The Workforce Development Manager presented on the transition of the Apprenticeship Programme following the closure of the Slough Academy Team which was now incorporated into the new Workforce Development Team.
The Committee noted that the changes were part of the new operating model following the Our Futures transformation programme. It was stated that the Slough Academy had met its original objectives and the team was now focused on the wider learning and development agenda, not solely apprenticeships. Members noted some of the key indicators which included:
· SBC had spent 65% of its apprenticeship levy, which amounted to £280,000 used to grow our own talent and save some of the corporate training budget. Very few organisations spent 100% of the available pot due to the restrictions on its use.
· One factor in this was that the number of apprentices had dropped in 2020/21 due to the imminent Our Futures phase 2 restructure.
· Twelve apprentices had completed with a total of 40 apprenticeships started under the Slough Academy.
· 90% of apprentices had been upskilled by at least 50% and 100% of apprentices who had completed their programmes had remained with SBC.
· 75% of apprentices were Slough residents.
The Council had not achieved the Government target for the cumulative average of apprenticeships of 2.3% of the workforce due to the fall in the number of apprenticeships in 2020/21. The cumulative average was 1.27% and the Officer explained the steps the team was taking to work with departments to increase the number in the future. The Workforce Development Team was supporting departments within its current resources, noting that there were some vacancies in team and a reduced training budget due to the financial challenges.
Members asked a number of questions about the way in which the Apprenticeship Levy worked. It was confirmed that SBC had delivered apprenticeships in areas such as children’s services and civil engineering. Any unspent monies were returned to the Government. Some concerns were expressed that the twelve apprenticeships was low for an organisation of the size of the Council and asked how the team was working with departments to bring new apprentices on board. The Officer commented that the team engaged on a monthly basis with departments about the opportunities for apprenticeships both to upskill existing staff and for new starters. There had been a number of challenges in 2020/21 which had contributed to the lower number, particularly the uncertainty of the transformation programme. Members discussed the opportunities to attract more talent to SBC and it was noted that Slough faced significant competition from other organisations and areas nearby.
The Committee commented on the importance of senior management buy in to increasing the apprenticeships. Management needed to invest time, support and patience to apprentices and highlighted that a cultural shift was needed as the Council emerged from the transformation programme to promote learning opportunities.
A question was asked about whether the Council partnered with other local organisations to promote apprenticeships. The Officer commented that for certain contracts, e.g. building contracts, targets for apprenticeships were incorporated. Work was taking place with schools but there were challenges given funding pressures. A further question was asked about providers and it was agreed that details of the providers the Council worked with via the Apprenticeship Reforms and Levy app to be circulated to the Committee.
At the conclusion of the discussion the report was noted.
Resolved – That details of the report be noted.