05Challenge 3: Employers struggle to find the most appropriate training provider for their needs
The apprenticeship training provider market is large, complex, and often difficult to navigate. As a result, employers often struggle to find the most appropriate training provider or the best value for money.43
The new apprenticeship system will mean that employers will have greater responsibility for finding training providers. For the new system to work effectively it will require better communication and interaction between training providers and employers, and will benefit from new networks that bring together employers to design training that meets their specific needs.
Case study 6: Humber Apprenticeship Support Service: using local networks to broker relationships between employers and training providers
The Humber Apprenticeship Support Service (HASS) was set up in November 2014 to support the creation of new apprenticeships across the Humber LEP region. HASS brokers relationships between local training providers and businesses in order to support new apprenticeships. It forms one of the six spokes of the Humber LEP skills pledge, which also covers employing graduates, supporting entrepreneurship and employing young people.44 For the pledge on apprenticeships and traineeships, employers formally agree to offer a place and are offered support from the HASS to enable them to do so.
HASS brokers relationships between partners in order to better match up the supply and demand of skills across the region. It works with employers to identify their needs, and provides them with the information and support required to create an apprenticeship. They provide information on how the system works and the types of frameworks available, as well as direct support for employers including work readiness training for apprentices and managing communications between training providers, apprentices and employers.
In the first 5 months of the scheme, HASS engaged 338 businesses and delivered 33 apprenticeship starts. By January 2016, that number had increased to 167 apprenticeship starts.
Much of the success of the HASS has been ascribed to the Humber LEP’s ability to build on strong existing networks that had been present prior to its creation, between employers and the business community, local authorities and colleges, the Chamber of Commerce, the University of Hull, and the SFA. The relatively small geographic scale of the area and the longevity of businesses in the Humber also helped to support the effectiveness of relationships within the network.
As a pilot scheme, funding was always a challenge for HASS: it was set up to test demand and supported with funding from the European Social Fund programme via the Humber Regional Growth Fund. The scheme was extended until December 2015, and the LEP plans to use European funds to support a further programme building on lessons learned, currently named HASS 2.43
Case study 7: Apprenticeship 2000, Charlotte, North Carolina: employers coming together to collaborate on training solutions
In 1995, Blum, a bespoke furniture fittings manufacturer from Charlotte, North Carolina, was struggling to recruit skilled technicians. Looking to take a more direct role in developing the skills that they needed, they and the other founding firm, Daetwyler, formed a cooperative and approached Central Piedmont Community College about supplying classroom-based training in order to create a bespoke apprenticeship scheme for the partner companies.46 In 1996, Apprenticeship 2000 grew to incorporate six partner companies working across the mechatronics, tool and die machining industries.
The sponsoring companies pay for training costs, as well as paying the apprentices wages. A job is guaranteed at the end of the programme, and apprentices receive an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Mechatronics Technology, as well as a Journeyman’s Certificate from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.47
By coming together to define their needs, and then approaching the local college with an offer, the partner companies were able to develop a scheme which supported their specific technical requirements. Over time, as a relationship developed with Central Piedmont Community College, they were able to have input into the curriculum. Partner companies assisted in providing some of the high-quality laboratory equipment for schools to support training, and some companies, such as Blum, developed their own separate training facilities to provide on-site training that would not pose a risk to high-value production line equipment and goods.
The scheme works because partners clearly see the value in their investment. For the partner companies, the scheme fills technical skills gaps. For apprentices, the offer of high quality training free of charge, alongside the guarantee of good jobs with career progression, meant a significant buy-in to the scheme. And for colleges, several have reported that Apprenticeship 2000 apprentices demonstrate good behaviour, consistently hand in homework and achieve higher grades than other students.43
Anecdotally, partner companies have reported increases in production efficiencies over the course of the scheme. In August 2012, the programme received a Trailblazers and Innovators award from the US Department of Labour. Since 1995 136 students have graduated and 49 apprentices are currently enrolled. The scheme is entirely funded by the partner employers and the scheme now has chapters right across North Carolina with 50 different companies.
In the UK, Group Training Associations (GTAs) offer a similar model for developing employer-led training. GTAs are membership groups of local companies who come together to train apprenticeships collectively. They often provide a large part of the training in-house, and tend to specialise in a particular industry, which has historically tended to be in construction or manufacturing.43
The examples highlight different ways in which employers and training providers can work together to support effective training programmes for apprenticeships. The HASS example illustrates how external partners such as LEPs can be effective in playing a brokerage role between training providers and employers, which is particularly valuable for smaller employers without significant administrative capacity. Apprenticeship 2000, meanwhile, demonstrates how larger firms, or collections of firms, with very specific training needs can work together to develop training programmes either with external training providers or internally.