How do I support employers new to the apprenticeship service?

Our Quality and Compliance Director, Lesley Rimmington, has shared eight top tips on how to support employers who are new to the apprenticeship service, for the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Since 1 April, all new apprenticeships are managed and funded using the apprenticeship service, which means that employers hiring apprentices need to have an apprenticeship service account. Lesley’s advice is intended to help other training providers to be better equipped at supporting their employers through the transition.

1. Equip your teams for the new world

At Realise, we recently ran refresher training for our business development teams. Our colleagues speaking to employers need to know about more than apprenticeship programmes and standards – they need to understand how the apprenticeship service works, and the process of setting up an employer account and adding an apprentice.

2. Identify who’s going to need extra support

We’ve found the smallest businesses need the most help, as they are unlikely to have a member of staff dedicated to HR or training. Depending on the sector, they might not even have access to a computer. They will need you to walk them through what they need to do.

3. Leave enough time

It will probably take employers longer than you think to get everything set up, so it’s a good idea to make a start well in advance of the first day of learning.

4. Talk to the right person

Your employer contact needs to have the appropriate level of authority. For example, with co-investment, they should have the ability to approve costs, to avoid awkward conversations later on.

5. Work out your support process

At Realise, we’ve set up a support team to help employers use the apprenticeship service and nudge them to do their bit when needed. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone – but there are other things you could do, for example making sure employers have watched the apprenticeship service support videos, providing them with a to do list to work through, including the information they need to have collected before they start setting up an account, or running walk-through video calls where the employer shares their screen for you to guide them.

6. Be flexible

No two employers are the same. For example, we’ve found that some employers want to reserve their own funding, others don’t. We’ve trained our teams on both processes, so we can accommodate employers’ needs.

7. Manage employer expectations

We find it’s helpful to explain to employers how provider permissions work: what we can do for them, and what they need to do themselves. It’s no longer the case that the provider can look after everything. Be prepared to chase them to do their bit!

8. Speak to other providers

The last year has certainly been a journey for us at Realise, as we’ve adapted to this new way of working with employers. We are all going through this change at the same time, so sharing experiences and learning from each other just makes sense. Feel free to get in touch! 

This article has been reproduced from an original copy sent by the ESFA on 5 May 2021.

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