As we enter another Apprenticeship Week, it is a good time to reflect upon the huge changes and challenges around apprenticeships and also look forward to what the future holds.
UK Music, Creative & Cultural Skills and others have been working hard to ensure that not only is the music industry kept informed of the rapidly changing landscape, but also that concerns, comments and ideas on the changes are being fed back to Government in a meaningful and constructive way. It is worth noting that to have employers at the heart of the new system is massively positive.
The changes to apprenticeships have been sweeping and it has to be said not altogether successful up to now. Apprenticeship starts following the introduction of the levy and digital voucher scheme in 2017 fell significantly going from 509,400 starts in 2015/16 to 494,900 in 2016/17 and only 375,800 in 2017/18. Such a drop off puts the Government’s own target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 under this new system all but out of reach.
One interesting and positive shift however is that higher level apprenticeships (level 4 and above) have grown significantly. In 2017/18 for example there were 48,150 of these higher level apprenticeship starts compared with only 3,700 in 2011/12. This can be put down in part to companies being eager to utilise levy funds by investing in existing staff and using ‘apprenticeships’ as a way to answer the need for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Another factor is the growth of the numbers of higher apprenticeships available but this is a slow process.
Such a growth in higher level apprenticeships and a move towards CPD may have an unexpected and unwelcome negative impact however for lower level apprenticeships and entry level opportunities.
As the ‘apprenticeship’ becomes ever more useful as an in-work training and upskilling tool will companies forget the important role apprenticeships play in helping people into the industry in the first place?
Hopefully not, however the danger is that such a shift in perception away from the apprenticeship as the ‘go to’ recruitment mechanism to improve equality and diversity in the workplace may become entrenched.
Apprenticeships should remain a central offer for young people who may struggle to enter the creative workforce through the more traditional routes in the creative industries such as after a degree and as a part of a paid internship. Apprenticeships can, do in many cases and should continue to keep the creative industries diverse and fresh.
A good example of this influx of new and exciting talent into the industry via apprenticeships has seen BPI and BRIT Awards charity, The BRIT Trust, lead on the paid funding for 10 apprenticeship positions in music companies across the industry. The training provider DiVA has been working to ensure that the apprenticeships are varied, encompassing digital marketing and business administration and other facets of the music industry. The second cohort of 10 BRIT Trust apprentices are starting soon at companies as diverse as Kycker (based in Yorkshire), Champion Sound (Belfast), Asian Arts Agency (Bristol), and BMG (London). Many in the music industry are making apprenticeships core to their recruitment strategy and this trend must continue to grow.
A widely discussed issue facing the creative industries is the capacity of levy payers to utilise their digital vouchers. Changes being introduced this April could benefit the music industry as a whole if we work together. Currently levy-payers can only share up to 10% of their unspent levy funds.
However this jumps to 25% from April. Shared funds mean non levy-paying companies can benefit from having 100% of the training and assessment of their apprentices covered.
The benefits for the industry as a whole are obvious – increased skill levels through both new joiners and upskilled employees. Unspent funds are lost after two years so it would make sense for those unable to spend all their funds to assist in the talent pipeline of the music industry as a whole for the greater good in this way. UK Music is keen to help link companies who wish to explore sharing their unspent levy-funds with companies who need funds.
The ability to develop Standards that respond to industry’s needs is also key to the new apprenticeship system. Although the process of forming a ‘Trailblazer’ group of employers and then taking a Standard through initial development and then the many hoops before delivery can be arduous it is also another part of the complex jigsaw that industry must keep engaging with. There have been success stories however with the Production Services Association led Live Event Technician Standard for example recently published.
So, whether you’re a levy-payer interested in sharing your vouchers for the good of the music industry, a non levy-payer keen to discuss accessing funding for apprenticeships, interested in finding out more about apprenticeships generally or any size company with ideas on skills-gaps that need apprenticeship standards developed please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a discussion.
* Oliver Morris is UK Music’s Director of Education and Skills
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