In their recent consultation paper, Proposals for Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP), the Government make it clear that they are expecting to see a big increase in competition amongst training providers that offer apprenticeships:
“We expect demand for apprenticeships to increase rapidly over the next few years, fast becoming the largest part of the vocational market. Training providers will need to be more commercial in their approach and compete for business to take advantage of the increase in demand.”
The document then goes on in the following point to say that the new environment created by the apprenticeship levy will mean providers having to take steps to better align their provision with the needs of business:
“In particular, providers need to be developing curricula that meet the needs of high-quality standards as frameworks are withdrawn, and tailoring their offer to employers’ needs.”
With the increased demand that the apprenticeship levy will inevitable engender, successfully getting to grips with these two issues – developing a more commercial approach, and tailoring provision to employers’ needs – could well be the difference between success and failure. Let’s look at these in turn.
Competing for Business
In any competitive environment, what marks one company out from another is often not so much the big issues, but rather niche distinctives. For instance, people don’t generally choose one supermarket over the rest because it sells lots of products that the other ones don’t sell. By and large, the major supermarkets match each other stock for stock, and so the choice of where to shop is often down to a range of other differences.
Likewise, in the apprenticeship market, if several providers are competing for business by offering apprenticeships of a similar quality, it may well be other distinctives that really make the difference between getting the deal and not getting it. One of these distinctives is the ability to really understand the needs of local employers. In fact, this might make a difference on two fronts.
- In the first instance, being able to identify which industries are growing and which are declining makes it much easier for trainers to engage employers. The route that providers often take is a somewhat scattergun approach, whereby sales teams are employed to approach employers using a “phone book” approach – calling down a list of employers. But if a provider is able to employ a more strategic approach to identifying which industries are set to grow, and also a more tactical approach to who is currently employing right now, wouldn’t it greatly enhance their chances of engaging with the right employers at the right time?
- Secondly, having an in-depth knowledge of an industry puts a provider at a distinct advantage when actually pitching an employer for business. Imagine the following scenario: Two training providers are in front of an employer. Both have the same Ofsted grade, and both offer a similar portfolio of apprenticeships. However, one of the providers is able to demonstrate to the employer how much growth there is expected to be in their industry over the next few years, and also where in the country this growth is likely to be. Not only this, but they are then able to demonstrate which occupations within their industry are likely to grow, giving them the opportunity to pitch for apprenticeships in a far wider range of occupations than they could if they didn’t have such an in-depth understanding of the sector.
- Firstly, for a provider to be able to react to the needs of employers, they are going to have to know what those needs are. As above, an in-depth knowledge of the industrial make-up of the labour market in which they operate, which sectors are likely to grow, and which occupations those growth industries employ, all enable a provider to identify the real needs of local and regional business.
- Secondly, and just as crucial, is the ability to be able to map provision to current and future labour market demand. This enables providers to not only see how well their offer is currently geared to employer needs, but – just as crucially in terms of becoming more commercial – to also identify potential opportunities for them to expand their curriculum to meet future needs.
The second issue mentioned at the start was the need for providers to tailor their curricula to employers’ needs, which – as the Government paper suggests – will be crucial in the more competitive post-levy environment. But what is the secret to success? It is really two-fold.
What is the Solution?
Having such in-depth knowledge may well be one of the keys to providers surviving the more competitive post-levy apprenticeship market, but the question is how can they get it?
The simplest way is through the use of granular Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) – that is, data that enables users to identify growth in specific industries, specific occupations, and for specific localities and regions for across the country. Good LMI enables providers to take both a more strategic and tactical approach to seeking out which employers to engage with, and then to capture the attention of those employers when pitching for business. Good LMI can help providers to align their offer more effectively with the needs of employers and spot potential for growth in the future. And it is also worth pointing out that good LMI can also be used by providers when bidding for funds, demonstrating that they really understand the needs and trends in a sector, and so adding robust contextual evidence to their bid.
As the apprenticeship market is transformed by the levy and the RoATP, providers will inevitably find themselves operating in a more competitive market. Those providers who adapt to this environment by adopting a more competitive mindset, and a more tailored approach to their provision, will have a distinct advantage over their competitors. Good LMI may well play a prominent part in giving them this advantage.
For more information about how LMI can help your organisation gain a strategic and tactical advantage, contact Doug Heckman at firstname.lastname@example.org