This is an update for our profession, waiting to hear about the progress on the Payroll Administrator Apprenticeship, Level 3. At the start of National Apprentice Week, it is appropriate that I write this article...

As you may recall from my previous update, I took over as Chair of the apprenticeship ‘Trailblazer’ group last year. When ready, this apprenticeship, together with the many that are available already for other professions, will be bespoke to the payroll profession and will provide the route to a recognised and robust qualification for new entrants and for employers to upskill existing employees.

There are two parts to the apprenticeship:

  1. The Standard – this is a high-level overview document that states what the Payroll Administrator will be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship. As all employers know, performing in our profession is so much more than just data entry and this document details all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours of a competent apprentice
  2. The Assessment Plan – this is a detailed document that tells an independent organisation how they will assess whether the apprentice has come through the learning stage and has met the required level of competence

I want to talk about where we have been and where we are at the moment, updating our profession:

The Trailblazer Group

This is not an apprenticeship written by Ian Holloway.

The purpose of the Trailblazer (or employer) group is that they are the ones that contribute their thoughts and ideas, based on a range of experiences and competencies that they have gained in their roles, past and present.

Before I took over as Chair of this group, the previous group had assembled a Standard and they were in the process of developing an Assessment Plan. The previous Chair was unable to get an engaged group together so, at the time that the ex-Chair stepped down, I reassembled one comprising employers that were enthusiastic, proactive and truly representative of the profession. Importantly, I worked hard to ensure that I had a wide-range of employers on the group covering all the sectors in my profession. As such, the employer group was comprised of payroll managers and leaders from retail, large employer, small employer, public sector (schools, councils, NHS), private sector, construction, utility, manufacturing, independent consultants, specialist consultants and payroll bureaux. You can see details of the employers and consultants that make-up this group on the Institute for Apprenticeship’s (IFA) Website.

What was surprising to me is that the people who I thought would want to take part for the benefit of the payroll profession did not take part. I soon excluded these people, as they were not reflective of the kinds of people I wanted working for the benefit of our profession. I fully appreciate that everyone is busy with their day jobs (and I carried on with mine), however, I regarded their lack of even the slightest engagement to be disrespectful to our profession.

The employer group that I assembled and communicated with are the ones to thank for this apprenticeship when it eventually comes into operation. I simply collated all of their views and comments.

Further, I do need to thank my employer for letting me spend time on this, realising that this is for the benefit of the profession.

The Standard

This is the one that the employer group revised (as the previous one when I took over this role was just not considered appropriate for the payroll profession). The group spent a long time discussing and agreeing the wording of the overall learning outcomes, agreeing the different job titles that a Payroll Administrator could be, agreeing the occupational profile and, basically, putting in a bit of punctuation. I collated their thoughts and views and submitted this to the IFA on 17 January 2018 to go through their rigorous approvals process. On 02 March 2018 I received formal confirmation that the IFA Board have approved this and their Website will be updated shortly.

It will be just great to replace and overwrite the previous one..

The Assessment Plan

This is the one that expands on the Standard significantly. Whilst the Standard is at high level, the Assessment Plan analyses this and breaks each element down into individual learning outcomes. It is these that are assessed by an independent assessment organisation at the end and it is they who decide whether the apprentice meets the required level of competence and issue the Certificate of Completion. This is a valid qualification in our profession.

The employer group agreed that communication would be electronically and through the use of survey tools, as meeting up was just impractical. I knew what I had to achieve in competing the Assessment Plan and there were piles and piles and piles of E-Mails and surveys to go through. Another consideration was the fact that it had to be written in a way that conformed to the IFA’s guidelines. Most importantly, it had to be a format and language that my Relationship Manager would support through the approvals process.

I submitted this on 28 February 2018 after lengthy conversations with my Relationship Manager.

Whilst it has been submitted, there is still the 6-week approvals process to go through. Quite understandably, I expect this to be just as rigorous and robust so there is still a way to go before it is actually approved and published to make the apprenticeship ready for delivery.

Next Steps

It never ends. Always remembering that I do have a day job:

  • I am continuing to meet with apprenticeship training providers to ensure that they are ready to deliver this, if and when the Assessment Plan is approved. In that regard, I have two meetings this week and several E-Mails to follow-up. I do have several companies that are definitely going to be offering this
  • I am speaking at the Global Payroll Association (GPA) conference this week about the payroll apprenticeship with my Relationship Manager
  • I am a member of an employer group for another apprenticeship that will have interactions with the payroll one. This is providing me with more contacts
  • I have been allocated an initial Funding Band by the IFA, however, I have still challenged this. I have offered to do a presentation to the IFA to demonstrate that payroll competence does take a significant amount of training (and, therefore, cost) and this should be reflected in the final Funding Band. However, at the end of the day, there are pluses and minuses going for a higher Band and, even if the Band is set low, this should not place a barrier on apprenticeship training providers charging higher and the employer meeting the difference

The Future of this Apprenticeship

The employer group have constructed really robust and appropriate learning outcomes in this apprenticeship which should make employers realise the benefits is using this for new employees and upskilling existing employees. We have worked for the benefit of our profession, leading and promoting our profession and are proud to have come this far.

It is up to all of us to send the message that this is a valid qualification in the payroll profession in the future. This is not an apprenticeship based on an organisation’s view of what they think a payroll administrator should know. It is based on what we know is appropriate for the profession.

It has been built by the profession specifically for the profession

There is still a way to go, however, the all-important Standard should be available within days and the Assessment Plan was submitted by the deadline and is going through the approvals process.

I will of course keep the profession updated.

Join our newsletter