Seven Trent - Embracing the Apprenticeship Levy

Marie Smart, Apprentice Manager, Severn Trent Water, shares some key insights on Severn Trent's approach to the Apprenticeship Levy. 

If you would like to explore Apprenticeships and their impact in more detail then please join us at The Apprenticeships Conference, 16th July 2020. More information including the speaker lineup that includes; AELP, CBI,  Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Ofqual can be found below:

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Shortly after the Apprenticeship Levy was announced, we took a decision to view it as an opportunity to re-visit our overall apprentice strategy and actively look for the positive impacts it could have.

Doing what we’ve always done but better

We’ve always recruited apprentices to manage the risk of precious knowledge and experience disappearing as our skilled workforce retires and we’ve increased new entrants to match the increasing pace of retirement. We’ve also had a large non-apprentice frontline population who’ve entered the business at different stages without the same investment as the apprenticeship programmes. We also lacked a pathway that allowed our apprentices to continue to develop their careers and the technical knowledge needed to meet the demands of our changing industry.

Our starting point with the levy was to utilise the flexibility it gives to combine our new industry trailblazers standards for new entrants with the opportunity to offer a higher level of technical development for existing employees.

Doing what we’ve always done but differently

Furthermore, a huge amount of training was delivered outside of the traditional apprenticeship programmes, through graduate and professional development programmes. We’d already introduced a Digital degree apprenticeship but our decision to seek to fully utilise the levy pushed us to think more broadly about the concept of apprenticeships and how we could adapt existing training offerings. In each case we’ve prioritised enhancing the learning experience rather than simply off-setting our levy obligation and we are now utilising various higher and degree level apprenticeship standards to deliver professional development across HR, Finance and Legal.

Doing things we’ve never done

Outside of our formal training, we’ve supported people across a range of academic courses from HNDs to MBAs but have never formally assessed the impact of this learning. By taking the opportunity afforded by the levy to upskill our existing employees with the rigour of the “vocational” assessment element of an apprenticeship we have recently introduced "Masterships" in Engineering and Management for our graduate high-potential, middle manager and senior leader populations.  This will give us much more clarity of how academic learning is applied to the day job.

Creating an overall Brand

To ensure we have the support of senior leadership, we take care to link our programmes with either current or future capability needs so there is a clear line of sight between company strategy and the programmes we are proposing. Secondly, we’ve planned an internal launch of our new overall L&D Brand to publicise the opportunities that we can now provide. This includes a clear distinction between opportunities where existing employees can apply for the apprenticeship programmes and career development opportunities where people gain entry onto upskilling or professional development programmes through performance and talent review processes.

Working with the supply chain

We’ve worked with our existing supply chain to ensure they are fit for purpose and on the front foot with developing and delivering the standards that we need. By giving them as much of a clear view of what we want and when, we are seeing them come back with more innovative ways to deliver. In the same vein we’ve sought to help shape the debate around implementation of the Levy through our Sector Skills Council, the CBI and directly with the ESFA.