Workforce news podcast March 2017

We look in detail at the Government's new apprenticeship regulations and hear how Warwickshire County Council is implementing them and talk to the outgoing Head of Workforce, Sarah Messenger, about her new role.

To contact the Workforce Team about any comments and ideas email: workforce@local.gov.uk.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 00:17 – 01:21)
Hi and welcome to the new addition of Workforce news. Later on in the podcast we're going to have a special look at apprenticeships, ten months after the Consultation close and a few weeks before they are due to come into effect the government has finally told us quite what these will look like. So we've got Sue Evans who is the head of HR from Warwickshire County Council and the current President of PPMA and also our Phil Bundy from the LGA. And they are going to talk to us, give us some information about what these regulations will look like and also a bit of a reaction to how these will impact on council. So that's coming up a bit later, but first of all we've got some big news here in the LGA workforce team. Our current head of workforce Sarah Messenger, she's moving onto a new role in the LGA and we're going to have a new head of workforce. So we thought we would take the opportunity to speak to Sarah and have a look at all the things she's been involved in whilst she's been the head of workforce and have a little look at how far we've come and all the different things we've been involved in. So Sarah first of all congratulations on the new role, but we're not quite losing you from workforce are we?

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 01:22 – 01:52)
No I'm going to be moving into a new part-time role with the LGA focused on ourcConsultancy activity related to workforce issues, so I am really excited about that that starts in the middle of March.  Sad to be moving on from the head of workforce because I've loved the job, it's a fantastic job, we work on some amazing, interesting issues. I know we make a difference in councils and I've been privileged to have a fantastic team working with me.  And I know that they'll go onto to do brilliant things with the new head of workforce.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 01:53 – 02:09)
So Sarah you mentioned some of the work that you've been doing over the last five or six years as the head of workforce, and we thought this is a great opportunity to have a look at that. So let's remind ourselves of some of the topics we have covered, we've got some footage from our earlier podcasts that we can have a look at.

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 02:10 – 03:25)
Well we're certainly living in interesting times at the moment, I think it is tough at the moment. We do a lot of employing engagement, really thinking through what pay and reward's  going to look like in the future, particularity with the new national living wage and the need to re-design the national pay spine. We know that the days of command and control have largely come to an end, that's a good thing.  I think we've all understood the importance of having employees who understand what their role is and are passionate about what they do and are well managed. There's some really big questions and LGA is at the heart of the debate in terms of trying to answer those questions and to come up with solutions that will work in the different kind of council operating at different circumstances. There are lots of interesting and innovative stuff going on in councils as is always the case.  I am afraid there is a lot more to come.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 03:26 – 03:33)
Not quite a ‘This is Your Life' moment but it's good to see what we've been involved in and sort of how far we've come. 

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 03:34 – 05:30)
Well I use the word great and I'm going to stand by it, but actually there has been some difficult moments over the last five years and I know people in councils will be able to relate to that. But that's what makes work interesting and challenging and sometimes fun. But if I think back to when I first became Head of Workforce and I think about what's happened I think I'd pick out three or four things that have really shaped almost all of the activity that we've done within the Workforce Team. 

I'd certainly want to mention the financial context that councils have been operating in, a word we don't use any more austerity, but it was a sort of buzz word for a while. But I think we all probably accept now that austerity wasn't just a temporary state and we all were waiting to move into a position where it all went back to how it used to be. That kind of focus on public money and how we spend it and how we drive efficiencies is here to stay I think and all of that has underpinned our approach to workforce. And that in turn has led to an increased scrutiny on the people that we employ or we engage to provide and deliver public services, so much more of an emphasis on people being accountable and responsible for what they do and a transparency about how we do things. 

And I think also there has been some really interesting developments around public policy related to workforce issues. So we've had the recent developments around the National Living Wage, there has been the quite challenging and interesting developments around exit payments, which I know have kept a lot of people busy. Things like IR 35 and the tax implications of engaging people, and of course some major developments around public sector pension, both in terms of the pension scheme for the individuals within it but also increasingly a focus on, particularly for the LGPS how that money, how the money in the pension funds is actually invested. So a real rich tapestry of issues that have sat behind the range of activities we've carried out. 

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 05:31 – 05:33)
So how have you seen councils change as a result of this new normal?

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 05:34 – 06:41)
Dramatically. I think it's quite remarkable actually how much councils have achieved over the last five or six years in terms of their workforce.  And a lot of that has been done against a backdrop of financial pressures as I've said a kind of constant and sometimes changing expectations of Politicians and Senior Managers who have a vision for where they want the council to be. So we've had all sorts of councils muted from the Commercial Council, the Commissioning Council and Councils rightly will set their own agenda for what kind of council they want to be and how they want to deliver services. And the HR Community and the workforce absolutely need to be at the heart of that discussion because we know that they're integral to the success of it. So, and we see that in examples like the Tri-Boroughs, lots of examples of greater integration of health and social care. Outsourcing of services, combined authorities, lots and lots of examples of the way that the Local Government Family is evolving and shifting at a rapid pace and how the workforce is integral to sort of achieving success in all of those ambitions.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 06:42 – 06:45)
Can you talk to us about the changes you've seen in the Workforce Team?

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 06:46 – 08:26)
The range of issues we focus on has really grown. I think the level of expertise and insight that collectively as a team we bring, that there are growing expectations of that as well. That we need to  be more than just experts in pay, pensions, employment solutions which was our mantra when we were the LGA and we need to  be absolutely at the cutting edge of thinking around HR practice, OD practice, kind of and even moving beyond those constraints into very, very different ways of engaging human beings to deliver services and not necessarily always think of that as a straightforward employment relationship with a contract of employment and a level of pay and a job description. And that's what's really changed and I've been very, very lucky to have a brilliant team that have helped me work on those sorts of things.

So for example the work we've done around the 21st Century Public Servant, particularly the eBook that we commissioned last year ‘Walk Tall'. And we've been running recently the fantastic campaign ‘Come Back to Social Work' which is focused on getting Social Workers retrained and returning to the profession. We've also done work on commercialisation, what does that actually mean? What kind of skills is it that we really need in public services?  And where are we going to find them? Linked to that we've done work around pay and reward job evaluation, particularly as new jobs are evolving that don't fit traditional methods and traditional ways of measuring the value of a job. And of course a lot of work around health and social care integration.  

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 08:27- 08:31)
Sarah that was a really interesting review thank you so much for that and good luck in your new role.

Sarah Messenger
Outgoing Head of Workforce, LGA

(Time 08:32 – 08:33)
Thanks Luann.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 08:34 – 08:55)
Now as promised we're going to have a more in depth look at the apprenticeship requirements that are coming in.  And to help us with that we've got Phil Bundy from the LGA and also Sue Evans who is the Head of HR at Warwickshire County Council. So Phil we've been waiting a while but we've finally got some information on what these requirements will look like. Can you give us a summary of these?

Phil Bundy
Senior Employment Law Advisor, LGA

(Time 08:56 – 09:55)
So the Government is going ahead with this 2.3 per cent target for public sector bodies with 250 and more employees.  And when I say 2.3 per cent its best to illustrate this by way of an example, if you've got a 1,000 employees it means you've got to have 23 new apprentices start each year.  And the 250 employees and the 2.3 per cent will be calculated based on pure head count. We were hoping it was going to be by full time equivalent employees which would have been a help to Local Authorities because of course we've got a lot of part time employees, so it's pushing the number of apprenticeships up for us. 

Another point as well is that our schools will be included in our head count when you're working out the 2.3 per cent. So that again is going to push up the number of apprenticeship starts, we're going to have to see each year. 
Academies though are Multi-Academy Trusts so they will be treated as individual employers, so whether they are covered will depend on whether they hit this 250 target, which a lot of the time they won't.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 09:56 – 09:57)
So this wasn't quite what we were hoping for?

Phil Bundy
Senior Employment Law Advisor, LGA

(Time 09:58 – 10:56)
No it's not. There is I suppose you could say a little bit of a silver lining. The way these targets are going to work, they're going to work over a four year period. So they kick off in April this year 2017 and run through till the end of March 2021 and strictly speaking it's 2.3 per cent each year from April till the end of March. But what the Government has said is that you can average it out over this four year period. So you can have a bad start or a bad year as long as you do alright over the four year period and meet these targets then you know you will be considered to have met the targets. 

Another point as well I think it's important to keep in mind is when they say new apprenticeships starts it doesn't have to be a new employee, it can be someone that's actually you know moves from a role that you've got already into an apprenticeship role, and that apprenticeship role as long as it's one that's classified as an apprenticeship according to legislation and the Government rules, then that will be classed as a new apprenticeship start.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 10:57 – 11:03)
Sue Phil has given us a bit of good news in that there is some flexibility here, but I'd be interested in your reaction into how these will take effect in councils?

Sue Evans
Head of HR, Warwickshire County PPMA President 2016/17

(Time 11:04 – 12:38)
The problem with the targets of course is that they are impossible for us to meet. I am responsible for an organisation which is in the top 100 of employers of apprentices. We've very proud of what we've achieved and we've got 140 apprentices. And I'd say that's probably close to the limit of the number that we need. We neither need nor can fund 250, which will be my target. And I think the difficulty is that nobody has thought about supply. We've thought about demand, oh the important thing is to get these people into our work places and get more apprentices, and we're all in favour of that.  They make an enormous contribution to our organisation. They are fabulous in terms of their energy, their enthusiasm, the skills that they bring, and they're helping to bring down the age profile of our workforce but I don't need 250 in my organisation. 

And the other thing of course is because they've now included schools within those targets I've got very small schools where it is not appropriate to put an apprentice. And they've taken no account of our part time contingent, I've got about 44 per cent of my workforce is part time. But that's directly impacted on my figures and my targets so I would say targets don't make results. What makes results in terms of apprenticeships is the willingness of the organisation to embrace the idea and to get on with it. And the levy will only make it more difficult, it won't do anything to improve either the quality or the quantity of apprenticeships. And I think it's very damaging to those of us who have actually played the game and done the best we can.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 12:39 – 12:43)
Sue you mentioned there the apprenticeship levy can you tell us what that will mean for you?

Sue Evans
Head of HR, Warwickshire County PPMA President 2016/17

(Time 12:44 – 13:40)
I come from a council which is hugely committed to apprenticeships and bringing younger people into our organisation, as I said we're in the top 100 of apprenticeship employers.  We've worked very hard and my leader, my council leader four years ago committed million, £2 million to developing an apprenticeship programme, which is what we've done. This levy now swipes £1.3 million and leaves a £1.3 million hole in the budget and damages my ability to continue the programme, to bring in good quality apprenticeships at all levels and this is higher apprenticeship, degree apprenticeships, we were on a really good rolling programme of developing those. And whilst I can use some of the levy for my existing staff actually is that the spirit in which it was intended?  Is that really helping me to build a younger and vibrant workforce for the future?

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 13:41 – 13:52)
So Phil this is obviously not good news for Sue and her council. If the councils can't meet the requirements of the apprenticeship targets and all of that what will happen?

Phil Bundy
Senior Employment Law Advisor, LGA

(Time 13:53 – 14:37)
Well there is no formal sanction, there is not a fine or anything like that, but what the Government is saying is that you know if they think a council hasn't had proper regard to the targets then they'll come in and help you and see what they can do to help you as regards to the targets to meet them whatever that might mean. But I think the message you can take from that is that if you're not able to meet the targets there will be a reason for it. So it's being clear on what efforts you are making, what you are doing and being able to explain clearly why you're not meeting them and it might be because you've got a lot of part time workers, a lot of school employees that are sort of increasing your targets.  So if you can sort of tell the story behind it then that should assist you if you're not able to meet them.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 14:38 – 14:44)
So Sue given how difficult it will be to meet these targets what can we at a national level do to help councils with this?

Sue Evans
Head of HR, Warwickshire County PPMA President 2016/17

(Time 14:45 – 15:35)
I think it is vital that PPMA and the LGA continue to do the good work they're doing in supporting councils to develop apprenticeships.  I think we can do something around sharing good practice because there is an awful lot of good practice out there. Councils I know have worked very hard to really develop good apprenticeship programmes which offer quality training and quality experience for young people so that they're getting the skills that we need for the future and that they're getting to build their future careers. There is an awful lot of work that we can do around helping people think about job design, about questioning about where we can use roles, where roles can become apprenticeships. So we can really make the most of our opportunities to recoup what's gone out in the levy, and I think that's terribly important for us as professional organisations. 

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 15:36 – 15:39)
And finally Sue what can councils do to get ready for these requirements coming in in April?

Sue Evans
Head of HR, Warwickshire County PPMA President 2016/17

(Time 15:40 – 16:19)
I think that councils now looking at this and staring this down and having this large sum of money removed from their budget will need to think very carefully about how they might access the levy for existing staff. How they might align existing programmes and skills development in their existing workforce to actually access levy funding. But in terms of setting up apprenticeship programmes they need to get started, they need to think about this. They need to be thinking about really the benefits of bringing young people into the workforce and building that workforce for the future. It's is critical to get started now. So my advice would be get on with it don't hang around now.

Luann McDonald
Senior Workforce Advisor, LGA

(Time 16:20 – 16:42)
Thank you Sue and thank you to Phil that was really useful. So that's it for this edition but as always if you have any questions or any comments on anything that we've covered today you can get in touch with us on our e-mail address which is workforce@local.gov.uk and also there will be more information on all of this that we have covered today on our website.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 March 2017