Apprenticeships are the hot topic everyone is talking about. HR and People Ops teams are quickly getting up to speed on how the Apprenticeship Levy works and how they can use it both to train new hires and upskill existing employees. But in this new world, how can you be sure that the partner you’re working with is going to deliver outstanding training to your teams?

Employers have a huge amount of power to shape the future of apprenticeships, and by extension our education system, with the introduction of the Levy. They also have an obligation to their employees to ensure that the partnerships they forge are of the highest quality. By refusing to accept anything less than outstanding training and a high quality service, they will ultimately dictate what great apprenticeships look like and ensure quality provision becomes the norm rather than the exception.

So here are the 5 questions all employers should be asking their apprenticeship provider.

1. How does your recruitment process work?

It’s essential that this process is robust and fair, and that it encourages diversity, equality and inclusion. The right provider will have strong links with a broad range of schools and community groups, and a vocal social media presence to reach as many people as possible. They will also place a strong emphasis on helping those they put forward to succeed at interview. Important things to focus on here are:

  • What sort of stages do they put prospective apprentices through?
  • What data points do they consider important indicators of future success?
  • What measures do they take to ensure diversity among their candidates and remove bias from the process?
  • How do they set their candidates up for success in the interviews/assessment centres they will need to go through?
  • How do they create an outstanding candidate experience?

2. How do you encourage apprentices to think beyond their qualification?

An apprenticeship should only be the first step in building a long-term, successful career for an apprentice. It is important that the applied learning of an apprenticeship is contextualised within a suitably broad setting. Areas to dig into are:

  • What steps do they take to ensure that apprentices are looking beyond their apprenticeship to their future careers, e.g. how do they encourage a growth mindset?
  • How aware are apprentices of the potential pathways that exist once they complete their qualification?

3. How do you select those individuals actually delivering the apprenticeship?

The person delivering the training (at WhiteHat “the coach”) will have a huge amount of impact on the current and future success of the apprentice. They need to be fully invested in their apprentice’s success and able to provide the right guidance while imparting domain specific knowledge. Ask the following questions of your provider:

  • Does the person delivering the training have deep and specialist knowledge of what they’re teaching, or have they simply taken an assessing qualification?
  • Is there a rigorous process of internal accreditation to ensure their delivery team are adept at delivering new standards?
  • Have they reached beyond traditional apprenticeship practitioners to take advantage of the greater flexibility offered by new apprenticeship standards?

4. What additional content/learning do you provide beyond what is required for the apprenticeship?

This area is a critical one given the new flexibility afforded by standards. With a few exceptions, standards are generally much better for employers and apprentices than frameworks. Make sure your provider is delivering something that works for you, rather than something that purely works for them. Key questions to ask include:

  • Is your provider merely delivering the minimum required by the apprenticeship? Or do they provide additional learning/social experiences beyond the qualification?
  • Are they delivering standards rather than frameworks wherever possible?
  • Do they provide additional workshops for apprentices and layer in additional support, e.g. provide them with access to external mentors?

5. Who designs the training you deliver?

Apprenticeships ought to be engaging and focused on supporting critical thinking as well as the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to perform a role; if a provider sticks to the bare minimum required by the apprenticeship, this is unlikely to be the case. Dig in to the following areas:

  • What do they do to ensure the content remains innovative and incorporates the latest developments in their subject field?
  • Have they leant on external expertise or is the content simply designed by the person delivering the learning?
  • How is the content hosted and is it accessible remotely and for both apprentice and their employer?

Hopefully these questions provide a helpful reference point for any employers looking to determine who they work with. If you want an apprenticeship programme you can be proud of and use to promote diversity, create new opportunities, and inspire others, then the right partnership is crucial. It will play a significant role in how your apprenticeship programme is perceived both internally and externally.

Apprenticeship providers represent your brand and train your next generation of leaders; so make sure you’re fully aligned in terms of approach and values.