Introducing Linda Dean

Published on 25/02/2020 by DTHACK

Linda Dean has an acclaimed track record in training and development across influential private, public and third sector organisations. That’s why she was recently hired to Blackpool and The Fylde College (B&FC) as Executive Director – B&FC for Business.

Linda, Executive Director – B&FC for Business, shares with us her thoughts about how training and apprenticeships can transform Lancashire businesses.

There’s a great cartoon showing managers talking about staff development. ‘What if we train them and they leave?”, asks one.

The other: “What if we don’t - and they stay?”

Training has never been more crucial to any business’ success. In our fast-moving world, the only constant is change. Agility and flexibility are more than buzzwords and through training your employees’ skills can be constantly refined and aligned to whatever your future holds. 

In my role here at B&FC I meet a lot of employers. And what continues to surprise the vast majority of them is that apprentices can be any age - and their existing employees.

At a recent business breakfast meeting here in the North West, of the 40 businesses in the room 38 thought apprenticeships were only for school leavers.

That’s not to say that hiring apprentices from outside your organisation isn’t a fantastic way to plug skills gaps. But from an employer’s point of view, it’s a tough labour market out there. We’re experiencing the highest employment levels since the early 1970s, and if immigration slows now that will only increase.

With that in mind how can employers, particularly SMEs, afford not to see apprenticeships as a key plank in their workforce plan?

It wouldn’t be going too far to say the success of many businesses has been heavily influenced by their training and development strategies, in which apprenticeships often play a big part.

But the potential of apprenticeships far outweighs their recognition.

Many businesses still aren’t taking advantage of apprenticeship training when it’s either already paid for, in the case of the apprenticeship levy for large organisations with wage bills of £3m or more, or available at just 5% of the cost – with the government paying the rest.

I’ve worked in or around training my entire career. That’s given me the luxury of seeing the transformative effects of staff development.

There’s plenty of data around that underscores employer benefits of apprenticeships.

83% would recommend apprentices to other businesses. 86% of employers said apprentices helped to develop relevant skills for the organisation, and to fill the skills gap. 90% of apprentices get a job or go into further training after completing an apprenticeship.

Working with the local training and enterprise council in the late 90s gave me my first real exposure to apprenticeships, and their emerging focus as a positive choice for individuals and for business.

Apprenticeships have evolved significantly since then. But apprenticeships’ key principles remain: developing skills, learning technical knowledge and concepts for practical application, personal development, delivering a high return on investment for the individual, business and for the UK.

For individuals, apprenticeships enable ‘earning while learning’. For employers, apprenticeships help ‘grow their own’ and develop a workforce which is the best cultural fit for the business.

Many employers are surprised how quickly apprentices positively contribute to the organisation, often through bringing new ways of working from current training and boosting areas such as digital literacy.

When an existing employee is undertaking an apprenticeship they are already contributing, and they are enhancing that contribution.

Though every situation is different, I’ve spoken to business who report that by week 4 their apprentice has made a demonstrable difference.

I do think rewards are speedy – but also that this is about the medium and long term, not a quick fix.

Of course there’s work involved on the employer’s part. We are moving to a new electronic system to streamline the start process for employers and apprentices. But the initial process for employers and the apprentice is critical. It sets the learning goals and identifies planned outcomes, so it does require an investment of time. As you can see from the benefits – it’s absolutely worth it.

Supporting businesses through the apprenticeship lifecycle is a cornerstone of our activities here at B&FC. Having been a senior manager in an SME, I know how important it is to have partners working in your best interests and because we work with a huge number of SMEs we can provide assistance needed and share ideas and practices to smooth the way.

In the case of businesses looking for apprentices outside their organisation, that includes a free recruitment service which can includes national advertisements.

I do believe we’re making big progress with apprenticeships. There are some great high profile apprentices in businesses who are now MD or CEO or senior leaders and that helps to promote apprenticeships.

The most powerful advocates are other businesses and we are fortunate that many are deeply engaged in Blackpool but many, many more are not as yet.

At a recent future-focused business event a rallying call was made: if all Lancashire businesses spent £5 of every £100 in the county, they would bring in an extra £1.65bn.

Looking at the great ROI apprenticeships bring – I would like to make that call about apprenticeships in Blackpool and the Fylde.

Find out more about how apprenticeships can help your business at https://blackpool.ac.uk/apprenticeships.