Working with training providers – an employer perspective

Posted by Daniel Barrass on July 9, 2018

Apprenticeships are a core part of BT’s Talent Strategy; ensuring they maintain and develop a highly skilled workforce. Recent reforms have allowed BT to link their apprenticeship strategy strongly to their culture and development principles.  BT have used apprenticeships to fund initiatives that address attraction, retention and performance challenges through developing internal career pathways with accredited learning solutions. 

Ann Potterton, Head of Apprenticeships – Relationship Management and Design at BT, addressed our recent Empower Conference about what a large UK employer is looking for from a potential Higher Education training provider. Here is what she said:


There are three main models for delivering apprenticeships:

  • In-house: Where the employer has the required expertise to fully train an apprentice
  • Out-sourced: Where others have the required expertise
  • Hybrid: Knowledge is outsourced but coaching/mentoring is kept within. Ensures a good fit with the business

Consistency is key

What does a large employer look for from a university?  There are many specific ‘things’ an employer the size and scale of BT would look for when partnering with any institution and the most important thing to consider is consistency. Consistency of data (and reporting); consistency of programme delivery (quality); and consistency of programme model (prime or sub-contractor).

If we consider apprenticeship data and the reporting of it – a large employer such as BT will have many programmes running concurrently (almost 400 highers alone) with several different contractors.  If each contractor provides progress reports in different formats, this becomes very difficult to manage and track and can lead to mistakes in delivery, progression and attainment as well as misappropriation of levy funding – which can be very challenging, and lead to possible sanctions.

It is also worth considering the consistency of quality in the programme – large employers need to ensure that all apprentices on their programmes, be it Advanced, Higher or Degree, receive the same level of learner experience relevant to the level there are working toward.

Quality Improvement

BT is currently rated ‘Good’ by OFSTED.  To achieve ‘Outstanding’ the Quality Improvement system was overhauled creating new policies, processes and a whole new calendar of activities. The process ensures that all stakeholders in apprenticeship delivery are involved in quality improvement.  Any HE institution wishing to partner with a large employer would be expected to buy into this culture and demonstrate it throughout.


This is another key area.  Like ensuring quality of teaching, making sure all parties know who is responsible and what for is essential.  There are several ways this can be ensured – you need to be aware of them all.

Monthly reports on learner progression that highlight any issues with completion of targets, non-attendance (these are important enough to be flagged before each report), and learner feedback and evaluation.  Creating accountability throughout an apprenticeship programme rather than at the end can be of huge importance (as with any type of qualification) because it means issues can be resolved in real-time and have a positive impact on competition rates.

A dedicated Account Manager is another key requirement of many large employers.  It is the Account Manager who is responsible for ensuring Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are met.  Their responsibilities include monitoring groups of Assessors/Coaches and Tutors to ensure they are meeting the high standards expected.

What is unique about Higher Education?

The answer lies in the question – the nature of a university, its buildings, the campuses, the other students, the lecturers and their teaching methods all adds to a distinct experience that you cannot get from traditional vocational training providers.

There is a certain level of gravitas associated with studying at university and the kudos an apprentice can achieve can be a real motivator in both recruiting apprentices and helping them succeed.

Flexible learning models, top ups and new qualification ideas are always sought to enhance the apprenticeship offering and make the experience as unique and fulfilling as possible.

Main challenges

  1. Data reporting – speed, consistency and accuracy
  2. Getting to know BT – understanding the quirks and intricacies of a large employer
  3. Over-promising – training providers often promise more than they can deliver successfully
  4. Managing many providers – the main challenge is not just the volume but the difference between each provider

Ann is Head of Apprenticeships – Relationship Management and Design at BT. Having previously worked with the Institute of Telecoms Professionals as CEO, and having also worked closely with Apprenticeship Training Providers, Ann is delighted to join the BT Apprenticeship Team.

Are you thinking about running a Degree Apprenticeship programme? Our latest webinar takes you through the mains things you need to know before setting up:

Watch the webinar

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