Neil Coates, Vice Principal- HE, Apprenticeships, Employer Engagement and Innovation
Nina Sian, Director of Employer Engagement and Partnerships
Neil Coates – Vice Principal
At the last FE Annual Apprenticeship Conference, the discussions focused on how to recognise prior learning (RPL) in skills, not just qualifications – and then appropriately negotiate the price. This sparked a lot of conversations within our college, primarily because at LSEC the front-end sales team deal with the initial enquiries with potential apprentices, and negotiate the price with the employer.
We needed a solution that would provide a consistent, accurate RPL of skills that didn’t require the time of a skills coach (as they usually have their diaries booked out up to 4 weeks in advance).
Given the amount of signatory now required for the apprentice agreements, commitment statements and resulting individualised training plans, we realised we required a dedicated document management system to ensure all signatory was gathered on the right sets of documentation.
We needed a foolproof, systematic approach to signing up apprentices which would meet audit requirements every time, while speeding up the process to get our ‘funded starts’ on the ILR as quickly as possible and to get on with the important stuff – training the apprentice!
Based on the ESFA commitment statement, initially, we built a spreadsheet template with complex funding formulae included so that the sales team had a consistent method to use. Programme templates were built with clear standardised training, which was linked to the commitment statements and could be adapted in response to skills scans. These worked and were fit for purpose; however, we were still meeting challenges in gaining remote signatory, which became increasingly problematic during the pandemic. Also, the internal auditing that was required – to ensure all documentation was completed accurately and fully – was adding an administrative burden.
VLE Support are an innovative and forward-thinking company, always keen to provide technological solutions to the educational management processes. We spoke to them about the possibility of providing an application that would manage not just this process, but also include the talent management apprenticeship pool and electronic signatory. The process should ensure that it is quick, easy to use and help a vacancy quickly become a ‘funded start’, while providing quality training programmes for the apprentice and consistency with the audit regime.
Implementing and using eSignUp
The system was easy to set up and to implement. All staff have received online training and have access to a comprehensive user guide.
We are already seeing the benefits of using eSignUp. It is easy to see exactly the stage the apprentice is at in the process – whether that’s as an applicant, interviewing or onboarding – allowing for easier forecasting of funded starts coming through the pipeline. Employers and apprentices are finding signing the documents on a touch device easy and intuitive, so they are completing them in a timely fashion.
We are screening our applicants early, so we can identify if a candidate is over or underqualified early in the process, only putting the right candidates forward for interview. The programme templates allow us to reflect on whether we are delivering the training in the most cost-effective way. There is plenty of scope for individualising those templates, dependent on the employer and individual training need.
Now we are planning progression for 2021-22, the talent bank is helping us to identify and put forward our current students as candidates. Encouragingly, the traineeships we have coming through our programmes are being considered consistently for apprenticeships.
The help and support we have received from VLE Support have been great, the staff are personable and responsive. Working together truly feels like a partnership approach.
eSignUp is a real benefit to us at London South East Colleges and our employers, students and apprentices are enjoying the professional response it brings.