Medway Council continues to embrace its responsibilities under the Apprenticeship Levy and has again exceeded the accompanying public sector target.

We are proud to have achieved 115 new apprenticeship programme starts in 2018 to 2019, surpassing our 2.3% target with 3.55%. 

During 2018 to 2019, 32 apprenticeship programmes finished with a successful completion rate of 78%. Of these, 75% were employed post apprenticeship. 

What actions we've taken to achieve this

  1. The creation of an Apprenticeship Academy, forming a virtual home for everything around apprenticeships, to help us prepare for the Apprenticeship Levy. As well as helping with our corporate ambition to be an employer of choice, offering local young people the opportunity to gain higher education level qualifications via an employment-based route.

    The academy supports managers and apprentices with advice and guidance on all aspects of employment, training and development (personal and professional). It also guarantees that all apprenticeship programmes will be regularly monitored and quality assured. The academy supports our existing staff to meet their career progression goals using existing and emerging apprenticeship programmes.
     
  2. Creation of a full-time Workforce Development Consultant post, ensuring that the organisation had a lead for apprenticeships, responsible for the administration of the digital account and ensuring regular progress reporting to senior management.
     
  3. Active promotion of apprenticeships, generating more awareness and understanding of the opportunities that they offer whenever possible. This included attendance at careers events, jobs fairs, service manager sessions and department/team meetings.
     
  4. Design of a ‘Managers’ Guide to Employing Apprentices’ creating an easy to understand, complete reference source for our managers, helping to disprove the myths about how complicated apprenticeships are.

Challenges we faced in our efforts to meet the target

The target continues to be imposed against our gross headcount figure, not full-time equivalent. This created a very skewed reflection on the size of our workforce and our organisational potential to support apprentices. Especially taking into consideration how many of our staff work low, part time hours (particularly within schools). 

The target was also a challenge as we have to include our 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 one or two schools who are keen to use apprenticeships but the others remain largely disinterested.

The other major challenge we are experiencing is finding training providers for some of the new standards that have been approved.  In particular the Children Young People and Families Practitioner apprenticeship (Level 4) - Option 2, which is required for the up-skilling of many staff in our Early Help Service in line with the Government guidelines for all staff in these areas to be achieve a Level 4 qualification. The issues with the embedded qualification remain and mean that all awaiting local authorities are unable to use this long awaited, and widely needed, apprenticeship programme.

Another of our biggest challenges, as a public sector organisation, is the requirement to respond to smaller budgets. This means that we have reducing workforce numbers, not increasing, and are unable to recruit apprentices to all the positions that we would otherwise have liked to.

This meant to achieve our target we had to look to the opportunity to up-skill our existing staff and engage with our managers to address their concerns about the required 20% off-the-job training requirement. This is still a constant area of contention.

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

Achieving our target for 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019 has not led to any complacency within our organisation and we have continued to strive forwards. We aim to do this by continuing what we're doing which is achieving our organisational aims about apprenticeships. 

We have already reached our target for 2019 to 2020, six months ahead of year end, with 267 new apprenticeship starts against our three-year target of 235.

We are continuing our active promotion of apprenticeships across the organisation and are ensuring that new managers are provided with our Managers’ Guide. We have also started to plot career progression routes within service areas, using apprenticeship programmes to ensure development and professional progression.

The first areas to offer identifiable routes have been within Legal and Finance, with the use of apprenticeship programmes from Level 3 up to Level 7.

Data for reporting period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019

Number of employees who work in England

  • 3,241 working as of 31 March 2018 
  • 3,146 working as of 31 March 2019 
  • 549 new employees working with Medway Council between 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019

Number of apprentices who work in England

  • 90 apprentices working as of 31 March 2018 
  • 153 apprentices working as of 31 March 2019
  • 115 new apprentices between 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 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 2018 and 31 March 2019: 21%
  • Percentage of total headcounts that were apprentices on 31 March 2019: 4.87%
  • Percentage of apprenticeship starts (new hires and existing employees) as a proportion of total headcount on 31 March 2018: 3.55%