Endless Possibilities – Shining a spotlight on Walsall Council’s Apprenticeship Programme

At WME, we are passionate about helping you build a stronger public sector workforce. We believe that providing a platform to share best practice is a key to achieving this; and so here is a first in a series of articles where we share our members’ key success stories.

walsall clear backIn this we shine a spotlight on Walsall Council’s highly successful Apprenticeship programme ‘Endless Possibilities’. Walsall are seen as a key player in the West Midlands region and were instrumental in setting up the West Midlands Council Levy Group. Other achievements worth noting include: Their Project Officer, now Apprentice Lead winning the Midlands Apprenticeship Champion at the Apprenticeship Awards, and over-achieving on their target of apprenticeships recruited, both of which we’re sure you’ll agree are fantastic accomplishments.

In the spirit of knowledge sharing, here Lisa Koc (Learning and Development Manager) shares the 10 key success drivers of this leading apprenticeship programme:

  1. Integration into the corporate workforce strategy

The decision to invest in the apprenticeship programme was driven by the apprenticeship levy. However, rather than the levy pot being seen as something to be spent, we felt our use of funding should be closely aligned to our corporate workforce strategy and other key drivers including our corporate parenting responsibilities.

  1. Top Table buy-in

Both the Corporate Management Team and the Cabinet CMT gave their full support to the establishment of an Apprenticeship Programme for the Council, including local authority-maintained schools. Acknowledging that it represented a fantastic opportunity to support sustainable economic growth, supporting local people into jobs and training, improving the skills of the existing workforce and providing an alternative to traditional academic routes for students.

  1. Staffing

Engaging a temporary Project Officer to kick start and grow the programme was vital and then considering early on what ‘business as usual’ resources would be needed to manage the programme.   There is now a permanent apprenticeship lead and Business Support Officer.

  1. Cross organisational buy-in

It was essential that we had buy-in across all directorates including our schools. We set up the corporate apprenticeship group who have been at the forefront of promoting the apprenticeship programme across the organisation and linking apprenticeships into the workforce needs of their respective areas.

  1. Brand

It was important that we had a strong identity for our programme that was easily recognisable across all promotional activity. We launched the brand Endless Possibilities along with a respective newsletter and will be promoting this at schools and careers events around the Borough and wider West Midlands.

  1. Social media

Social media has been key to spread the word, to both boost our vacancies and encourage people to share the benefits of apprenticeships with the wider community. We are currently also working with training providers to share our success stories.

  1. Engaging with the business

A vital element of the programme, the Project Officer run a series of briefing sessions with managers to ensure they were fully aware of the opportunities available and the processes they should follow. Managers are supported by intranet, fact sheets and 1-2-1 meetings.

  1. Engaging with schools from day one

It was vital to ensure all our schools were aware of the levy and how they could think creatively and flexibly in order to make it work for them.  It was important for the school’s representative on the Corporate Apprenticeship Working Group to share the identified best practice and also key processes. As a result, the majority of our schools are now accessing the levy.

  1. Commissioning the right providers

We deployed a robust commissioning process to engage quality providers.  Our focus has been on quality and added value across all 15 pricing bands. We have ensured our schools and line managers get to choose the training provider that best suits their needs from a framework we have put in place.

  1. Widening participation

One of our aspirations for the Endless Possibilities programme was to ensure we were truly inclusive. As part of our corporate parenting responsibilities, in July 2017 we launched our Care Leaver Pre-apprenticeship programme. Our HR Business Partners worked with all directorates to gain a commitment through a pledge that service areas would ring fence apprenticeship vacancies for care leavers.  We are also using workforce data to allocate funding ie women in STEM careers and aspiring BME managers.

To conclude:

Thinking carefully about our apprenticeship strategy helped us identify what levels and what standards we wanted to focus on in year one. Our strategy is being reviewed in year two to ensure the programme continues to meet our priorities for the workforce.

We wanted to share our apprenticeship success story to support others who may be doing something similar or struggling to achieve the public sector targets for apprenticeships, and ensure we are all contributing towards building a stronger public sector workforce. We are delighted that WME has given us the opportunity to do so. If you would like to find out more, please contact Helena Baxter or Lisa Koc at Walsall Council.

Keep an eye out for more ‘in the spotlight’ articles!

Have you recently won an award or got a story to share? Let us know and feature in our next spotlight article.