Volvo Group UK discuss growing their apprenticeship scheme
Karen Bailey, Head of Competence Development at Volvo Group UK, explains how the Apprenticeship Levy is furthering the carmaker’s commitment to apprenticeships.
What was Volvo doing with apprenticeships previously?
We are an old hand with apprenticeships in the technical arena, having done those for the last fifteen years. The changes that have stemmed from the reforms have allowed us to consider using apprenticeships in other areas of the business that haven’t previously used apprenticeship schemes such as HGV sales, management, HR and training. Apprenticeships have a very good reputation in our business – our own managing director is an ex-apprentice and we have many ex apprentices in very senior positions.
What does the Levy mean for Volvo – is it a game changer or simply building on what you’re already doing?
In some respects is it both. From the building side, on the technical apprenticeships the old frameworks were very out of date, so this was a good opportunity to update the learning and focus on the things that added real value to our business. The levy also gave us an opportunity to refresh interest in apprenticeships – paying for something sharpens the business focus on what is being achieved by having apprentices in our business. So for our business it has made apprenticeships more of a strategic issue and allowed us to have a different conversation at the most senior levels of our business about what we need.
It terms of the ‘game changing’ element, the changes around previous experience and age on funding have encouraged the business to think differently. We are a very knowledge-based industry and it takes time to understand the complexities. Being able to include graduates, existing staff or career changes has really helped us to think about different types of people and giving them structured career paths that we wouldn’t have considered before.
What are key benefits to investing in developing an apprenticeship scheme?
Our core is technical apprenticeships and they are roles that are exceptionally difficult to recruit in the market place. The main benefit for us is being able to stay in business. Our focus is how do we gain real business benefit from this population as soon as possible. Our apprentices have to demonstrate learning and the work they do is really important. The responsibility of working on forty four tonne vehicles cannot be underestimated.
They are also helping our customers stay in business, and getting that right in an apprenticeship is a challenge but worth the effort. If treated well, apprentices will be loyal employees that pay back the investment many times over. We have a 96% retention rate for our programme and we still have 85% of our apprentices 7 years after the completion of their training. Considering the cost of attracting and recruiting fully qualified technicians at the moment is over £30k, it represents excellent value for money.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered when growing your apprenticeship offering?
Devolution has been a huge issue for us. The lack of cooperation across borders on education and funding is a real issue for national programmes that is not going to be solved any time soon. As well as that, the speed that standards are becoming available remains a key issue – we have people who want to start apprenticeships in sales but the standards have not been allocated a funding band as yet and the delays in getting things through makes it quite hard. The business are engaged and ready to go – but we have nothing to offer them. The lack of end point assessments being agreed and available is a challenge too. We have people who are undertaking apprenticeship training whilst there is no end point assessment in place.