Making the most of the public sector target

25 July 2017

Delivering three million apprenticeships by 2020 is a key priority for the Government and the Public Sector Target was established to ensure that the public sector is a model employer in this regard, leading by example and employing a significant proportion of apprentices to develop a skilled workforce for the future. The importance of the target is underlined by its inclusion in the Apprenticeship Reform Programme Benefits Realisation Strategy as a key success measure in creating more apprenticeship starts.

L&W have previously argued that there is a risk of meeting the 3 million target, but missing the point – to create high quality apprenticeships that lead to meaningful careers and progression. The public sector target has been introduced at a time of increased demands and budgetary pressures on public sector organisations, so the apprenticeships offered also need to help support organisations to provide high quality services and support the recruitment and training of staff in this context. But creating a positive apprentice experience is also key, and the support an apprentice receives can be the difference between leaving or thriving in their role.

L&W have been delighted to visit a range of public sector organisations over the last year to see how apprenticeships have already contributed to their organisation, and how they intend to respond to the target. Whilst approaches vary depending on the type of organisations, we have found the following to be key to establishing successful apprenticeship programmes in public sector organisations:

  • Careful planning – establishing a central point of contact for coordinating the design and delivery of the apprenticeship offer can be invaluable.
  • Creative planning – using apprenticeships as an opportunity to develop leadership and management skills of existing staff, and establish progression pathways for career starters.
  • Linking to other priorities – organisations that have had apprentices have found this can help contribute to reducing youth local unemployment and making their workforce more diverse.
  • Sharing information – can be helpful in ‘myth-busting’ about apprenticeships amongst existing staff, and encouraging interest in opportunities.
  • Partnership working – speaking to local employers and other organisations helps raise awareness of apprenticeships and share best practice.
  • Making best use of learning provider support – provider support (e.g. recruitment, on-site training options, or advice on the changing apprenticeship system) can help relieve the admin burden on staff and make the best use of staff time.
  • Exploring non-traditional recruitment approaches (e.g. use of supported internships or strengths-based recruitment) – can help organisations think beyond starts and ensure their programmes are inclusive and accessible for all.
  • Providing support for apprentices – tailored ‘pastoral’ support for apprentices can improve retention-rates and promote a more positive experience.
  • Considering the practicalities – linking with wider staff to explore day-to-day practicalities (e.g. uniform, shift patterns) is a good way of troubleshooting any potential challenges when the apprentice starts.
  • Promoting the benefits of apprenticeships – buy-in from senior staff can be a critical success factor both in terms of support and resources, and wider championing of apprenticeships.

Public sector employers need to think strategically and creatively about how they create apprenticeships, the level at which they are offered, who they are filled by (new recruits or existing employees), and how they are supported. As such, they need to see how these apprenticeships and their associated progression pathways are consistent with or can be integrated into existing workforce development plans and targets.

To support organisations to develop their apprenticeship programmes, L&W have developed a series of case studies providing an overview of approaches taken and the benefits realised as a result of this (for organisations, apprentices and service users). More detailed information has also been provided about how this has been achieved practically for those who want more information.

Our case studies include examples from across the public sector, including local authorities, the NHS, the police and fire services, and the civil service.

We are hopeful public sector organisations will find the information in these case studies useful to them in meeting the public sector target and we look forward to hearing more about how this works in practice both through our ongoing work in the sector and when formal reporting and updates on the target takes place in 2018.

For more information, please go to: