The apprenticeship levy is here to stay, and companies in the events industry are starting to get with the programme.
“We’re spending a lot of our time right now educating the industry,” says David Preston, CEO of Realise, on the phone to EN while driving to his umpteenth meeting of the week.
Preston is on a country-wide mission to spread the word about the UK government’s apprenticeship levy, which went live in May 2017 and which will see a direct taxation on businesses with a payroll over £3m.
Preston’s company Realise, which is an approved training provider for event apprenticeships, has been alerting the industry to the opportunities posed by the levy.
“The money will be taken from businesses regardless, so it’s incumbent on us as an industry to use apprenticeships to get this money back and spend it on the training and development of new staff,” he explains.
While the levy itself is automatic, employers will be able to draw on funds from it and invest them in the training of apprentices.
“One of the things the apprenticeship programme is doing for us is getting people to actually think about entry points to the industry,” continues Preston, who himself began his professional life as an apprentice. “The only entry points previously were knowing someone in the industry, or doing an event management degree.
“Our industry is a very hands-on, practical industry, and the way an apprenticeship works is through a hands-on experience, rather than just the academic education you’d get through an event management degree.”
The Event Management Apprenticeship (EMA) programme, partly developed by Preston, is positioned at Level 3, broadly equating to A-Levels, and is open to UK residents aged 16 and over. The programme was over five years in the making, and has now been fully approved by government.
Preston and his colleagues at Realise, which includes industry trainer Richard John, will support event apprentices with an 18-month programme. At 18 months the apprentice do an ‘end point assessment’, which is a practical examination involving a stand up presentation about an event the apprentice has worked on. During the scheme apprentices will also have to build up a portfolio of evidence, detailing the work they do, which will be submitted as part of the assessment.
The scheme has already been taken up by FIRST agency and creative agency drp group.
“As this apprenticeship is new to our industry, much of the work at present is around awareness, to get organisations interested in taking on an apprentice,” says Mark Riches MD of FIRST.
It is hoped that more companies in the industry affected by the levy will take the step of employing an apprentice and will appreciate the value these individuals could add to their business.
“Apprenticeships are invaluable to businesses and young people,” Dale Parmenter, group CEO at drp, tells EN. “They offer up the chance to invest in the young people you are hiring, and nurture their talent, growth and knowledge within the industry.
“80 per cent of drp’s apprentices have stayed with us after completing their schemes. Three of our board members started as work experience candidates at 16 years old, and over 20 years later they’re still with the company.”
Preston acknowledges that some companies may have reservations about getting on board with the scheme, whether because it is new or because the 18-month duration is inconvenient for an annual event cycle, but says he and his colleagues are available to answer any questions and assuage any concerns.
“This was developed by the industry,” he concludes. “We all came together because we thought there was a need. We’ve put in place the apprenticeship programme and now we just have to take advantage of the fact that the programme’s there and start employing young people and getting them into the industry.”