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Why are employers letting their apprenticeship levy funds expire?

We attended the first CIPD Early Careers and Apprenticeships event last week, where an informal poll showed that 90% of employers in attendance were not yet spending their full apprenticeship levy – despite the fact that their levy funds will start to expire in May this year.

Attendees cited many reasons for this – the dramatic yet rushed change to how apprenticeships are funded and regulated in the UK; the challenges of getting line manager approval for Directors of L&D and HR; issues with End Point Assessments and new standards still not being available – but one consistent barrier across all organisations was having to provide 20% Off-The-Job Training for every apprenticeship. This can be a daunting prospect, but there are increasingly flexible ways that the 20% Off-The-Job requirement can be met, particularly where employers are using a blended learning approach that meets their needs.

As illustrated in the Department for Education’s guidance ‘Apprenticeship Off-the-Job Training: Policy background and examples’, there are three distinct styles of blended learning:

1. On Demand
The first example considers an ‘on demand’ style, giving learners the flexibility to access “high-quality videos, animations, check learning questions, quizzes, case studies and external resources” when it suits them. Designed to fit around their work commitments, this on-demand content would be supported by face-to-face sessions to consolidate learning.

2. Live Online
In contrast to the on-demand style, the ‘live online’ approach requires the apprentice to “participate in a dedicated weekly virtual forum with peers, where she can also access virtual seminars, academic resources and case studies, share experiences with peers and perform project work.”.

3. E-portfolio
The final example considers the benefits of an e-portfolio where the apprentice “builds up a portfolio of evidence through his assignments, reflective journal log, workplace observations and projects.”.

Common Thread
So, what – if anything – ties these examples of blended learning together?

While the styles are notably different, each example clearly states the learner, their needs and their subject matter. As you would hope, these factors are the driver behind creating the right type of blended learning that allows apprentices to thrive.

As technology continues to advance, it’s clear that the appetite for high-quality digital learning will grow, and the beauty of blended learning is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. When combined with unparalleled local knowledge, this flexibility of delivery means that colleges can offer the iteration that best meets the needs of their communities – making it an attractive offer for local businesses keen to develop their staff, and make the most of their levy funds.

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