Matthew Lord, Co-Founder and Director of LMP Group, is a passionate advocate for apprenticeships. He has been instrumental in the development and growth of Inspire ATA, an apprenticeship training agency (ATA) which employs apprentices on behalf of host organisations, and in gaining official approval from the Department for Education to join the Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agency Register (FJAAR) in January 2022.
In his own words, Matthew aims to demystify the concept of ‘Flexi-Job Apprenticeships’ and reveals the many benefits available to organisations looking to invest in talent and grow and develop people.
Looking back to the launch of the FJAAR, Matthew explains:
Inspire ATA had been operating as an ATA since 2016, so we were aware of the government’s plans to replace the ATA Register with the new FJAAR. In 2021 Inspire ATA was operating successfully, despite the hardships brought about by Covid and we saw the launch of the FJAAR as an opportunity to promote the concept of “hosting” an apprentice for shorter durations, a model not widely known for taking on an apprentice.
At the time, 95% of our client base was schools and our research suggested that there would be demand from schools to take on support staff (as apprentices) for short durations to match school terms when needed. For example, it might be helpful for a school to take on an apprentice for 7 months for the last 2 terms of the academic year (January to July) if the additional resource is needed. As an employment agency committed to the full duration of the apprenticeship training programme and end-point assessment (EPA), Inspire ATA would then place that same apprentice in a different school in September, with paid holiday being taken in August.
We formally launched the flexi-job apprenticeship concept in February 2022, once we had been accepted onto the new FJAAR. Inspire ATA is now one of only 30 organisations in the UK on the approved FJAAR.
Matthew goes onto explain the recent growth throughout the year of 2022, the challenges, the benefits and the opportunities:
We currently employ around 200 apprentices, partner with 100+ host employers, and contract with 24 training providers to deliver a range of apprenticeship training.
Most of our apprentices (85%) are based in schools so our most popular courses are Teaching Assistant Level 3, Business Administrator Level 3 and Early Years Practitioner Level 3. However, we are seeing more and more demand from other sectors, so we get a lot of employer requests for IT and digital-related apprentices.
The main barrier is simply a lack of awareness of flexi-job apprenticeships. Most employers don’t know that this is an option, although there are many advantages and benefits to using this model.
Benefits of Flexi-Job Apprenticeships
- The apprentice can experience different host employers, further enriching their apprenticeship experience.
- The employer is able to hire an apprentice for shorter durations to meet the needs of the industry/sector.
- Free replacement service – if the apprentice does not work out for whatever reason, our agency will find a replacement.
- The ability to hire an apprentice off-payroll which allows some businesses to take on additional staff where budget/headcount restrictions might apply.
- A very wide range of apprenticeship training courses available (we work with 20+ training providers).
- Less paperwork for the employer – our agency deals with and manages all the paperwork and related compliance regarding employment contracts and enrolling the apprentice with a training provider.
- Our agency deals with payroll, holiday allowance, SSP, etc.
- Our agency has a full-time support team to help manage and support the apprentices, and they deal with any issues that might arise.
- Our agency takes on responsibility for safeguarding, grievance and disciplinary matters, supporting both apprentice and client and offering impartial mediation when necessary.
I think also there is a huge opportunity for apprenticeship training providers to offer this concept to their clients, particularly those clients that might be more inclined to take on apprentices if there was an option for a shorter duration or to take them on off-payroll (rather than employ directly). A pro-active training provider can generate a lot of new business for themselves by working with a flexi-job apprenticeship agency such as Inspire ATA.
Inspire ATA apprentices receive a lot of support from us; we want to ensure that they have a good experience with both their host employer and their training provider. We have received a lot of good feedback from the apprentices – we currently rank 3rd in the “Rate My Apprenticeship” list of Top 100 Employers 2022-23, 16 places higher than last year (check out the reviews here). We are particularly proud of this because the rankings and scores are based on the learner reviews.
Our projected learner numbers for 2023 are looking really good. We are experiencing a record number of starts and our agency is growing. In the last 12 months, we doubled in size (from 100 to 200 apprentices), and we expect to continue this growth.
We meet with the Department for Education on a monthly-basis and they have been very supportive. I think the new FJAAR system works well because there is more emphasis on the shorter durations and flexible approach to taking on an apprentice.
Our flexi-job apprenticeships meet the needs of learners and employers. We work with some schools that have taken on an apprentice to meet shorter-term resourcing needs but most clients commit to the full duration. They really are the best kept secret in the world of apprenticeships and we are committed to raising the profile of flexi-job apprenticeship and explaining the business benefits available.Contact