Here are just a few of the insights shared at the event:
Line managers continue to be the biggest factor affecting engagement
Accountancy firms continue to face challenges in establishing engagement with the skills and behaviours elements of the apprenticeship; particularly where an existing professional qualification programme has been converted to an apprenticeship. Employers agreed that such resistance is transitory in nature and a natural consequence of implementing such a fundamental change. Line managers in particular are a critical group and their support in encouraging apprentices to recognise and evidence new learning is fundamental to the success of any programme.
Those training apprentices in industry faced less of a challenge in this area. Employers who have embedded the skills and behaviours within their performance management and appraisal structures have seen enhanced engagement of apprentices and line managers.
The importance of careful ‘gateway’ planning
The purpose of the ‘gateway’ review in agreeing that an apprentice is ready to proceed onto the End Point Assessment is not yet widely understood by employers, who will be looking to training providers to help plan the gateway review process effectively and provide detailed guidance. The timing of the gateway point impacts on the proportion of 20% off the job training required within the apprenticeship; therefore associated impacts must be carefully considered when planning out a programme.
Changes to the Level 4 funding band
The reduction of the Level 4 Professional Accounting / Tax Technician funding band from £9000 to £8000 is expected to take effect from Spring 2019 – employers with Level 4 January intakes are encouraged to sign up apprentices on these programmes as early as possible in the new year. Both employers and training providers recognise that there is a conflict between the reduction of funding caps and the drive from Ofsted to increase quality.
Employers are seeking simplification of the sign up process
The need for evidence of prior learning, eligibility checks and a commitment from both the employer and the learner to the apprenticeship requirements has resulted in protracted sign up processes which were not previously required under professional qualification only routes.
Employers who ‘front-load’ much of this evidence gathering at the recruitment stage have found that the administrative burden is eased somewhat and duplication in obtaining this information for the training provider can be avoided.
Particular frustration was expressed around the inconsistency of the requirement for evidence of functional skills attainment in English and Maths where students already hold a degree which is well above GCSE level, which can undermine engagement from apprentices on higher level programmes.
What does the future hold?
Future evolution of the accountancy standards is expected to recognise the growing need for technology and innovative skills for future accounting professionals. The introduction of ‘T-Level’ standards from 2021 could present another change in the approach to accountancy training. A consultation process is taking place with employers over the coming weeks on the implementation of these standards, immediately focussing on Education and Childcare, Construction and Digital standards with further consultations expected for accountancy T-Levels.
Martin Taylor, Chairman at First Intuition, said of the event: “Great to see so many of the FI client community at our breakfast event this week. The huge topic of accountancy apprenticeships cannot be covered off in 90 minutes but the sense that ‘everyone was in it together’ and that the Co-Chair of the Trailblazer group was able to hear from a wider group of employers was welcomed by everyone. I am looking forward to hosting more of these events in 2019”.
Do you agree with the points raised by the group, or do you have a different view? What topics would you like to see us covering at future insight events? We’d love to hear from you – get in touch.