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Top tips: How retailers can secure a return on investment from the apprenticeship levy

The apprenticeship levy has now kicked in and every business with a payroll totalling £3million or more has to invest 0.5 percent of their pay bill into apprenticeships. Do you have a coherent apprenticeship strategy in place to maximise your return on investment? If not, read on!

If you’re concerned that you’re still not ready for the levy or that your apprenticeship strategy is not fully in place, don’t worry. You’re not alone. There are many organisations that aren’t yet ‘apprenticeship-ready’ and who won’t be delivering apprenticeships from day one.

What is critical, however, is that you take steps now to develop an effective strategy that ensures apprenticeships reflect the needs of your business.

1. Don’t view apprenticeships in isolation: Apprenticeships represent an opportunity to develop talent, increase productivity and drive retention so it’s critical to develop an apprenticeship strategy that is aligned with your broader talent strategy.

2. Work out the impact of the levy on your bottom line: As the levy has bottom-line implications it is important to partner with your finance team to agree how to define the return on investment and ensure a thorough understanding of how and when the business will use the levy.

3. Embrace the flexibility: The new-style apprenticeships have been developed by employers and form progressive pathways to support career development. They are much more flexible and, as the training is not prescribed, you can decide on the combination of training that reflects your needs.

4. Make apprenticeships work for you: Embedding the new standards into your talent strategy will provide a valuable progression route for both new and existing employees. It’s important to understand what training programmes you already have in place and what parts of the standards these meet.

5. Network and collaborate: A number of leading retail businesses have made fantastic progress in implementing strategies to maximise their return on investment. It can be a steep learning curve, so learning from other organisations is vital, plus there is plenty of support available.

The employer perspective: Debenhams

Retail giant Debenhams employs over 30,000 people. The company firmly believes in apprenticeships as an integral part of its development plans. Debenhams’s head of learning & development, Nicola Debney, explains why:

Why are apprenticeships a key part of your talent strategy?

Apprenticeships are a great way for us to develop the skills our business requires now and in the long-term. Embedding them into our talent strategy provides a structured career pathway from the shop floor to senior management, for both new and existing employees.

We believe the apprenticeship will develop our employees on the shop floor into real customer ambassadors. We’re expecting better engagement from apprentices, lower labour turnover and lower absence figures – and ultimately believe apprenticeships will create our future managers and leaders.

How are you approaching the apprenticeship levy to ensure you get a return on investment?

The levy provides an opportunity to add value to what we do. We’ll be using our levy investment to enhance our programmes and ensure we offer valuable talent development opportunities that deliver the skills our business needs. We’ve found that it’s critical to engage all areas of the business to develop our strategy to ensure we maximise our investment.

Act now!

Join our ‘Getting a return on investment from apprenticeships’ session at the BRC 2020 event on 16 May to hear from our apprenticeship expert on how you can develop a strategy that ensures you maximises your apprenticeship investment, plus, hear more from Debenhams on their approach to apprenticeships and the levy.


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