Apprenticeships: What can we expect in 2020?
Compared to four or five years ago when perhaps 5% of our learners were apprentices, many of our intakes in 2019 were made up of more than 50% apprentices. This swing is a powerful indication of the relevance to employers of the many valuable additional workplace skills and behaviours that apprentices acquire during their training.
Developments from Department for Education (DfE), Trailblazer Groups, Regulators and ESFA
- We expect full reviews of the Level 4 Accounting Technician and Level 7 Professional Accountant standards
Reviews undertaken in other industries have proved a great opportunity for employers and training providers to provide feedback. Specifically, on where the knowledge, skills and behaviours contained in the standards need to be re-examined in addition to whether the assessment approaches remain appropriate. We don’t expect major changes to the overall look and feel of the standards but we will be canvassing our employers to ensure their voices are heard.
Please feel free to let your local FI contact know if you have any input.
- Funding cap review for Level 7 Professional Accountant
As occurred with the Level 4 standard in 2018, we expect a funding cap review for Level 7 in 2020. The approach the DfE takes with cap reviews is to request a number of costing submissions from training providers. At FI we have a completely transparent approach to pricing our programmes which should form a useful basis for the government’s consideration.
Given the national shortage of available levy funding that has been revealed in the last year, it seems pragmatic to expect a reduction in the Level 7 cap. Consequently, this may necessitate changes to delivery approaches. With the uncertainty over the implications of the transition of SME’s onto the Digital Apprenticeship Service in coming months, a cap review would add another layer of concern for many employers.
- Ofsted and the Office for Students (OfS)
Ofsted currently regulates the quality of education up to Level 5 programmes. The newly created OfS is charged with regulating the quality of Level 6 and Level 7 programmes. This creates an interesting dynamic for training providers such as FI, who deliver programmes from Level 3 to Level 7. Although we adopt consistent approaches and processes from ‘bottom to top’ to ensure smooth learner progression, we now face regulation by two different bodies. Furthermore, the extent to which they will be consistent in their inspection approaches is unclear.
We support the changes to Ofsted’s inspection process, which focuses less on faceless data and more on the experiences of the apprentices and the impact that their programme has had on their careers. We hope that the OfS will be taking a similar approach.
Apprenticeship Developments at FI
We are anticipating an exciting year ahead, with a number of significant developments to our courses and programmes during 2020.
- Expansion of our national delivery network
We are unique in our industry in our ongoing commitment to face-to-face delivery and to building local teams to work with local clients. Distance learning is certainly an important part of our offering, but online programmes complement what we do in the classroom, rather than act as a substitute.
Over the last few years, we have rapidly increased our national coverage and 2020 will see further growth; delivering more course programmes in more locations. We have been establishing new centres in major cities such as Leeds and Birmingham, but have also been expanding the number of qualifications that we offer in locations like Norwich, Sheffield, Southampton, Peterborough and Ipswich.
2020 will see us further consolidate relationships in those local markets which are so important to us.
- Enhanced Impact Skills Programme
One of the most exciting things about the new apprenticeship standards is the additional career-relevant skills and behaviours that are included. Students don’t just learn traditional technical knowledge in areas such as financial and management accounting, tax and business strategy. They also attend face-to-face workshops that help them develop in critical areas like communication, critical thinking, negotiation and leadership. These workshops have a profound effect on the confidence the students demonstrate in the workplace.
Conversations with employers (and awarding bodies) over the last year have confirmed just how important these additional skills are becoming to the career of the modern accountant. Processing transactions simply isn’t enough anymore. Analysis, interpretation, decision-making and advisory are all essential tools to succeed in finance. As one client said to me recently “we are not just training accountants, we are developing leaders.”
To ensure that delivery of these skills and behaviours isn’t just a valueless box-ticking exercise, we have developed a comprehensive Impact Skills Programme that is interwoven into the on-programme phase of our apprenticeships. We recently spent time talking to our clients about the skills they deem important for their trainees to develop so that we could ensure these were highlighted and prioritised.
- Leadership and Management
Many of the accountancy students that we help to achieve their professional qualifications rapidly move into management positions with little or no formal management training. Our understanding of the organisations that we work with and the close relationships we already have puts us in an ideal position to help these ‘accidental managers’ to develop the skills they need.
As a natural extension of our Impact Skills Programme, we have started delivering Leadership & Management programmes at Level 3 and Level 5, accredited by the CMI. These programmes allow chartered accountants we have trained to move on to become chartered managers. As a result, this allows them to make that next step in their career with full training and support, maximising their chance of succeeding for themselves and their organisations.