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Jigsaw Training news & blog

Blog: Raising apprenticeship standards is crucial

2/2/2016

Raising standards within apprenticeships is important and something everyone involved in the process should stay focused on. In the end raising the bar will benefit both employees and employers.

A huge part of apprenticeship reform underway at the moment is the introduction of the apprenticeship Trailblazers scheme which aims to put employers in the driving seat and take more control over the programmes they are part of.

Giving more control to employers is a move for the better, and in the long run should mean that employers become much more engaged with apprentices, ensure the programmes are relevant to both their needs and also improve standards across the board.

At the moment apprenticeship frameworks are not always fit for purpose, don’t always relate to a specific role and the funding process is complex with a lot of paperwork to complete.

The core aim of the Trailblazer programme is to drive up standards, which at the moment is difficult to do because there is limited quality provision available within the marketplace and many employers use their own internal programmes to develop their teams and new starters.

Under the Trailblazer programme, apprenticeships will become more rigorous and more responsive to the needs of employers because it is those very employers who will design the content, delivery and assessment methods of the new standards.

And, employers will be able to put out to tender their apprenticeship requirements and providers will bid on quality, outcomes and price and not be dependent on whether they hold funding.

The new standards are expected to be in place by 2017-18 and as they start to be agreed training providers like ourselves will start to use these as the basis for new apprenticeships.

Each Trailblazer group will go through a planning, development and consultation phase, where they consult with the wider industry.

Once consultation complete they need to submit the standard to the Skills Funding Agency in order to gain approval. When approved the framework is ready to go and can be delivered.

The roll out of the Trailblazer apprenticeship programmes will benefit both the employer and the employee and the changes they will bring should result in a stronger, more skilled workforce.

James Blackhurst

Managing Director

Jigsaw Training

Blog: Getting the basics right can benefit everyone

5/1/2016

Entering the world of work for the first time can be very daunting. Leaving the familiarity of school or college behind to start work brings with it new challenges and young people can find themselves in situations they have never been in before.

In the facilities sector, this could involve being in a customer-facing role for the first time, building relationships, representing a company, problem-solving, writing reports or handling finances.

This is where training comes in. People need real training for real jobs, they need experience, people skills and support to develop.

Training in the right environment, delivered in the right way can help a young person come out of their shell and learn the basics to ensure they can go on to have a long and successful career.

The lack of basic written and spoken English skills are a regular concern in the frontline service sector – which in turn impacts communication skills. Basic report writing and reading skills are often weak, alongside other non-verbal communication.

The level of maths is also poor in many cases – which can affect a person’s ability to perform tasks and also reduce opportunities for progression.

In our training programmes we support people to develop their English and maths skills alongside the other more practical skills they need for their day-to-day roles.

Observable behaviours can also be very poor meaning people are not aware of the image they are portraying of themselves and their employer. But, these people can become more positive, enthusiastic and determined, with the right support and guidance.

A lack of confidence can also be a problem. Training somebody to be confident isn’t an easy task but practical experience through apprenticeships can help a person believe in themselves more. The more they undertake a task with support the more confident they can become.

Experience is of course one of the key things employers are looking for when they are recruiting and this can be one of the hardest things to gain. But seeking out work experience through the relevant schemes could help to open doors in the future.

For instance, traineeships are a good opportunity to gain experience. This is a government backed programme run by employers and training providers. They are a combination of work experience, on the job and classroom training in areas including health and safety and communication skills.

Of course, the above doesn’t just apply to school leavers, upskilling is regularly required further down the line. For instance, the facilities management sector in which we operate offers many opportunities within first line management – but this is traditionally a weak area for development.

We often find these people are thrown into a supervisory role with very little training or development. However, it is essential they undergo the necessary training so they can develop and manage their teams efficiently.

Level three training programmes through City & Guilds, BIFM and the Institute of Leadership and Management can all help to support people at this level.

This just shows it doesn’t matter at what point you walk through the door into a job. Training and development opportunities are very often a necessity and are mutually beneficial for both employers and employees.

James Blackhurst

Managing Director

Jigsaw Training

Blog: Levy will tackle country’s skills deficit

10/12/2015

As the dust settles on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and further detail on the Apprenticeship Levy is announced, now is a good time to review what we know and what it means for businesses.

The Apprenticeship Levy will come in to force in April 2017 and businesses with a wage bill of more than £3m will pay a levy of 0.5 per cent of their payroll, to help fund apprenticeships across the UK.

For example, if an employer has an annual wage bill between £1 and £2.9m they will receive a £15,000 allowance per year – totalling £15,000 in the levy pot.

If an employer has a £4m pay bill they will receive a £15,000 allowance per year and also pay a 0.5 per cent of the £1m, equalling £5,000 – totalling £20,000 in the levy pot.

There’s still some detail to come about how this system will work in practice – but what is evident already is that this levy will help bridge the functional skills gap that currently exists.

The levy goes hand in hand with the government’s apprentice Trailblazer scheme which I have been involved in – a programme driven by employers which aims to improve apprenticeship standards and their relevance to employer’s needs.

The apprenticeships of the future will support apprentices not just to get the skills and knowledge they need to carry out their job, whether it be in the facilities management sector, security, healthcare or retail, but also the pastoral support they need to develop and adapt to working life.

But, for that to work employers need the right internal infrastructure to support apprentices, they need to buy into these programmes and plan effectively for them.

April 2017 isn’t that far away and plans for apprentices within business need thought and planning so that an apprenticeship strategy is in place, and employers are prepared rather than playing catch up.

Apprenticeship programmes come in all shapes and sizes, many start out small – but there’s no harm in starting now or running a pilot to make sure the best plan is in place. It’s also worth remembering that apprenticeships can be used to give existing members of the team who change role the new skills and knowledge they require.

My advice to employers for now is to discuss this internally, seek advice from a training provider and consider what other resources you might need to deliver an apprenticeship.

Further detail on the practicalities of how and when the funds will be handled are expected to be announced in the coming months.

James Blackhurst

Managing Director

Jigsaw Training

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