As we know, May 2017 saw the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy for UK businesses, however one of its largest barriers seems to be that 20% of the training delivered using Levy credits, must be ‘off-the-job training’ (OTJT).
Feedback from the market place suggests that employers can be put off by this particular criterion based on the perception of what it means for their productivity.
Read on as we clear things up, discuss what is required from employers and how to tackle training without compromising on productivity.
About the requirements
Despite what most people think, OTJT isn’t a new requirement. It has been a compulsory element in apprenticeship level training for several years. However, it hasn’t been adhered to or properly enforced until the introduction of the new training standards in 2017.
With the new measures enforced, apprentices do need to spend 20% of their paid time completing ‘off-the-job training’. For most, that means the equivalent of one working day a week already accounted for, which will be checked by Ofsted inspections and audits by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
The immediate reaction from some employers is that 20% sounds like an unreasonable amount of time away from the job and could therefore have a serious impact on the productivity of their staff – one of the main reasons behind the concerns. Already, there are worries that this could be seriously hindering the government’s ambitious target of three million apprenticeships by 2020, with many employers somewhat reluctant to use the scheme.
What exactly is OTJT?
Most of the worries are fuelled by the large amount of misleading information available. That’s why it’s important to clarify what OTJT actually refers to.
According to government guidance, ‘off-the-job training’ is defined as “learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.”
While it does not include English and Maths learning, apprenticeship reviews or training taking place outside of paid working hours, there are several key inclusions in OTJT:
- Theory teaching; including lectures, simulations or online learning
- Practical training; including shadowing, mentoring and industry visits
- Learning support; including time spent writing assignments
Minimising the impact
OTJT isn’t as rigid as many employers and training providers believe. There are ways to strike the right balance between teaching new skills and maintaining productivity, but it requires the right planning and insight.
David Lynch, MD of Bis Henderson Academy, says:
The issue we see time after time is businesses seeing the requirement for 20% off the job training as an insurmountable hurdle.
The perception is that this means a full day a week, or equivalent, spent either out of the workplace or being completely unproductive. This isn’t the case, and we have proven methods for delivering the required level of support to learners whilst minimising the effect on business productivity.
Businesses can use the 20% training time as an opportunity for learners to take part in activities outside of their usual day-to-day role that will not only upskill them but give them confidence to work outside their comfort zones. These activities have been shown to work in conjunction with their learning, highlight potential talent, and minimise downtime.
It doesn’t need to be physically away from their workplace and it doesn’t necessarily mean one day per week. Instead, employers can spread training throughout the week, accounting for 20% of each apprentices’ programme. Alternatively, you can include longer periods, such as technical inductions, which provide valuable preparation for a role while counting towards OTJT.
Another key consideration is how to evidence off-the-job training. Time spent with the training provider can be confirmed in the form of the attendance records, whereas time spent at the learner’s workplace is slightly more difficult. Employers must take care to provide a log, which could be in the form of a diary, where the learner maintains a file that lists all work they have completed.
Balancing OTJT and productivity
All stakeholders of the apprenticeship programmes need to recognise how the 20% OTJT training requirement is a perfect opportunity for encouraging business growth. Through our own experience talking to our clients, the Bis Henderson Academy team has been able to develop a way to help learners participate in this requirement while remaining engaged in their day-to-day work. It has been tried and tested, with positive feedback from all involved.
How we can help
By opening employees up to activities outside of their job description, we can develop a confident workforce with passion for developing themselves. We are passionate about bridging knowledge and skills gaps with bespoke, flexible training packages, developing individuals who are motivated and equipped to succeed in our industry. Get in touch with our team today to start planning bespoke training for your workforce and make the most of your Apprenticeship Levy credits.
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