By Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeships & Skills Operations, Seetec Outsource

The introduction of apprenticeship standards was a major step forward in ensuring apprentices could develop the occupational skills needed to perform their job role effectively. But it was very much the first step towards a new and more collaborative way of working, with training providers listening to employers to understand industry needs and deliver flexible and responsive solutions.  

The Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) driver apprenticeship standard is a great example of how this can work. When it was first delivered in May 2017, the new standard provided a powerful opportunity to address serious concerns within the transport and logistics industry about significant driver shortages and an ageing driver population. 

Drivers obtaining their Category C licence to drive rigid HGVs was a mandated requirement of the standard. For apprentices, the chance to get their licence funded was a huge attraction and we saw a younger age profile among those signing up as well as women joining a traditionally male-dominated industry. Others saw the opportunity for a career change.  

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, Seetec Outsource has seen 57 learners achieving their LGV driver apprenticeship in the past year. 

However, many employers we work with also need their drivers to gain a Cat C+E licence, so they can make the step up to articulated lorries. This has meant additional costs for employers, but drivers are keen to progress as a chance to increase their earnings. 

We decided to approach the Logistic Skills Network and the Trailblazer Group of logistics employers to see how we could address this issue. Our trade connections with organisations such as Logistics Skills Network and the Trailblazer Group of logistics employers enabled us to collectively influence the adjustments the standard needed.   It wasn’t straightforward as it significantly increased the cost of apprenticeship delivery and meant a change of funding band. Not all employers needed their drivers to gain a Cat C+E licence. 

Come 1 September, with approval from IFATE (the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education), we will start delivering the new programme which includes progression to Cat C+E. And a new Urban Delivery Driver apprenticeship will be available from October, for those employers who only need their drivers to gain a Cat C licence. 

It’s a great example of how we can be the voice of employers. Equally, it illustrates how important it is for employers to engage with their training provider. 

In the logistics industry the shortage of drivers means that, once qualified, a driver can move to a new employer offering a higher salary – who hasn’t borne the cost of training the driver. Retention is a real issue. 

By building the company’s vision and values into the apprenticeship, and really supporting and investing in their apprentice to develop new skills and apply them to their job role, the apprentice is far more likely to commit to developing their career within that company. Introducing incremental pay increases for achieving significant milestones during the apprenticeship – and again on completion of the programme – can also support driver retention by reducing the incentive to move to a new employer whose vision and values they may not share, and who may not be as invested in their development.   

When we start working with an employer, we spend a significant amount of time designing a bespoke programme with them to ensure it reflects the ethos of their organisation. We’ve seen really good retention and we believe that’s down to the commitment the individual feels towards the organisation. 

From our experience, if employers don’t engage and commit, the learner quickly senses this and either becomes disengaged themselves or moves to another employer that shows more interest. The commitment needs to be evident and consistent across the business - from their learning and development function to team leaders and senior management. It needs to be a culture of learning.  

We work with employers to get that buy-in from line managers, so they understand how to make the apprenticeship work on the ground. In the past, I don’t think providers engaged enough with employers. We are constantly reviewing and evaluating the quality of what we’re doing, through regular feedback from learners and managers. 

The breadth of apprenticeships available today is incredible They have long developed from being a route into a vocational trade to offering a career pathway to leadership and management.  

To really meet the country’s skills and workforce needs, the key is understanding what employers want and having the flexibility to respond rapidly as their needs change to ensure apprenticeships remain fit for purpose.   

To find out more about the LGV standard and Seetec’s transport and logistics qualifications click: https://www.seetecoutsource.co.uk/programme-sector/transport-and-logistics/