Calderdale employers must tackle perception issues to benefit from Levy funds

The forum met at Covea Insurance back in May
The forum met at Covea Insurance back in May

Employers must tackle perception issues surrounding apprenticeships in order to benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy, according to the Calderdale Skills Forum which met for the first time in May.

A report published by Calderdale Council and Calderdale College captures findings from the first forum meeting, where major employers discussed the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy on businesses in the district.

Discussing their use of the Levy so far, the district’s largest employers warned that negative perceptions of being an apprentice is affecting take-up of courses, particularly amongst older members of staff. It was claimed that many employees believe apprenticeships are for young or new members of staff.

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Pamela Wood, Lead for Apprenticeships and Essential Skills at the Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is still a need to dispel myths and stigma before we can persuade older workers to become an apprentice. The terminology is proving to be an issue.”

The rise in the importance of soft skills was also recognised by members of the forum, who highlighted their focus on personal qualities and attributes over qualifications.

Chris Atkinson, Apprenticeship and Engagement Manager at Nestlé, commented: “Our apprentices need to meet minimum academic qualifications, otherwise they won’t complete the apprenticeship, but other qualities are in some cases more important, such as passion and interpersonal skills.”

When recruiting young people, a lack of support from schools was noted as a significant barrier, and the shift from frameworks to standards caused uncertainty when creating job specifications.

John Rees, Principal and Chief Executive of Calderdale College, said of the findings: “We were surprised to see that very few companies have truly benefited from the Levy funding more than a year after it came into place. But it was interesting listening to their views and the reasons why they haven’t benefited.

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“There’s still a need to dispel myths around apprenticeships and to highlight that they aren’t just for new members of staff; they can be a vehicle to develop the whole workforce. We can provide higher level skills to those employees that are ready to take their careers to the next stage so that they can become future leaders and managers.

“By working together, we can tackle the issues raised and ensure we are all getting the most out of the money available.”

Calderdale College is the largest provider of apprenticeships and was recently rated Outstanding by Ofsted for its apprenticeship provision.

Robin Tuddenham, Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, added: “We’re working with residents and businesses to create our clearly defined vision for Calderdale to become a place that is enterprising and talented. Events like our recent Skills Forum are a key part of this process.

“It’s also important we provide Levy-paying employers in Calderdale with their own platform to share their experiences on the Levy. There are discussions around the Levy happening across the country, and it’s essential that we tackle this at a local level and come up with positive, tangible solutions to help them reap the benefits.”

It was agreed by the forum to continue to meet and discuss key skills issues affecting the local workforce.

Matthew Metcalfe, Senior Manager at Covea Insurance, commented: “It was incredibly useful being able to meet other employers in the district and share our experiences of the Levy and apprenticeship recruitment. This is the only skills network for employers in Calderdale, so it’s important we take advantage of this opportunity to collaborate to ensure we are harnessing local talent.”

The next meeting is scheduled to take place at Lloyds Banking Group on October 22.

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