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08 Jun Setting up UK employers for failure

It's interesting that in the current Apprenticeship climate of being 'employer led', we continue to see an uncomfortable number of household names fail an Ofsted Inspection.  It's interesting because these public failings are being published at the same time that employers are being encouraged to take greater ownership. A week doesn't go by when Apprenticeships, Levy, Skills Shortages and businesses aren't mentioned.  But, will more large employers do so if the end result is that seen at Intercontinental Hotels Group, G4S and now Citroen? There are differences in the underlying detail and context for each Inspection, however there also seem to be some foundations which are at best fragile, and at worst, absent. There is a rub with employers being encouraged to own their own apprenticeship delivery, even if they don't do the delivery themselves (like Citroen) - they are often influenced by either the Skills Funding Agency, or by a 3rd party provider - who presumably is seeking to be the employers sub contracted provider.  Larger employers taking control and ownership of their own apprenticeship delivery is a good thing (IMO), but the process and expertise to get them there is lacking. The sector shouldn't 'gloss over' the accountability and requirements that a large employer needs to understand, and large employers should ensure that they have an appropriate level of expertise and skills internally in order to make the right decision regarding direct contracting for their business. My suggestions for large employers reading the Citroen headlines: 1. If you believe apprenticeships are good for your business, there is a delivery model that will work for you. 2. If you don't have internal expertise in apprenticeship delivery and contractual requirements of the Skills Funding Agency - make sure you buy some in to help you.  Work with them on Concept>Strategies>Structures>Operating Models>Resource Planning>Implementation - then decide which model is right for your business. 3. Understand where other large employers have fallen at the Inspection hurdle and search out the positive stories too. 4. Whichever delivery model you choose, make sure your senior managers own the accountability of it - it's the difference between your workforce and business seeing the output as a benefit or not. As a plug - Optima provide exactly this expertise and capacity for businesses wanting to take ownership over their own delivery of Apprenticeships....

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08 Jun Leading in challenging times – it’s tough

So, this weeks FEWeek publishes another story of leadership departures from an FE College whose Ofsted judgement has fallen to inadequate.  This is a week on from the resignation of the Principal from NESCOT amid alleged conspiracy regarding appointment of her husband to a consultancy role within the same organisation.  This is not good for sector credibility. Are we suddenly seeing a surge of incompetence and poor judgement of the senior post-holders within Further Education, or is it that FE Institutions and the role of the CEO/Principal are now very different to what they were 10-15 years ago? So many significant changes are bound to effect the role and success of an FE Institution; the term 'more for less' is an over simplification of being efficient when many large 'bricks and mortar' institutions have to make nearly all their financial savings from payroll.  Throw in to the mix revised Ofsted Common Inspection Criteria, Post-16 Area Reviews, changes to qualification frameworks and the ongoing sector initiavitus, it's not uncommon to see that the incumbent CEO/Principal has left or is leaving the institution. There's an obvious argument for accountability and 'doing the right thing' - but just changing the top post holder doesn't necessarily address the cause of the issues.  Each organisation needs to really get back to basics and understand why they are in the position they are in - simply promoting the VP or buying in an interim CEO/Principal may achieve what needs to be achieved. Being the successor in such a transition can be tough, often 'stepping up' to a higher level of responsibility to achieve what wasn't achieved before, and with less resources to do so.  I hope that aspiring leaders don't let all the headlines of CEO/Principal departures put them off - with some simple foundations, a lot can be achieved. 1. Know what needs to be done, ensure somebody is responsible for each task to do it. 2. Work with your Board to ensure you're held accountable for the right things, AND supported in getting there. 3. Communicate, communicate, communicate - up, down and across the organisation - everyone should know point 1 and progress towards it. 4. Get your processes right, stop utlising resources (people, financial) on activity that doesn't contribute to point 1 or the Strategic Plan. 5. Celebrate progress as it's made - small steps are the journey to achievement....

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16 May Top 5 tips in putting the pieces together

On the face of it, FE Colleges collaborating with regional competition to form a regional Apprenticeship company seems like a good idea. For too many years, employers have been bombarded with prospecting and sales activity from competing providers (of all flavours), often having the opposite affect on the behaviour of the employers than that was intended. Separation of the marketing activity from delivery; having a clearer go to market offer, aggregating market intelligence and providing a coherent and seamless employer journey will all improve the experience for employers. Those adopting this model though will need to ensure they meet the Ronseal test...

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16 May Why are the published financial returns not increasing Apprenticeship vacancies?

If you spend a little time to look at the promotion of Apprenticeships from the sector to businesses, you'll see some great statements, things like: Reduce your recruitment costs Improve your productivity Increase employee engagement 'Grow your own' But you'll see less hard financial statistics at a provider or employer level to back these statements up. In 2015 the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) published a report that set out some financial benefits for employers and for the economy.  One of the most interesting benefits published in this report is: The benefit to an employer of hiring an apprentice is the value of the economic output produced by an apprentice, plus any subsidies received, less wage and training costs. This equates to an average of £1,670 per annum for the average apprentice in England but can rise as high as £13,824 and £9,721 for team leadership and management, and business administration apprentices respectively. That's pretty powerful stuff isn't it?  A quantifiable NET financial benefit to business after they have paid wages and training costs! As we move to the new world of levy paying businesses purchasing training and assessment services to support their apprentices, the more Apprenticeship providers can capture and demonstrate the NET financial benefit to their customers, the greater their success will be....

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27 Apr The 5 elements to managing successful change in FE

You may have internal or external forces leading you to define a vision for change, an area review recommendation perhaps? 1. Establishing the Vision for change is often driven by the CEO and Board – a clear statement of where they want to be. Without vision you just have confusion as people are trying to change but don’t know why. 2. The Skills of the people involved in defining and managing the change are vital, without capability a college will breed a culture of anxiety. 3. Staff involved in the change need to believe there is benefit, if they can’t, they will be resistant to truly moving from their current state to a future state. 4. People and financial resources are needed to support effective change, there is little point talking about ‘transformation’ and developing new ways of working if you’re not going to give people the tools to get there – that just leads to frustration. 5. Planning and a plan make it all happen. You can have a crystal clear vision, a supportive Board with investment and willing staff to get you to the future state, but if you cut short the planning and don’t develop a plan with who does what and when, you’ll face false starts, lack of progress and, over time, reduced enthusiasm to change.  ...

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07 Apr UK PLC – don’t wait until 2017 – start strategising now!

In the world of education and skills, much has been made of the significant changes to Apprenticeships. Changes that will effect the design of the product, the increase in budget to pay for them and the decision making power when it comes to purchasing support to deliver them. It's apparent that there is significant variation in knowledge from those businesses paying the Apprenticeship Levy (tax) - specifically what it is and how they could benefit from it. c.22,000 UK businesses will be in scope for paying some level of Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017, but instead of waiting for that date to arrive and then wondering how they can benefit from some of those funds, they should start to look at concepts and strategies that complement their core business now. That could mean: Looking at current recruitment of new hire - could Apprenticeships be provided to replace/enhance current recruitment practices? Being aware of Apprenticeship 'New Standards' being developed by other businesses in the sector - reflecting on those new Apprenticeship products and their relevance to their own business. Reviewing current recruitment and L&D structures and capabilities, how could this be evolved to embed Apprenticeship delivery internally? Conducting a feasibility and options appraisal to tease out the financial impact and business improvement measures which could be achieved from embracing Apprenticeships. Speaking to other large businesses already delivering Apprenticeships as part of their business as usual talent management. Starting to plan now will help position each Apprenticeship Levy paying business for 2017 - designing a model of Apprenticeship delivery that suits their business in advance of paying the Levy will mean they could optimise the investment that they can make by utilising Apprenticeship funds back out of the system....

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14 Mar The decision to merge is the easy bit – transformation is the hard miles.

Consolidation of further education institutions is now underway - waves of sub-regional analysis and review taking place to inform recommendations about their future. Governing bodies will be jockeying for position, seeking to make the best decision for their own organisation as well as heed the recommendations. However, that's the relatively easy bit. The hard miles are in the transformation of the current state to the future state of things.  Governing bodies and executive leadership teams should not underestimate the vision, planning and leadership required to make transformation a success. One area often overlooked is the need to lead and drive delivery of transformation where there are fewer people in the future state trying to do more than was required in the current state.  Business as usual work still needs to be done. Using external expertise and capacity, that is non partisan to the organisations involved, can be an effective way of ensuring a transformation plan is delivered - working TO the governing body, WITH the executive leadership team to SUPPORT the senior management and their teams. We are likely to see more than a few dozen mergers across Further Education in the coming years - leading transformation will be vital to their success....

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02 Mar Restructuring = improved efficacy?

For those involved in Further Education, you will no doubt be aware of the large scale Post-16 Area Review programme which is now underway, a programme which seeks to consolidate the physical Further Education estate (outside of school sixth forms) to promote a smaller number of larger, supposedly stronger and resilient organisations. The outcome of the reviews will be that the organisations involved have to implement the recommendations - merger being the most popular term of the time.  A review of structure and prospects that results in a recommendation may seem like a good option as part of a strategic piece of work, but the real benefit is to get into the detail of what the organisation does, how it does it, and who does it. Restructuring allows for functions, people and resources to be 'divvied up' on a organisation chart, it doesn't actually address the underlying efficacy or architecture of work that will need to be reviewed and redesigned.  It is this piece of work (IMO) that should be prioritised in order for the new structure, organisation and people working within it to thrive. Restructuring without redesigning the architecture of work purely exacerbates the issues that existed before the change, puts additional pressure on the resources that remain and ultimately lead to further restructuring when the intended outcome is not achieved....

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24 Feb What skills will the Apprenticeship Levy create?

The rhetoric continues. Employers in the driving seat to create standards; co-investment stimulated through the introduction of the levy; growth and targets through to 2020. That's great. Above the line promotion and growth in Apprenticeships is a good thing. However, when you start to tease out some of the detail and implications though, it does raise some unanswered questions, like: If we assume that there will be increased draw on the Apprenticeship budget from those who are levy payers (which seems to be a common assumption at the moment), will the skills delivered by those 2% of employers paying the levy actually be the Apprenticeship skills the economy needs? To put it another way, there are a very large number of SME's who make up the employment of apprentices in construction and engineering who at the moment do not know how their future recruitment and development of apprentices will look. If you factor in the UKCES Careers of the Future (Dec, 2014) their research identifies a wide range of jobs which are projected to grow in volume which have virtually no large employer footprint. The SME Apprenticeship offer must be clarified quickly to ensure we can provide careers to the future Farmers, Joiners, Management Consultants (nod to Optima...

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16 Feb Designing an excellent student experience

When was the last time you tried to apply for a course at your own college?  Or, sat in reception or student services for half an hour to observe the experience students have? The student experience is much more than the perception they may have of their teacher or trainer, or the achievement of a qualification.  It's the end to end engagement with the College, from receiving marketing information right through to alumni. Colleges are large and diverse organisations, however they can all benefit from reviewing and redesigning their student experience. We suggest: Students care about details as they show the College cares about them. Colleges should redesign their student experience by breaking down what they currently do into stages and steps. If every step of every stage is improved, the overall experience will be improved far more. Every stage of the student experience needs a documented success criteria from the perspective of the student AND the College. Colleges should identify the dependencies between stages (e.g. Marketing, Engagement, IAG, Application, Enrolment) to reduce risk. Modelling how students move between touch points (e.g. College site, mobile web, student services call centre) is the key to creating a seamless journey and experience for them and increased enrolments for the College. Of course, this approach and methodology works for employer experiences too....

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