The new set of skills-focused housing apprenticeship standards, which the sector devised as part of a major reform by the government, are about to be introduced.
And from April 6 any organisation with a pay bill of more than £3m, that’s most in the housing sector, will immediately begin contributing to the new apprenticeship levy. It’s not exactly a trifling amount either – 0.5% of an organisation’s total pay bill in fact.
Under the new system the levy can then be drawn down to fund training for the new housing and property management apprenticeships.
There are a number of things to consider here.
The first is purely logistical. If you haven’t registered with the government’s online Apprenticeship Service by April 6 the government won’t be able to take the levy and you may start being contacted by HMRC. We’ve spoken to quite a few organisations that weren’t aware of this.
The biggest question though is how to make the most of this great opportunity.
The new standards represent a significant shift from the current apprenticeships in terms of content and delivery. They’re focused on giving apprentices the skills they need rather than on qualifications.
Housing organisations have to appoint a lead training provider to build a programme of training for the apprentice and an assessor to ensure the apprentice can demonstrate the skills and behaviours they need to do the job they have been working towards. That means a level of buy-in and support many organisations may not previously have dedicated to training and apprenticeships.
This matters for our sector. Not just in terms of bringing through the right people to meet the many challenges which lie ahead, but because getting people into work should be a crucial part of the work we do in our communities.
So while this is a challenge it’s also a huge opportunity for us to rethink our approach.
The organisations which have bought into training and apprenticeships find ways to reach young people in their communities, they form great partnerships with other organisations in those communities and they deliver training and employment opportunities to help people thrive.
It’s an approach which brings through people who often go on to become valued and passionate members of their organisation.
Fresh talent is exactly what the housing sector needs right now and the changes to apprenticeships represent a huge opportunity to bring though a new generation of housing professionals.
It’s time for all housing organisations to start thinking about how they make the most of this – for the benefit of their organisations and their communities.