It’s completely free to upskill yourself or your staff. There, that’s the important point out of the way.
Fully-funded workplace training courses exist for employers and employees across Wales, covering everything from Business Management and Customer Service to Childcare or Hair & Beauty.
They’re called apprenticeships but they don’t only reflect the traditional definition of that word. The courses are ideal for businesses looking to take on keen-to-learn youngsters and school leavers who want to earn as they learn, but the programme is also about already-employed people developing themselves and their employer’s organisation. For example, a 50-year-old senior manager can be an ‘apprentice’ on a Level 5 Leadership and Management course.
How does it work?
In short, Welsh Government selects a number of apprenticeship training suppliers and assigns them funding each year for agreed courses, to agreed numbers of learners. We’re one such provider and it’s up to us to find employers and learners who are keen to upskill and then take them through the relevant qualification step by step.
For us the focus is on quality: modern methods of learning that are tailored to the individual, and course structures that focus on outcomes for both the employer and the learner. Our goal is to help local individuals and businesses and therefore help boost our communities and the Welsh economy as a whole. Our learners do so on the job so aren’t required to miss work for training, unlike an equivalent college scheme.
In England the rules are slightly different but many of the same principals – and courses – apply so we have several clients who operate on both sides of the border yet enjoy seamless course delivery no matter where they are.
Why do apprenticeships schemes exist?
Unfortunately there are skills gaps in the Welsh economy. Welsh Government is keen to address these issues, upskilling the nation as a way of improving productivity, supporting communities and inviting investment from outside.
That’s why each year it commits millions of pounds to support training of employees and development of apprentices in all sorts of businesses and at all levels of employment. The funding is literally there, waiting to be claimed by businesses who want to offer their staff opportunities to raise their levels of skill, elevate their position and help them get on in life.
How to manage large teams of learners
Larger organisations often have their own learning and development systems in place, and struggle to see how modern apprenticeships can fit in. But the value on offer is hard to resist so they often come to us for support.
We tend to develop close relationships with their learning managers, helping them to promote the courses internally, offering bespoke websites for sign-ups and managing groups of learners into cohorts to make things logistically easier.
What are the qualifications?
As you’ll probably be aware already, there are a LOT of training courses and qualifications out there. We’re keen to promote funded apprenticeships with the appropriate level of equivalent prestige – an apprentice qualification is no more or less substantial than its college or university equivalent.
Levels 1 and 2 are often used by learners who don’t perhaps have the best qualifications as they leave school, and can form a gateway to greater things in their careers. Levels 3 and above are more challenging and represent significant boosts to skills, experience and prospects, all while working full time and not attending e.g. evening classes or college lectures. We generally offer training up to Level 5.
We also acknowledge the success of our graduates with our Gradu8 days – cap-and-gown certificate ceremonies to reward learners for their hard work and allow relatives and employers to share in the pride and prestige associated with the qualifications.
Spreading the word
The reality is that all the above should be common knowledge – there is a government fund set aside specifically to concentrate on upskilling the Welsh workforce. But so many employers (and potential learners) I meet are oblivious to what’s on offer; some even end up paying for similar or even identical courses through commercial providers, so limited is their knowledge of the funding available.
We’re determined to spread the word about funded apprenticeship schemes and workplace learning because it is such a wonderful initiative. In some cases we’ve worked with people who have faced real struggles in their lives but, through workplace learning, have managed to enhance their prospects, their incomes and their self-esteem.
The effects can be incredible and for employers, learners and the nation it’s a genuine win-win.
Ann Nicholas is Senior Account Manager at Educ8 Training, who have 14 years’ experience in delivering high quality vocational training programmes, Apprenticeships and work placement opportunities, as well as training, development and recruitment solutions to a range of micro organisations, SMEs and large corporations: www.educ8training.co.uk