The employer levy is fast approaching and this will soon shape the way many employers fund their apprenticeships. With 20,000 employers having to pay the levy, what is the best way to spend their money? Employers need to consider what the levy will do for them AND the apprentices they choose to spend their levy on, it must benefit both.
Fiona Hudson-Kelly founded Smart Assessor 5 years ago from her kitchen table and from then, the company has grown into a business that employs 31 people, provides software to 40% of the largest apprenticeship training provides in the UK and Australia and over 165,000 people use the technology. The e-portfolio eliminates paper based portfolios entirely, allowing all work to be stored on a cloud system from which learners and assessors or employers can view, assess and discuss work.
Smart Assessor has achieved what most e-portfolios take a decade to do, in just half the time. The company is constantly reinventing the way it does things in order to keep up with the changes in the education sector – just like those changes that will come into play with the employer levy. It’s about being smart and knowing what to give customers so they not only buy the product, but once they have it continue to use it and talk about it – enthuse to others how well it works for them.
Apprenticeship providers need to be initiating conversations now with Levy employers, the levy start on the 5thApril which is only a short time away. The levy gives employers more control over apprenticeships, how they are shaped and how they are delivered. You need to differentiate yourself in the eyes of the levy employers because they will have a wide choice of providers to select from the new Register of Apprentice Training Providers which closed for applications on 25th November 2016.
The key question is, How are you going to differentiate yourself from other providers on the register?
Smart Assessor is chosen over other options because it has features other software providers or paper cannot offer, we stand out.
We have a number of dashboards, tailored to the needs of each of their users. Our learner dashboard was created from a learner Facebook competition, our management dashboard is trailblazer ready and highlights employers who are not logging in to support learners and we also have IQA and Assessor dashboards. We are also developing a new product, SEPA, which will be for those organisations who are registered as EPA for them to manage their EPA’s.
There are 5.4m private companies and 6m public sector companies in England, some of these private companies will pay the levy but most won’t. Almost 50% of all public-sector employees are employed in either education or by the NHS, all of these will be levy paying employees. Of the 5.4m private companies, 7,000 of these employ more than 250 meaning these will all be levy paying. Levy employers are the geese laying the golden eggs from May.
FE Colleges need to become more outward focused as companies and learn how to sell themselves because otherwise you do a dis-service to those people who have the highest regard for you, your learners and staff. The employer levy gives providers an opportunity to regroup and look at how they can best benefit from this change.
If we look at Smart Assessor’s CEO, Fiona as an example, she wrote a book – Survival of the Smartest in 9 months and has used this as both a marketing tool for the company and a way of helping today’s college leaders to improve their entrepreneurial skills within their own business.
We differentiated ourselves this year at the AOC Conference 2016, we had over 130 conversations with college leaders, giving our business team a qualified pipeline of opportunities until the end of our first quarter in 2017. Not only did college leaders come to our stand for a chat, but taking that book home with them is a reminder of who Smart Assessor are, we make ourselves memorable enough to contact when the employer levy comes into play fully. We are setting ourselves apart and making sure we are perceived as thought leaders, not followers of the crowd.
Sometimes it is about changing the perspective on things in order to know how best to approach them, Smart Assessor take clients out of their comfort zone and help them to see things differently. We can solve the problems by disrupting the existing way of doing things such as delivering functional skills in the workplace by offering our clients virtual classrooms.
Leaders will need to be bold and brave to harvest the opportunities this exciting new employer led world of apprentices offers the sector.