Apprenticeships have achieved a higher profile in the last few years courtesy of UK government policy and, of course, the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy from this year. It is worth saying at this point that we have an immediate conflict.
In England, therefore, we are currently in the transition from employer-designed Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) to employer-led Trailblazer Standards and Assessment Plans. The employer-led apprenticeship design adheres to strict guidelines set by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA). The issue for the payroll profession is that many professional and representative bodies have withdrawn their SASE apprenticeship programmes before the newly designed apprenticeship is in place. This is most unfortunate and has left our profession without an apprenticeship route into it.
However, Patricia Conway from Anchor Housing and Ian Holloway from Cintra HR and Payroll Services (me!) have assumed the roles as co-chairs to ensure that the profession does have an apprenticeship option. While this was already in progression before the withdrawal of many SASE apprenticeships, it was absolutely not ready for delivery. Indeed, when Patricia and I took over the process it was not considered appropriate.
Therefore, over the last few months we have established an ‘employer group’ that is advising us on the creation of a new payroll apprenticeship Standard and an accompanying Assessment Plan. To explain this point, the Standard is the overall indication of what a payroll apprentice at level 3 should be able to do. The Assessment Plan expands on this with detailed learning outcomes and mandates how these outcomes will be independently assessed as having been accomplished. The employer group itself is composed of employers and individuals from a wide range of large and small organisations across all industry sectors. We also have expertise from software companies, payroll bureau operations, consultants and industry specialists with the intended outcome that the apprenticeship will cover our whole profession.
Logically, Patricia and I have split all of the work on the payroll apprenticeship between us:
Step by step and methodically, we are achieving our work with the support and encouragement of the employer group, all of whom work voluntarily knowing that it is the professionally responsible thing to be doing. Plus, the IFA has been invaluable in their support, together with a group of supporting bodies and apprenticeship training providers.
Collectively, we will achieve the objective of building a payroll apprenticeship that works for our profession and can be delivered by apprenticeship training providers. It is so important that this is done, as both Patricia and I are acutely aware there are not enough young people coming into the profession and we face a very real resource crisis in the very short term. What we are working on is designed to be a programme that will build payroll professionals of the future, replacing those of us at the latter stages of our career (myself included!) and filling the skills and resource gap that is only just around the corner.
Patricia and I will be speaking at the Reward Strategy Autumn Update* on 2 November 2017 about the apprenticeship, when we will be joined by our relationship manager from the IFA. We will be pleased to discuss this work before, during or after the presentation.
*The Autumn Update is the must-attend event of the year, and our biggest ever, with advice and guidance from expert speakers who know the industry inside-out and have the knowledge to prepare you for an uncertain future – view agenda here and the full speaker line-up here.