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Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer explains benefits to business

Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers 2020 logo

Announced last week, the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers is the new national league table showcasing England’s outstanding apprenticeship employers.

It is intended to help young people and their advisors to identify opportunities, as well as recognise businesses for their commitment to employing apprentices.

As a proud partner to 17 of the top 100, we spoke to one of those listed – Salts Healthcare – to find out more...

Salts Healthcare is a successful international manufacturer of medical devices and delivers specialist training to stoma nurses nationwide.

Lee Cattermole is Salt Healthcare's Learning and Development Manager, responsible for its pro-apprenticeship approach to staff recruitment, retention and development.

Apprenticeship levy – ‘use it or lose it’

Salts currently has 53 people studying for apprenticeships, from Level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSE passes) to Level 7 (degree level and higher). Forty of those apprentices are existing staff developing new skills to progress their career and 13 are new recruits.

"As a large employer with 600 staff, we pay the apprenticeship levy, so it makes sense to use it, rather than lose it. Apprenticeships have provided a significant uplift in skills within our existing workforce, as well as attracting new staff and ideas into the business."

Operating in a specialist sector, Salts use eleven different training partners to deliver the specific expertise they need, spanning nursing, engineering, IT and more. Providers are shortlisted on both business and learner needs, to ensure that the apprenticeship fits around their other commitments.

‘It isn’t just about getting someone onto an apprenticeship, it’s about supporting them to complete it too. We always ask “what’s the most effective way to do this?”, so the apprentice really values it and it’s not too disruptive. If people can comfortably fit in their work and study, they’re more likely to succeed and bring those benefits to the business.’

Flexible for learners, scalable for businesses

The Open University (OU) is one such partner, chosen because of the flexibility of our blended and online learning, which allows apprentices to study at a pace and place that suits them.

Sam – an existing member of the Salts Nurse Team – is studying for a Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship with The Open University. ‘As a valued member of the team, who was keen to consolidate her professional experience with a degree level qualification, Sam was an obvious choice to support through an apprenticeship,’ says Lee.

Sam works in a busy role at a local hospital, fitting her studies around her job thanks to OU’s online learning resources, which are available when Sam is. Like all OU nurse apprentices, Sam is also visited at work by a practice tutor, who helps her apply her new knowledge to her day-to-day duties.

The alternative – travelling to a bricks-and-mortar university – would have impacted negatively on Sam’s work and personal commitments, making it impossible for her to gain her degree.

"When there isn’t a provider local to your business, it is difficult to ask learners to travel for study. Advances in technology and blended learning are a great facilitator. Other universities are at different stages with their online learning offer. But The Open University have an established reputation. The maturity of the OU resource means I had no reservations using them," says Lee.

Lee sees our national reach as a major benefit to employers too. The Open University can deliver training to staff across all four nations of the UK, which is particularly helpful in education ‘cold spots’ that are remote from a physical university or suitable course.

"Apprenticeship provision in specialist areas – such as ours – can be difficult to find in local providers. We are a national organisation but often only have a few learners in any one location. With the OU, I know I can deliver an apprenticeship to a cohort in different parts of the country they’ll get a consistent, standardised experience."

Building back better

To make it onto the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer list, employers in England were independently assessed on their creation of new apprenticeships, the diversity of their new apprentices, and the progression of their apprentices onto further apprenticeships and employment.

More than 100,000 organisations in England are now apprenticeship employers. These figures reflect the growing popularity of apprenticeships to nurture talent and develop a more highly skilled workforce. 

This inaugural league table reinforces the importance of apprenticeships to the Government’s build back better agenda, post-COVID, with Boris Johnson saying:

"High-quality apprenticeships give people from all backgrounds and ages a real choice in life, providing them with the skills employers value, which our economy needs, and which lead to better paid jobs. These modern employers are at the heart of levelling up our workforce, and with the extra support we are providing will help the country build back better from coronavirus."

If you are interested in unlocking the potential of your workforce with apprenticeships, contact us today.

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