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09 Feb Further Education is Evolving

There is greater emphasis from government that the outputs of education and training (especially in Further Education) need to prepare people for the world of work and address the skills demands of employers. One fact of change that faces Further Education is Apprenticeships.  The government has a key strategic target of delivering 3 million Apprenticeship starts between 2015 and 2020 - a 25% increase on that delivered in the previous 5 years.  Whilst this increased volume is an opportunity for those involved with the supply of Apprenticeship training and assessment, the Apprenticeship Reforms are much broader than simply a new target. The Apprenticeship product, delivery capabilities and purchasing influences are changing too.  We are already seeing the change of product as we move from c.200 sector relevant Apprenticeship Frameworks, to new employer-designed Apprenticeship Standards in the form of the Trailblazer activity; activity which looks likely to create c.1000 job specific Apprenticeship Standards by 2020.  The role of training providers, awarding organisations and professional bodies is changing too; with the addition of a new synoptic assessment for apprentices towards the end of their Apprenticeship and greater emphasis on professional and higher status for Apprenticeships too.  From next year the system will move to a budget funded by a levy on larger employers, and a purchasing influence for Apprenticeships conducted through a Digital Apprenticeship Service - businesses wishing to employ and train apprentices will choose any approved training provider they wish to work with, who will get paid directly rather than through the current tiered subcontracting ecosystem. It is likely that these reforms will encourage more competition between Apprenticeship training providers, and the purchasing influences will change the dynamic of the relationship between businesses (as employers) and training providers.  Further Education Colleges are potentially further affected where they currently sub contract part or all of their Apprenticeship provision and do not have the direct relationship or delivery capability with businesses in the communities they serve - they need to quickly review their Apprenticeship strategy in the context of their wider curriculum offer. Much of the Apprenticeship Reform detail is work in progress, however the direction of travel is clear and provides both opportunity for those to consider and adapt now, and risk to those who do nothing. By working with us, organisations can analyse, interpret, plan and implement changes in order to benefit from the Apprenticeship Reform opportunity....

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29 Jan More than just a tax #ApprenticeshipReform

So, much is being talked about in terms of 'the Levy' - the tax on approximately 2% of businesses which will be used to fund (some) Apprenticeships from 2017. But the reforms are much wider than that, and whilst the term Trailblazers will reach a point where they are no longer leading innovation and become Apprenticeship Standards, there is quite a bit for those affected by the reforms to consider and plan for in order to be best prepared. A few questions that are worth asking yourself during these times of transition: 1. How will our capability and capacity to deliver Apprenticeships change if our current provision evolves into an Apprenticeship Standard? How do we know? 2. What action can we start to take to mitigate any adverse affect on our business from point 1? 3. Will our employer customers make different choices regarding their external support for Apprenticeships once the Digital Apprenticeship Service and payment mechanism is in place? How do we know? 4. With the emergence of Trailblazers and synoptic assessments, should we review where we sit in the value chain of Apprenticeship delivery? There are plenty of questions one could suggest, but fundamentally the underlying process of supporting individuals and employers to train the workforce of tomorrow will remain - what it looks like and who does what will be a little different....

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29 Jan Is now the perfect storm for Apprenticeships?

If you are a business involved in Apprenticeships in England, you may be aware that there are some widespread changes currently underway. Not only is the Apprenticeship product changing, as we move from a standard footprint applied to a sector, to job specific standards for each Apprenticeship, we also see changes to the Apprenticeship delivery infrastructure. Training and awarding organisations are having to plan and evolve their capability and resources to be able to provide greater off the job training as well as support employers with synoptic end point assessments as they are defined in the new standards. We are also seeing a major shift in the way in which Apprenticeships are funded and procured, moving from a public purse funding system through a tiered contractor system, to a tax funded system where employers choose which external training organisations they wish to use. Couple all this with a new digital voucher system, a new government target, a new Institute for Apprenticeships and a new Delivery Board, there is opportunity ahead for those who can navigate the storm!...

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29 Oct We’re recruiting!

After a busy summer spinning various plates, we have secured a number of projects which means we are now looking to expand our team. ...

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27 May 5 steps to getting the most out of consultancy

Commissioning external consultancy costs money, done badly it can be seen as adding no value and just using financial resources, done well it is seen as an investment with output and impact.  We have been providing consultancy services for over 6 years in the fields of economic development, education and employment; and over those years, we've found that adopting a clear approach (for both client and ourselves) for consultancy support is fundamental to its success.  Here is an illustration of our 5 Step approach - simple, structured and effective. ...

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23 Apr Optima going global

Our work has now taken us overseas, quite a way in fact.  Optima Partner, Pauline Odulinski OBE has just returned from a very successful trip to Beijing China. Our work there was in response to an invitation came from the British Council, where our services were sought to lecture and facilitate a conference for Principals of Colleges in Beijing on Leadership and Management. The lively group of 60 Principals explored a wide range of best practice and the differences between the UK and China.  Great to provide this valued contribution to leadership colleagues 5,000 miles away. ...

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03 Feb Is that how we do it?!

Process mapping, work flows, diagramming.  All terms we associate with consultancy and workshops, not necessarily with business as usual.  Recent experience has highlighted how important it is for businesses and their teams to understand how they do what ever it is they do!  Sounds simple doesn't it?  But how many businesses and teams actually know...

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04 Dec What price consultancy?

  Having founded and run Optima Business Consultancy since 2009, it's been an interesting journey when you get to point of discussing price with customers. Pricing consultancy is not an exact science, but like any business price is informed by the costs of the consultancy business and the quality, skills and experience of the consultants provided. It's not uncommon to hear a customer try to correlate the notional salary of an individual in their team to a perceived 'day rate' by simply dividing the notional salary by 260. In reality the true cost of an individual is nearer to 180% of their notional salary when you include NI, Pension, Office Costs, IT Hardware/Software/Support, Payroll, HR, L&D and expenses - the consultancy business also has these costs. A crude 5 days a week multiplied by 52 weeks isn't really a true reflection either; when you factor in statutory bank holidays, 25 days leave, 5 days for sickness or exceptional leave and 4 days for company training/conferences you are actually down to a figure nearer to 220. 180% cost by 220 days gives you quite a different figure doesn't it? When using consultancy services you are effectively buying in expert knowledge, skills and experience flexibly - getting the individual or team you want to help you without the cost or the lead time of recruiting to your headcount. It would be great to be able to keep each consultant busy for 220+ days a year, however the realities are that our capacity and work flows follow the needs of our customers who are, let's say, fluid at best. More accurate to say that actual fee paying days are two thirds of capacity. So, when pricing consultancy a day rate isn't always the best way to have a constructive conversation, but if you want to focus on that price ensure you're reviewing 'apples with apples'.   ...

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