choose a foundational development programme such as data technician level 3 and hire 30 people from all different backgrounds – sector swappers, school leavers or graduates. You know that everyone in your business will need a fundamental understanding of data regardless of their role and this programme can be that foundation. 

Once those 30 new hires have been properly onboarded (the whole process can be outsourced to a responsible provider) you can choose a further three elements of a programme which are specific to your organisations learning requirement yet funded by the levy.

Does it sound too good to be true? It allows organisations to work with specialists to pull out particularly relevant or fundamental learnings from the broader apprenticeships that can be delivered virtually to a larger group of existing employees as a virtual classroom.

Today’s challenging and fast developing working environment is calling for equally fast moving and innovative solutions. Working closely with a training provider that has a more flexible attitude to apprenticeship standards will allow you to truly maximise the apprenticeship opportunity in a way that is relevant to your organisational needs today.

 

About the author

Kate Temple-Brown is client director at Opportunity Group

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