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Leveraging the Levy

Leveraging the Levy 1000 665 academii.co.uk
Globally, we’re dealing with an $8.5 trillion dollar skills problem. Are apprenticeships the answer to giving people the tools they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow, or should we be focussing on lifelong skills and the traits employers need?

An extensive report from Korn Ferry states that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs globally could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them[1]. We desperately need to start tackling the skills crisis by listening to employers about what they need and supporting employees to develop the knowledge and confidence to thrive.In this blog we have some thoughts about why the current apprenticeship model is no longer viable and some suggestions for UK government to think about.

In this blog we have some thoughts about why the current apprenticeship model is no longer viable and some suggestions for UK government to think about.

So, there’s a big pot of money for employers and employees to take advantage of – companies get a pipeline of skilled staff and workers learn on the job whilst gaining experience and qualifications. Brilliant, what’s not to love?

Apprenticeships normally take shape in the form of practical, on-the-job training alongside existing staff with an element of study. Typically, the qualification can take anywhere between 1 to 4 years to complete and can be studied from Foundation (Level 2) to Degree (Level 6). Learn while you earn. Sounds great, right?

There has been a huge push on apprenticeships with any employer with a wage bill over £3m paying 0.5% of their salaried cost as a ‘levy’ or tax known as the Apprenticeship Levy. So, there’s a big pot of money for employers and employees to take advantage of – companies get a pipeline of skilled staff and workers learn on the job whilst gaining experience and qualifications. Brilliant, what’s not to love?

It has been widely reported that in 2020, £2bn of levy funding went unspent by UK employers[2]. Levy funding must be spent within two years otherwise it’s returned to the UK treasury. According to a report in The Times, as of January 2022, almost half of firms subject to the apprenticeship levy have returned unspent apprenticeship levy funding to the Treasury. Also in the same report, it is stated that only one in six companies believe that the apprenticeship levy system is working well, according to a survey of 500 HR professionals[3].

The main reason why the levy doesn’t work is the 20% off the job training requirement. With skilled staff in short supply, how can organisations run with 20% of its manpower taken away? For many, it’s far cheaper to pay as a tax than lose 20% of your employees’ hours.

We’ve been working with a UK-based company employing more than 2,600 temporary and contracted staff. In the last three years, eight colleagues have been on an apprenticeship framework, six on Level 3 and two on Level 5. Of this learner group one withdrew as they felt the paperwork was overwhelming, another because they felt the style of learning wasn’t appropriate and four passed their Level 3. This experience, albeit modest, is perhaps an example where one size doesn’t fit all and highlights the fact that people have very different needs and requirements to learn effectively.

It’s not just the learner who has a pile of administration to undertake their apprenticeship, but the employer has to jump through a few hoops too. Employers need to dedicate time to find a reliable apprenticeship provider plus dedicate existing colleagues to spend time with and supervise the employee.

Furthermore, in the UK, thousands of people are recruited into entry level roles every day, many of whom possess very few or no qualifications at all. This means even at Level 2, apprenticeships are inaccessible for many thousands of people, leaving them underserved with fewer opportunities to progress. Often this means the organisation misses out of the potential offered by these workers, so they continue to spend more money on the recruitment churn, instead of nurturing talent from within.

Big businesses are calling for the UK government to reform the current apprenticeship model. Tesco wants the government to take action and increase flexibility for businesses to make better use of the funds by allowing them to use the funding for more tailored training and short courses.[4]

More flexibility with levy funding could also see it used for core skills development and pre-employment training, making it more accessible to those with fewer qualifications but an appetite to learn and progress.

Providing on-demand, flexible and relevant training to an underserved and undervalued workforce is key. Engaging content for an audience that want to learn but are currently overlooked for those opportunities due to lack of formal qualifications will empower people to learn and develop.

Offering eLearning in a self-paced environment, drawing down on this levy (should legislation change to allow that) would be a far more effective use of funding and would ultimately be more beneficial to the learner. In addition, as we’ve already mentioned, apprenticeships are quite lengthy whilst the needs of organisations are more dynamic, so agility and on-demand training is critical as industry and organisations continue to evolve.

At Academii, we’re committed to equipping the blue-collar workforce of today with the skills needed to excel in their current and future jobs. We’re calling on the government to listen to the needs of employers, providing a more flexible, dynamic, digital and accessible model of learning for the greater benefit of all.

1. https://www.kornferry.com/insights/this-week-in-leadership/talent-crunch-future-of-work

2. https://www.ft.com/content/e1b41e13-1001-4114-a941-4aac45249897

3. https://www.kornfhttps://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/half-of-firms-return-unspent-apprenticeship-levy-funds-to-treasury-hzpt2c2df

4. http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/186196/tesco-calls-for-apprenticeship-levy-reform

Microlearning for Maximum Results

Microlearning for Maximum Results 1000 665 academii.co.uk
A style of learning that is typically less than 3 minutes, content dense and engaging, microlearning covers just one or two learning objectives.

This style of learning comes in many formats including text, video and audio, or a combination of all three. Micro-learning can be incredibly powerful, providing concise, focussed and just-in-time content.

But why, when there’s so much information in the world, would we use microlearning as a tool for delivering training and upskilling the workforce? Let’s remind you of The Forgetting Curve, a theory formulated by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885.

The Forgetting Curve describes how learned information drops from our memories over a short period of time. Unless action is taken to retain information, the loss is sharpest in the first 20 minutes, with a significant decay over the first hour, levelling off after about 24 hours.

The impact of the forgetting curve is lack of knowledge retention, potentially increasing the need for meaningful, relevant, on-demand skills training in the future.

There’s no single way of learning that’s right for everyone, perhaps why traditional education routes such three years at university and a degree are not going to get us out of the current skills crisis, which, according to The Open University, is costing UK businesses £6.3 billion each year.

Bite-size learning delivers almost twice the return on investment of a traditional approach through less time spent in training and a greater transfer of skills from training to the role(i).

Whilst Hermann Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve dates back to 1885, the diminishing attention span of today’s learner, coupled with increased distraction from multiple communication channels in a more connected world are fuelling the growth of consuming bite-size and micro snippets of information as an effective way of learning.

It’s not just us here at Academii championing micro-learning as a tool to up-skill and re-skill, big brands are getting behind the concept too. Google famously sends ‘whispers’ to their staff(ii), providing short snippets of information such as how to provide positive feedback, with the content often linked to the manager’s survey results. Tiktok have also launched an educational fund(iii) to promote #LearnOnTikTok, with content ranging from health hacks to song writing tips, instructions on floral arrangements, and even lessons on how to cook the perfect steak.

According to research, microlearning can improve focus and supports long-term retention by up to 80%(iv). It has several advantages over more traditional forms of learning including being more relevant, saving costs and improving engagement. Another advantage of microlearning is that it’s relatively easy because the topic is broken down into short, bite-size chunks and the learner consumes information at their own pace also making it far more accessible for those with barriers to mainstream training and education.

It’s undeniable that the UK is in a skills crisis but what if the way out of it was giving everyone in the workplace (and beyond) the opportunity to learn new skills, at their own pace, which is cost effective for the employer? Sounds simple really.

i https://uk.themindgym.com/resources/the-bite-size-revolution-how-to-make-learning-stick/

ii https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/whisper-courses/

iii https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/introducing-the-200-million-tiktok-creator-fund

Compliance Made Easy

Compliance Made Easy 1000 665 academii.co.uk
When you think about compliance, quite often the words “boring”, “repetitive” and “predictable” spring to mind.

However, being compliant in areas such as health & safety, issuing updated risk assessments and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are tremendously important tasks (and a legal requirement) for thousands of businesses across the UK. Compliance is a must.

For large, blue-chip businesses, employing thousands of staff and contractors across multiple locations, there is a significant challenge issuing new risk assessments, operating procedures and consistent compliance training. Compliance courses cover important topics and issues that affect the entire workforce, they shouldn’t just be seen as a legal tick box exercise by the business.

Ensuring consistency, assessing understanding, and reporting centrally on your compliance is integral to protecting your organisation. Rapidly deploying new safety and compliance content will ultimately save lives.

If your business cares for and respects its people, providing a platform to communicate with your workforce, engage with all stakeholders and quickly cascade changes in your policies and procedures ensures colleagues are engaged, aware and conscious of their safety.

When addressing compliance, an experiential learning approach is far more effective at improving attitudes, behaviours, and performance. A ‘teach-by-telling’ approach is right for some learners but completely ineffective for others. The knowledge retention rate from experiential learning is up to 90% compared to just 5% from traditional learning.

Ensuring consistency, assessing understanding, and reporting centrally on your compliance is integral to protecting your organisation

It is also important to distinguish between procedure-based compliance topics and those involving complex human emotions. There is a big difference between ensuring you lift and handle heavy boxes correctly and being aware of the signs and risks of modern slavery in the workplace, for example.

What if we said you could easily update your compliance content and deploy it to your entire workforce immediately?

We believe issuing risk assessments and SOPs should be simple which is why we’ve created a quick and easy process. Remotely updating one system with easy access for all those who need to digest it and instantly communicating the new policy change ensures compliance. You can even create bespoke assessments to ensure a thorough understanding.

When it comes to compliance training, there are easy steps that HR or Learning & Development teams can take to ensure it is accessible and relevant for the work force. Uploading the new documents to our portal takes seconds, followed by deciding where you want the new policy to apply through simply selecting the relevant sites.  Staff then receive a message informing them that they need to complete the training and assessment.  You can view reports on compliance in real time across all devices.

Compliance is an emotive topic but one that should never be viewed as a tick box exercise. With the right approach, it can be used to motivate and engage an entire workforce.

The Skills Crisis

The Skills Crisis 1000 665 academii.co.uk
Growing chasm between the skills of the workforce and the needs of businesses.

Across the globe, there is a growing chasm between the skills of the workforce and the needs of businesses. The rapid shift to a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ isn’t being met with life-long training and investment in individuals’ learning needs for them to develop the skills needed to support our evolution to a more automated and technical workforce.

If skills development doesn’t catch up with the rate of technological change, Accenture estimate that the G20 economies could lose up to $11.5tn in cumulative GDP growth in the next decade. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skills gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

According to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, the UK suffers from poor basic skills due weakness in the vocational education system and low investment in workplace training. In addition, The Open University reports that 91% of organisations in the UK struggle to find people with the right skills.

An urgent focus on improving how skills are developed and deployed is at the heart of addressing the UK’s high proportion of low-skilled and low-paid jobs.

Sectors such as the Waste & Recycling industry recognise the need to shift focus to a more holistic skills strategy and a circular economy to deliver new environmental policies.  The 2021 Presidential Report from the CIWM highlights the need for focus on communications and behaviour change, systems thinking, soft skills, data and information technology, circular economy and reuse and repair.

An urgent focus on improving how skills are developed and deployed is at the heart of addressing the UK’s high proportion of low-skilled and low-paid jobs.

A broader report from the World Economic Forum (WEF): Future of Jobs Report in 2020 highlights that soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving topped the list of skills employers believe will grow in prominence from 2020-2025. In addition, newly emerging soft skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility are coming to the fore and seen increasingly beneficial for the workforce of today.

Skills training must be accessible, inclusive, and proven to remove barriers, not only into work but to positively contributing to society. According to the same WEF report, 70% of employers expect to offer reskilling or upskilling by 2025, however only 42% of employees take up employer supported opportunities.

The world of work is changing. We know that industries and businesses in the UK need to provide a greater skillset to a higher proportion of their workforce for both to thrive.

We believe that engaging, bite-size eLearning content, specifically aimed to provide the skills needed for the underserved blue-collar workforce of today to support the needs of organisations tomorrow, is a great starting point. We are on a mission to arm an entire workforce with the skills needed to help businesses succeed and see individuals thrive.

Is the Reality of Learning Virtual?

Is the Reality of Learning Virtual? 1000 665 academii.co.uk
The pandemic changed the world overnight.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world overnight and whilst the general population talks of ‘getting back to normal’, we explore whether learning in the virtual world is the way forward.

Online learning isn’t a new phenomenon. MOOCs (mass open online courses) originated in 2008, giving millions of people the chance to study with top universities around the world. These courses are available to anyone, usually with no entry requirements and although they don’t always lead to formal qualifications, learners can gain knowledge in a huge range of areas.

MOOCs are a great, cheap way to consolidate learning or study new subject areas, often with world-famous universities, and all from the comfort of your own home.

There are a few drawbacks of MOOCs. Often there is a lack of any kind of recognition available and they can be long and arduous to complete. But it’s not always the formal accreditation or lengthy study that’s needed, particularly for entry level learners in the workplace. Sometimes just getting through a short period of study is recognition enough though a certificate of completion is something tangible to add to and verify an individual’s learning record. Bite-sized, fun, and visual content helps to engage the learner from the word go.

MOOCs are a great, cheap way to consolidate learning or study new subject areas, often with world-famous universities, and all from the comfort of your own home.

As things edge back to face-to-face learning for the rest of the education world, a blended approach has had to be maintained in many school settings due to periods of isolation for many students and teachers.

Blended learning is an approach to education that combines online materials and opportunities to interact online, and with traditional classroom-based methods. It is not as innovative as it sounds, rather a natural result of the digital world sidling (and having to be embraced) into physical spaces. Many schools, further education colleges and universities will most likely keep a certain degree of blended learning with cost benefits and individual learners’ preferences dictating the decision.

But what does the future hold?

It’s no surprise that younger, digitally native generations show the most interest in online learning but people in the UK are generally behind their Australian and American counterparts in embracing it. This poses a threat, particularly to blue-collar workers in currently low-skilled, low-paid jobs where automation and digitisation are likely to happen faster.

We need to ensure online learning is easy-to-access, for example, using QR codes – a scan and learn approach. In addition, through reward and recognition, we need to ensure that people genuinely see and feel the benefits of continual learning and development.

Technology in learning has no end of possibilities and it is not going away. A recent report published by Future Learn features a survey where respondents were asked which technological innovations they would like to see in education by 2030*. One in three UK adults listed Virtual Reality, closely followed by Augmented Reality. This immersive approach is looked on favourable in terms of transforming the traditional approach of three years to learn something and only then applying it in a workplace to one of instant experiential education and immediate benefits for both the learner and employer.

A report published by PWC into the effectiveness of Virtual Reality for soft skills learning was overwhelmingly positive. The report highlights that learners were more focused, more emotionally connected and more confident as a result of Virtual Reality or V-learning as it is often referred. In addition, the report also states that V-learning will contribute $294 billion to the global economy by 2030.

This positive attitude towards Virtual Reality is exciting but it would be advantageous to embrace this technology early to ensure we get ahead of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The benefits of V-learning are plentiful for both individual learners and the wider economy, why wait until 2030 to develop it?

*The Future of Learning Report 2021, Future Learn.

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