In this blog we hear from Krishan Parmar, Business Development Executive, who specialises in supporting SMEs at Damar Training, with his insights into ‘off-the-job” training.
“Off-the-job” training time (OTJ for short) is often seen as one of the most challenging aspects of apprenticeships. At Damar, we disagree. Off-the-job training is one of the biggest advantages of apprenticeships and the way in which we structure OTJ at Damar ensures that it delivers the greatest possible benefit to employers and apprentices.
OTJ can be defined quite simply as:
“The time an apprentice spends on activities where they are learning new knowledge, skills or behaviours relevant to the apprenticeship standard. OTJ takes place during normal contracted working hours.”
The amount of OTJ for each standard that Damar delivers is set out in our training plans. All our apprenticeships plan for more than the OTJ legal minimum.
Why is high quality off-the-job training so valuable?
When you invest in an apprenticeship, whether for a new or an existing colleague, it is a vote of confidence in the individual. By making the investment, you are effectively saying:
“I believe in you and want you to have the chance to develop and thrive in our organisation. So much so that I am going to pay you to spend a significant amount of your working hours in training and am confident that, as your skills develop, our investment in you will be repaid.”
OTJ is there because it gives your apprentice time to learn the skills they need to be fully competent in their job. Damar and our partner-employers want apprentices to go beyond minimum competency requirements and excel – meeting their and your goals as well as the distinction criteria for the apprenticeship.
To be eligible for an apprenticeship, an apprentice must have a significant skills gap compared with what the apprenticeship standard requires. By law, this means a skills gap that big enough for the apprentice to need more than 278 hours of OTJ a year (averaged over the duration of the apprenticeship). All apprenticeships have a minimum duration of 12 months. Most Damar apprenticeships take longer and have a have a higher OTJ requirement than this. This is because OTJ is crucial in delivering a high-quality apprenticeship outcomes.
We have designed all our apprenticeships with enough carefully planned off-the-job training to ensure that apprentices have the best possible chance of success and exceed the minimum OTJ requirements. Everyone is different and some apprentices may require a little more (or less) time than we expect at the outset. This flexibility is another benefit of Damar apprenticeships compared with classroom learning.
How Damar ensure OTJ is effective and easy to manage
The amount of OTJ varies by programme and is set out in the training plan, but our OTJ is based around a teaching model known as “flipped learning”, where apprentices study independently but consolidate and discuss their learning at group and 1:1 sessions. This is more efficient and flexible than classroom-based delivery.
Damar apprenticeships in the main run to a 6-weekly module cycle. Each module has a similar structure:
- Pre-work. Usually, reading or video content relating to the module.
- Main learning. Self-directed, interactive content on our online learning platform.
- Group coaching session. Apprentices come with their questions, discuss their learning with peers and prepare themselves for the final part of the module, which is to complete individual activity.
- Individual learning activity. An activity brief will be provided for the apprentice as introduced in the group coaching session. The student will work through the activity brief, building their evidence to support the portfolio and end point assessment. Importantly, this final activity allows the apprentice to embed and contextualise their learning.
- 1:1 Coaching visit. Every six weeks, an opportunity to review progress and discuss personal development with the apprentice.
- Review meeting. Takes place with the apprentice and their supervisor every 12 weeks, immediately after a coaching visit. Work completed and feedback are reviewed and, if it is to the right standard, the module will be signed off.
For some of our apprenticeships with higher level technical knowledge content we also have live workshops, delivered by sector experts. This is complemented by an additional knowledge training plan and supporting activity. Apprentices are tasked with completing their knowledge learning prior to the relevant workshop.
Except for the review visit, all the activity above forms part of the apprentice’s OTJ.
Planning off-the-job training
Our delivery model is designed to give you and your apprentice as much flexibility as possible. We simply ask employers to ring-fence blocks of time in the apprentice’s working week for their off-the-job training. This allows you to plan for OTJ to take place at times that work best for your organisation.
Group coaching visits and workshops are diarised well in advance and apprentices treat these as they would any other business meeting. Apprentices take responsibility for booking their coaching visits and review meetings in accordance with their training plan and ensuring their supervisor is available for review meetings.
As with all activities, your apprentice will sometimes need a little more (or less) time than planned and, sometimes, other urgent work may mean that OTJ needs to be rescheduled. This doesn’t matter so long as the apprentice is able to complete their work and that they are recording, on average, that the necessary OTJ is taking place.
Most Damar apprentices also undertake and record activities at work that are outside the Damar training plan but which count as OTJ. If they meet the definition above, things like in-house training, mentoring and internal coaching can all be included as OTJ. In general, the more OTJ that your apprentice can undertake, the more successful your apprentice will be!
Find out more:
If you would like to know more on off-the-job training why not send me an email on: Krishan.firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 0161 480 8171. I will be happy to answer any questions.
You can also read more information on our apprenticeships for SMEs by visiting: https://damartraining.com/employers/apprenticeships-for-smes/.