This April sees the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, through which all UK employers with annual salary bills of more than £3 million will pay a tax towards apprenticeships training.
No one can argue that, over the past year, there have been a number of surprises that have caused businesses to worry about the bigger political and economic environment in which they are operating. Perhaps, as a result, some recent surveys have suggested that many are still confused or unaware of the implications of the levy, while others suggest their existing training programmes are adequate to meet industry needs.
However, the levy is a game changer. Employers and educators across Scotland and the UK have been consulted to build this step change, and these are employer-led programmes. Arguably, this change will have a seismic effect in the delivery of further and higher education in Scotland and the UK for a number of years to come.
For many, apprenticeship still has a very particular meaning: a young person securing a job and an education at the same time, combining college or university day release with a full-time apprenticeship role. But the definition has now evolved to include re-skilling or up-skilling of existing employees. Apprenticeship is no longer synonymous with job creation and this is important for industry and public sector organisations, compelled to shift and shape the skills and knowledge of their workforce towards a sustainable future.
So while apprenticeships do cater for young people, they also provide for those in work who wish to re-train, top up their existing education, or take the opportunity to finally get that piece of paper that has eluded them for a number of years because life and work simply got in the way.
Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) aim has always been to build mechanisms to provide more opportunity and greater access for those who may think they can’t afford it, believe the opportunity has simply passed them by, or believe they aren’t able to achieve a higher-education qualification. I was one of those people and getting a degree has been one of the most worthwhile and empowering things that I have achieved.
Graduate Level Apprenticeships (GLAs) offer an exciting new approach to skills development, providing individuals with the opportunity to enhance their career prospects while earning and studying to degree level. What the employer gains is an optimised, applied graduate, schooled in the systems and processes of the business and wise to the operating challenges of the market.
For the past 10 years at GCU, our work-based education model has focused on working with employers to co-create programmes designed to tackle skills and knowledge gaps which enable the successful delivery of organisational strategy. Public sector, local government, rail and utilities are some of the sectors to benefit from this creative approach to higher education for working people.
GCU is proud to continue its heritage in work-based education as the first university in Scotland to have been awarded a GLA in Software Development for Business, developed by Skills Development Scotland and in partnership with CGI UK (a global IT organisation), starting in May this year. The University will also offer a GLA in IT Management for Business, while an Engineering Design and Manufacturing programme will start later in the year.
Graduate Level Apprentices will be recruited and employed by a participating sector-relevant company and study part time towards a four-year honours degree at GCU. The degrees will be delivered over three semesters rather than two, using a blended model of teaching and work-based assignments. Although the initial three programmes are to Honours Degree level, the concept is ultimately to provide work-based learning opportunities up to Masters-degree level for employees.
If your organisation is being taxed through the levy, I am sure you will be paying close attention to how to get a return on it. And, if you will indulge a little self-promotion, GCU really knows how to do work-based education well. We are hosting a number of employer-led events to demystify the levy and create opportunities for meaningful change. The first event is on Tuesday, 25 April. Employers will be given the opportunity to hear from some of our work-based clients and their needs will be listened to. We will explain how we can be of real service to deliver useful, flexible, GLAs together.
GLAs have the potential to transform the way that people access higher education and provide opportunities for employers to help shape the skills of their employees.
Claire Young, GCU Head of Business and Partnerships