Becoming a "learning organisation" is crucial to apprenticeship success

A new study from the OU has found that a staggering 45% of apprentices struggle to find time to study indicating that employers need to do more to embed learning within their businesses to ensure that apprentices have the support they need to succeed.

The report In Focus: The Work-based Learning Dividend, authored by independent research company Towards Maturity, draws from survey data, interviews and focus groups with apprentices, their managers and HR professionals gathered in spring 2017.

The study also found that just 15% of employers manage to embed learning in their workplaces, and that one in five (20%) apprentices lacks support from their line manager.

These findings come at a time when increasing numbers of businesses are considering taking on apprentices or offering apprenticeships as a way to train their existing staff. This shift towards apprenticeships is in large part due to the Government’s introduction of the apprenticeship levy which came into force in April.

Study time to fulfill the academic requirements of an apprenticeship is a vital component of any programme. In fact, the Government has now introduced a ‘20 per cent off-the-job apprenticeship funding rule’ - a new requirement for employers to provide evidence that the apprentice spends at least 20 per cent of their time on off-the-job learning in order to access funding. However, the findings from this survey suggest that many organisations are struggling to fulfil this.

Five times more likely

Embedding a culture of learning within companies is crucial to enabling the success of training programmes such as apprenticeships. However, as this OU study has found, unless businesses fully embed workplace learning within their organisational culture they will not fully reap the benefits that apprenticeships can offer.

In 2015 the UKCES Employer Skills Survey found that businesses that embed learning within the workplace are five times more likely to report increased performance and agility, and three times more likely to report improved efficiency and fine-tuning of business processes.

"There has never been a stronger need for the 'learning organisation' – an employer that values the development of adaptability and agility in its employees.”

Director of External Engagement at the OU, Steve Hill

Technology-enabled learning has a critical role to play in the learning organisation and offers a solution for employers wanting to ensure they fulfill the 20% off-the-job training rule. The OU study found that by using technology, learning is delivered 27% faster and apprentices are able to study 21% more efficiently, thereby reducing overall time away from the workplace and with greater learning impact. Mr Hill adds: Using technology will also alleviate concerns around the requirements to deliver work-based training, by significantly reducing time for all involved.

Study co-author and Head of Strategic Insights at Towards Maturity, Jane Daly concludes the report by saying: This latest research has highlighted that leaders and people professionals not only need a growth mind-set, but also the ability to create long-term, networked and boundary-less talent experiences."

Smart work-based learning experiences will pay out huge dividends if they are intrinsically linked to a learning organisation prepared to listen, learn and continuously transform itself.

Jane Dale, study co-author & Head of Strategic Insights at Towards Maturity

In Focus: The Work-based Learning Dividend aims to stimulate new ways of thinking about learning innovation, apprenticeships and the wider workplace learning agenda, looking at how technology and listening to the voice of apprentices themselves can help to redefine good practice.

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Find out more about OU apprenticeships