Business & economics

GST XIV – Where Resilience Meets Disruption

Andy Bossom is Senior Corporate Executive at Middlesex University. Here he shares some insights from the recent Consalia Global Sales Transformation Conference.

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day at the Consalia Global Sales Transformation Conference, supported by Middlesex University in early October. The extremely timely theme was “Where Resilience Meets Disruption”.

We all intuitively feel that the workplace is changing and changing fast, but how does this impact on the world of Sales and Business Development? This innovative conference brought together a number of senior business leaders in an attempt to address the issues.

Collaboration, resilience and team work

We were treated to the truly inspirational story of Menna Fitzpatrick and Captain Jennifer Kehoe – Gold Medalists for the GB Paralympic Skiing Team. Menna has only 5% vision but with her tremendous determination and team work with her sighted colleague Jen, she succeeded in her goal of winning gold!

A lesson in collaboration, resilience and team work which we can all take into the more humdrum business world. Artificial intelligence and disruptive technology are causing many sales professionals to reevaluate their approach to client relationships. Most delegates still felt that face to face meetings were still an integral part of their method of working, but could be enhanced by increased data, metrics and research opportunities.

Sarah Edge (General Manager, UK & Ireland) from HMD Global gave a fascinating insight into the way the Nokia phone brand is forcing itself back into an extremely crowded and competitive telecommunications market. Some young people are actually beginning to shy away from the ubiquitous smart phone in an attempt to claim back some of their social lives!

Mobasher Butt (Chief Medical Officer) from Babylon gave a compelling account of how artificial intelligence can be used to anticipate and manage mental wellbeing. His fascinating presentation opened up the debate about stress and pressure in the work place. A number of delegates spoke passionately about their own mental health issues, and crucially the ways they have overcome such health concerns to fully succeed and excel at work.

Employers are certainly beginning to wake up to the fact that a happy and contented workforce will be more productive within the business. Despite some taboos being slowly broken down, the general consensus was that there is a long way to go to ensure that employees’ mental health issues are always treated with empathy, compassion and support.

The Business to Business Sales Degree Apprenticeship

The event, held at the prestigious London Stock Exchange, was finished in style with a fascinating panel discussion about the new Business to Business Sales Degree Apprenticeship – run in partnership between Consalia and Middlesex University. We were lucky enough to have some real life apprentices enrolled on the very first cohort on the stage talking about their experience of the programme.

Stacey Firn and Cat Arnold are Account Managers with Royal Mail and they both spoke very eloquently about the transformative effect of their apprenticeship and how they balanced degree level study with the rigours of work. They emphasised the tremendous support they received from their managers at Royal Mail and how this is essential to ensure they will succeed in their studies.

It was such an inspirational way to the end the conference that I am already looking forward to the 15th version of the annual event to be held the same time next year!

Some of the questions to ask your organisation are:

  1. Are you maximising your Apprenticeship Levy?
  2. Do your employees have the communication skills to rapidly ski downhill?
  3. Does your sales team have the skills it needs to succeed?
  4. Is there a need for any sales or management training?

For any further help or support please contact the Corporate Engagement Team at Middlesex University on either 020 8411 5050 or

Education Uncategorized

The Apprenticeship Levy: one year on

David Williams

David Williams is the Director of Global Corporate Engagement at Middlesex University. At the close of National Apprenticeship Week 2018, he reflects on the recent developments within the world of apprenticeships, and identifies areas of best practice which can benefit both learners and businesses.

It’s now almost a year since large employers started paying the Apprenticeship Levy.  As we celebrate the successful apprentice programmes during National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2018), the 5% Club recently published research that reveals the majority of parents want more alternatives to university for their children such as apprenticeships, with 80% stating there are not enough options. 77% agree that apprenticeships are given a much lower profile in society than university education. Only 20% of parents felt they had enough knowledge to advise on apprenticeships while 54% felt schools did not provide enough information.

The Apprenticeship Levy - One year on

This is difficult for a Government committed to addressing the skills gap and whose ambitions are a significant driver for the development of apprenticeships at all levels for the post-Brexit UK. The Government has pledged to create three million new apprenticeships in England by the end of the current parliament, including the new innovation on the block, the higher education-level Degree Apprenticeships. However, after nearly a year of Levy payments, numbers overall have fallen and some apprenticeship schemes have come under fire for not providing businesses or employees with the skills needed to succeed.

But there are a large number of well-organised, first-rate apprenticeships being run by businesses and there is a great deal of innovation that promises well for the future. These are at all levels, from the traditional Levels 2 and 3 to Degree and Postgraduate Apprenticeships at Level 7. The debate at the highest level is more around the title than the impact; senior employees may prefer an MBA or professional qualification than being ‘badged’ as an apprenticeship.

Overcoming challenges

One of the biggest challenges employers are facing is how to strategically include their Levy payments into meeting the needs of their business through robust Workforce Development planning to maximise their return. Additionally, the requirement that all Levy-qualifying training requires the employee to be released for off-the-job training across 20 per cent of their time is a barrier and a change from the historical delivery models. Most organisations that we have spoken to are trying to find ways to embrace the current situation and plan long-term to ensure organisational impact. This approach tends to lead to the upskilling of existing staff rather than recruiting new staff.

We would call the Government, along with the Institute for Apprenticeships, to make some subtle changes and give employers more ownership and control, letting them decide what percentage of off-the-job training best suits their needs on a sector-by-sector basis but particularly with the input of the Higher Education institutions. At the moment, the constraints are hindering staff development, and so, organisational productivity and the return on investment.

Employers working with professional bodies have formed Trailblazer groups to develop nationally recognised apprenticeship standards – succinct documents that define the knowledge, skills and behaviours for occupations and related high-level assessments.

Degree Apprenticeships at Middlesex

Middlesex University has a proud track record in higher level work-based learning and Higher Apprenticeships. We believe we offer the very best practice as our qualifications are designed to meet employer needs and are delivered flexibly in the workplace; these programmes are suitable for a company’s existing employees or for new apprentices. All assessment is around the workplace role, tailored to maximise the impact on the organisation and on an individual’s performance at work. Degree Apprenticeships are currently offered in management, leadership, construction and B2B sales, and there are others in development across public sector occupations.

There are many benefits to an employer undertaking an apprentice programme outside of utilising their Levy payment. Younger apprentices can offer new and skilled workers for the future and be developed to fully appreciate the culture of the organisation; and by upskilling staff through an apprenticeship programme, they may grow in loyalty and help increase retention rates. The new thinking and skills of staff can re-energise a company, offering new insights and innovation that can be applied to everyday work and responsibilities. This is the real legacy.

The time to act is now: talk to your preferred training provider and ask how they can support your workforce development and help promote best practices –  I have no doubt you will pleased with the options available.

Find out more about apprenticeships at MDX

Learn more about business and partnerships at MDX


Construction’s biggest challenge

Neville Webb, the Institute for Work Based Learning’s Director of Construction ProgrammesDuring National Apprenticeships Week, Director of Construction Programmes Neville Webb discusses how construction degree apprenticeships can help reinvigorate collaboration across the industry.

Apart from the obvious large scale challenges like a sluggish pipeline of government-funded projects, an overheating supply chain and a massive skills shortage there is one significant challenge which impacts on the very soul of the construction industry – collaboration.

In the 1970s, Britain’s construction industry suffered at the hands of a highly-unionised labour force and its direct response to an overall lack of empathy by management with the common worker.

Job protection strategies such as job demarcation were born out of fear of job losses and they placed a strangle hold around the construction site. It made the simplest of tasks a convoluted process involving more people and resources than were strictly necessary and prevented efficacious programming.

That was 40 years ago, with old fashioned work cultures on both sides stifling creativity and individualism. But fast forward into the 21st century and we’re facing a similar issue at professional level.

Management is stratified between those in similar roles doing the same kind of work and rarely crossing boundaries between disciplines or functionality. People are separated by the very bonds that tie them together, go into any large construction site and you’ll see it for yourself echoed in the welfare and accommodation arrangements billeting functional groups together rather than the work-face zone or outputs they share.

Education and training in the sector needs radical change. The industry needs to focus on a coherent strategy for collaborative team working at site management level.

The construction industry has always had a reputation as a hard, itinerant, dirty fingernail and very dangerous environment, where the ‘craic’ as some might put it, was strong.  Strong enough to counter the negatives and make the work almost bearable.

The erosion of collaboration threatens to overturn all we consider to be commensurate with smooth and efficient working. It’s one of the key attractions into the industry for many people – the unique site culture. And yet, paradoxically, this culture is being slowly eroded by the ever-increasing lamination of command and control management.

Tier upon tier of subcontractor layers together with columns of specialist professionals forming a matrix of communication confusion. Education and training in the sector needs a radical change.

The industry needs to focus on a coherent strategy for collaborative team working at site management level and a significant contribution to this is the ‘customs, practice and habits’ people bring to their role.

Degree apprenticeships

At Middlesex, we are developing a fully integrated Construction Management Degree Apprenticeship across the key site disciplines where collaborative learning is a fundamental part of the process.

It will help provide a more enriched learning experience and will contribute to a better understanding of how colleagues’ roles combine to create a successful project outcome.

This suite of construction management programmes has been designed to aid transformative change within the industry by acknowledging and promoting:

  • The gradual acceptance of the role of the ‘Construction Manager’ as a significant multi-faceted management role within construction organisations and now a recognised professional destination in its own right
  • The recognition of how the management of the construction process on any site or project can only be successfully achieved if a high level of collaboration between all the parties (particularly the professional team) is achieved
  • The adoption of BIM as a management tool requires a significant culture change to facilitate effective use
  • The deployment of Integrated Project Delivery to ensure a ‘one-team’ approach without unnecessary ‘man-marking’ where duplication and omissions in process are minimised.

Each of the key construction site management team leader roles has a Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship associated with it.

These apprenticeships lead to honours degree qualifications, are work-based and are designed to have an interdependent structure based on common and shared management themes within their specific disciplines.

That is, they all address the constructor’s ‘holy trinity’ of cost, quality and delivery plus other shared themes and they all address the needs of their personal construction businesses. The apprenticeships are also designed to enable apprentices to gain relevant professional body recognition.

An inexperienced practitioner can join the Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship programme and could complete at Technician level and gain a Certificate of Higher Education. Or alternatively, complete at Level 5 and gain a Diploma of Higher Education or go on to complete the Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship in any of the following fields:

  • Construction Site Management
  • Civil Engineering Site Management
  • Construction Quantity Surveyor
  • Building Services Engineering Site Management
  • Construction Design Management

Experienced practitioners with no formal qualifications but over five years’ experience in the role could join the Level 6 top-up degree as a Degree Apprentice or if self-sponsoring, as a mature student.

The new apprenticeship initiative has the potential to transform the construction sector. By developing fully rounded construction professionals that have the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours that the industry requires, we can shape the future of the physical environment we all live and work in for the better.

To discuss the options and how Construction management can apply to yourself email or telephone 02084115050. I will also be attending the MIPIM Convention from 13th-17th March 2017 and will be available for meetings.

Business & economics

The Apprenticeship Levy

David Williams, Director of Global Corporate Engagement, shares his thoughts on the new Apprenticeship Levy being introduced by the government to finance a new wave of apprenticeships.

In April the government is to introduce a new ‘payroll tax’ in the form of an Apprenticeship Levy. Those businesses with an annual payroll bill in excess of £3m will see their payroll costs increase next year by 0.5%.

This can amount to a substantial extra cost for any company affected, across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Back in 2015, the Conservative Party committed to creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020 in their general election manifesto. The development and delivery of degree-level apprenticeships is seen as a key part of this policy reform and to fund this initiative we have the new Apprenticeship Levy.

The good news is the incremental tax raised on the total payroll bill will be returned to the employer through a digital account, along with an uplift of 10% from the government. If there is a catch then it is that the employer can only spend the money on the delivery of apprenticeship-based training offered through an approved training provider. And if the funds are not used after two years then it cannot be recouped. The funding only applies to apprenticeships in England.

The positive view is that many Learning & Development managers will now find themselves with a budget that the FD cannot take away.

The government’s recent industrial strategy green paper includes commitments to technical education, in large part a response to Brexit but also to address the productivity gap and the marked geographic and demographic divides across the UK. The emphasis has also notably been on opportunity and social mobility as a result of apprenticeship training.

Funding (or the cost) for apprenticeships can vary considerably. Lower level qualifications are around £2,000 per qualification with degree apprenticeships around £27,000. Others fit somewhere in between.

Non-levy paying employers will have to make a small contribution towards training an apprentice. Current thinking is that the government will pay 90% towards the cost of training and employers will pay the remaining 10%.

Levy examples

Employer 1

Employer of 100 employees, each with a gross salary of £20,000:
Paybill: 100 x £20,000 = £2,000,000
Levy sum: 0.5% x £2,000,000 = £10,000
Allowance: £10,000 – £15,000 = £0 annual levy payment (total amount of the levy sum is less than the £15,000 allowance); employer will receive an levy allowance for apprenticeship training.

Employer 2

Employer of 250 employees, each with a gross salary of £20,000:
Paybill: 250 x £20,000 = £5,000,000
Levy sum: 0.5% x £5,000,000 = £25,000
Allowance: £25,000 – £15,000 = £10,000 annual levy payment

Employer 3

Large Employer
Paybill: £100 million
Levy sum = 0.5% x £100,000,000 = £500,000
Allowance £5,000,000 – £15,000 = £485,000 annual levy payment, paid monthly through their digital account.

The levy will not affect the way an employer funds training for apprentices who started an apprenticeship programme before May 2017. Companies will need to carry on funding training for these apprentices under the terms and conditions that were in place at the time the apprenticeship started.

What do businesses need to do now?

Businesses need to start planning now about where the skills gaps are and what their future needs are going to be; then mapping these gaps to qualifying apprenticeship qualifications or developing new ones as part of a joint trailblazer group. They also need to plan who is eligible; whilst existing staff can become an apprentice the individual has to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of three years to qualify.

At Middlesex University we are already seeing an interesting change in businesses’ views on graduate programmes. The complex rules of the Apprentice Levy allow funding for vocational courses or qualifications linked to a job role (even at degree level). A business with an existing Workforce Development Programme can be funded through the Apprenticeship Levy, provided the employee will be learning new skills/knowledge, the apprenticeship is relevant to their role and the qualification has been approved by SFA.

New master’s-level apprenticeships (Level 7) are currently under development and are likely to be of particular interest to employers because of the proven impact of work-based study at this level on performance and productivity.

Higher and degree apprenticeships do and will exist in parallel; the key difference is that degree apprenticeships result in the apprentice receiving a bachelor’s or master’s degree upon completion.  With significant funding – by 2020 this will be double the level in 2010 – available, degree apprenticeships are a potential new income stream for universities. With the levy funding available soon, a significant growth in numbers is predicted as employers look to spend their vouchers.

A new Institute for Apprenticeships (I4A) has been established to act as an independent body responsible for approving standards and assessment plans.

At the moment the actual role of QAA in assuring the quality of degree apprenticeships remains unclear.  But guidance for trailblazers states that “degree apprenticeships are subject to the quality assurance requirements of QAA.”

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a genuine job with an accompanying skills development programme. Through their apprenticeship, apprentices gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills they need for their immediate job and future career.

  • The apprentice must be employed in a real job; they may be an existing employee or a new hire
  • The apprentice must work towards achieving an approved apprenticeship standard
  • The apprenticeship training must last at least 12 months
  • The apprentice must spend at least 20% of their time on relevant off-the-job training

Employing an apprentice is very simple. The National Apprenticeship Service can provide all the information an employer needs to know in order to employ an apprentice.

Support for employers

Through the online apprenticeship service all employers will be able to:

  • Select an apprenticeship standard in an area you have training needs/gap
  • Choose the training provider or providers you want to deliver the training
  • Choose the organisation that will assess your apprentices
  • Post apprenticeship vacancies

If you are an employer who pays the levy, you can also use the apprenticeship service to:

  • Set the price you’ve agreed with your training provider
  • Pay for apprenticeship training and assessment
  • Tell Skills Funding Agency to stop or pause payments (for example, if your apprentice stops their training, your apprentice takes a break from training or you haven’t received the service you agreed with the provider)
  • Separate arrangements will be in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In summary

  • The apprenticeship levy is to fund an increase in the number and quality of apprenticeships
  • It will affect businesses with a payroll bill of over £3 million (roughly 2% of businesses)
  • Each qualifying business will pay 0.5% of their employee payroll into the levy pot
  • Each business will receive up to £15,000 against the cost of training new apprentices or developing existing staff on an approved programme
  • Masters (Level 7) Apprentice programmes are in development.

You can find more information on how the Apprentice Levy will work on the government’s apprenticeship pages.

Find out more about Degree Apprenticeships at Middlesex University

Contact: Corporate Engagement, Middlesex University
Telephone: 020 8411 5050
Twitter: @corporateMU