Medway Council continues to embrace its responsibilities under the Apprenticeship Levy and has again exceeded the accompanying public sector target. We were also named one of the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers.

We're proud to have achieved 61 new apprenticeship programme starts between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, exceeding our 2.3% public sector target again this year.

What actions we've taken to achieve this

1. Continuing to resource our Apprenticeship Academy. This means the officers involved can actively promote apprenticeships, wherever and whenever possible. This will generate more awareness and understanding of the opportunities that apprenticeships offer to departments and services.

Apprenticeships can also enable existing staff to progress their professional development and career prospects. We have achieved this by continuing to provide resources and services to our apprentices such as regular monthly forums (which we adapted to deliver virtually).

We also promoted our Apprenticeship Academy success in being named one of the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers, with apprentice case studies, via the council's social media accounts and press reports, especially during National Apprenticeship Week. These activities have generated considerable interest in our apprenticeship offer at Medway Council and raised a greater awareness and appreciation of the fantastic opportunities we are offering, through our apprenticeships provision.

2. Continuing to monitor the new apprenticeship programmes being approved by the IfATE. We will continue promoting these to our many varied teams and departments within the authority. This is to raise awareness of the multitude of career development opportunities available to existing staff.

These actions continue to build on the apprenticeship programme successes of previous years. This is a trajectory we hope to replicate in the forthcoming year.

Challenges we faced in our efforts to meet the target

As an organisation we have not just met, but exceeded, our target. However, we still faced challenges. The target continues to be imposed against our gross headcount figure, not full time equivalent. This gives a false reflection on the size of our workforce and organisational potential to support apprenticeships, especially taking into consideration how many of our staff work low part-time hours (particularly within schools).

It was also a challenge because we have to include our schools workforce in our figures, yet our schools have devolved employer status and can choose to ignore our advice and offer of support for apprenticeships. We have a few schools who are keen to utilise apprenticeships, but the others remain largely disinterested despite the continued communication, advice and support offered around apprenticeships, by our HR Schools team.

A huge challenge for the entire organisation and the world, this year was the global pandemic. We adapted to virtual ways of working and ensured we were still able to offer advice, support and guidance to all those on programme.

We also worked with training providers to ensure we were still able to offer all programmes to our staff who wish to upskill. This was a huge challenge as we had to get used to different platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and we had to provide guidance on how to use these platforms even though we were still learning as well.

Some of our apprentices whose work areas were closed, such as leisure centres and libraries, continued to work in other areas to support the pandemic work. This included social care and public health. This gave them opportunities to broaden their personal skills, such as communication and organisation. All our apprentices volunteered to support these schemes.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has also affected the day-to-day support we corporately give our apprentices when we are all working virtually. We set up our monthly Apprentice Forums to run via an online platform, ensuring that the regular group interactions between all our apprentices were continued.

We also sent out regular wellbeing updates and questionnaires, to keep communication on-going and to help to mitigate apprentices feeling isolated. This also helped to capture any other issues or problems they were facing, that we could help with. These activities were well received and supported, and we hope that our retention of apprentices will not be affected by the current pandemic.

How we're planning to ensure we meet the target in future

We will continue to progress largely in the way that we are currently doing, which is achieving all our organisational aims regarding apprenticeships.

Our strategy to widely promote apprenticeships locally, is enticing young people to consider us as an apprenticeship employer of choice within the region - which is our aspiration. We offer a diverse range of apprentice roles, at all levels, enabling us to grow our own workforce and help us future-proof our organisation.

Our project to engage with our leaving care young people continues, with some successes and, as the corporate parent, we intend to continue prioritising this initiative, and accelerate support to our young people in the coming year.

Supporting existing staff with career progressing, learning and development pathways, via apprenticeship programmes, has helped us to meet individual professional development aspirations and retain a more motivated and engaged workforce. We will continue to work with our teams and service managers to identify the apprenticeship programmes which will continue to ensure our employees feel valued by this investment in them.

We are actively supporting the government’s KickStart programme and offering 16 to 24 year olds the opportunity to come and work with us. We hope this will naturally lead to more young people being received within the organisation and for Managers to consider them for future apprenticeship positions, post-placement.

We are forecasting that we will continue to utilise all our apprenticeship levy monies and exceed our Public Sector Target again next year.

Data for reporting period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021

Number of employees who work in England

  • 2,616 working as of 31 March 2020 
  • 2,992 working as of 31 March 2021
  • 363 new employees working with Medway Council between 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Number of apprentices who work in England

  • 149 apprentices working as of 31 March 2020
  • 91 apprentices working as of 31 March 2021
  • 61 new apprentices between 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 including new hires and existing employees who started an apprenticeship.

Reporting percentages

  • percentage of apprenticeship starts (new hires and existing employees) as a proportion of employment starts between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021: 16.8%
  • percentage of total headcounts that were apprentices on 31 March 2021: 3.11%
  • percentage of apprenticeship starts (both new hires and existing employees who started an apprenticeship) between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 as a proportion of total headcount on 31 March 2019: 2.33%.