The Apprenticeship Levy

It has been a while since the start of the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy scheme and it would be fair to say that it has not been entirely plain sailing.  The statistics show a 61% decrease in apprenticeship starts since May 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.  By the end of August, only half of eligible, levy-paying companies had registered to use their levy.

The roll out of the Apprenticeship Levy has been highly criticised by industry experts who, rightly it seems, claim that eligible employers did not understand the system or its application to their businesses.  Adding to the poor understanding of the ‘Levy’ is the equally misunderstood term – ‘Apprentice’.  To many the stereotypical apprentice looks something like the one in the photo: a young 16 – 18-year-old fresh out of school and starting a vocational qualification, whereas the reality is that it could be anyone 16 -64 years old, who is doing one of over 200 on-the-job learning courses to up-skill them.


With all this confusion it seemed worth highlighting some facts surrounding the Apprenticeship Levy:

  • If you are an employer with a wage bill of £3m per annum or more then you are paying the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • The Levy is drawn down monthly (from April 2017) through the PAYE system at a rate 0.5% of your wage bill over £3m per annum.
  • It is held centrally by the government and can be used by the contributing employer to fund apprenticeship training, delivered by an approved training provider.
  • Employers have 2 years to utilise funds or they are lost.
  • An Apprentice can be someone newly hired into your organisation, specifically as an apprentice, who will undertake their training with your company as a precursor to hopefully securing a fulltime job.
  • Apprentices can also be an existing member of staff who the company wishes to upskill through the delivery of an on the job training course.
  • Develop-meant with Always Consult Ltd specialise in the delivery of on the job, leadership and management training to existing employees.  We can conduct an organisational needs analysis to identify the people that would benefit most from this training.

Perhaps most crucial of all – do not see the Apprenticeship Levy as another tax.  The money is yours to use and can buy you valuable training, that will enhance the productivity of your staff and the efficiency of your organisation.

If you would like more information or an informal chat about how apprenticeships could help your organisation, then please call Carol Ewels at Always Consult on 03334 442467 or email:



Laughable lines from learners in training sessions!

dog homework-001

I’ve been a trainer for the best part of 25 years. I’m STILL amazed by the lines some learners come out with in the training room, thinking me and my colleagues haven’t heard them before. Can you relate to any of these humdingers?!

A delegate barges into the training room for the first time, no introduction, the session hasn’t even started yet and asks: “What time do we finish?”

A small clique of learners sat disgruntled since 9am. YOU know you’re starting at 9:30am. Their MANAGER knows the session starts at 9:30am (he/she had an email confirming “kick off ” weeks ago). You announce: “We’ll get underway at 9:30am folks.” Only to hear: “Well, WE were told it started at 9 o’clock!”

Following Workshop 1, you set the group a task to submit and complete before the second session. It’s now Day 2 and one of the learners approaches you prior to starting and says: “Did you manage to take a look at my work that I emailed at 11.59pm last night?”

“Morning everyone! Before we start, can I just check that you’ve all printed off the workbook I sent you ten days ago via email?” Reply from at least four people: “I didn’t get your email!”

“Hi, hello! It’s Adrian is it? You’re the trainer? Yes? OK! Hmmm…would you mind if I kept my mobile phone on because, I’m SO full of my own self-importance, I’m waiting for a VERY important call and, if I don’t answer it, planet Earth will implode…?”

Slightly embarrassed, half-in-half-out-of-the-doorway: “Excuse me? Is this the session on Sexually Transmitted Infections?!”

“My Manager sent me.”

“Can I have the window open* closed* air conditioning on* air conditioning off* radiator on* radiator off* blinds up* blinds down*?” <delete as applicable!!>

Thanks for completing this evaluation form. What’s the biggest learning point you’ll take away from this training session today? “The sandwiches were rank!”


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Giving young people the best chance to achieve their full potential

Fifteen careers advisors with Telford & Wrekin Council have been awarded the highest level of diploma for their “passion, determination and commitment” in supporting young people in the Borough into education, employment or training.

After 18 months of study and assessments with Always Consult and Develop-meant, they have all been presented with their Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development and were praised for their part in ensuring 95% of last year’s school-leavers got a job, went into training, or continued in education.

Awarding the certificates at Meeting Point House in Telford town centre on Thursday 12 January, Katherine Kynaston, Assistant Director Business Development & Employment at Telford & Wrekin Council said: “I’m very proud of what you do. A lot of what you achieve is fundamentally down to the passion, determination and commitment that you put into the job. It underpins our ability to make sure those young people have the best possible chance in life. You are not just giving them advice and guidance, you are enthusing them and inspiring them – that is absolutely what this is all about.”

The advisors are members of the Future Focus Careers Service or National Careers Service; all part of Telford & Wrekin Council’s Job Box service which has already reduced youth unemployment in the Borough by 50%.
Councillor Gilly Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment & Regeneration said: “Our schools, our students and young people can be sure that our advisors, by achieving this level of diploma, are giving them the best impartial professional guidance. When we talk to business investors wanting to come to our borough, they ask us if we can deliver the highly skilled local people they need to make their business flourish. I’m very proud that we can and that, as a business winning business supporting Council, our approach to employment and skills is seen as a selling point by potential investors here.”
FutureFocus is a  support service for 13 – 19 year olds or up to 25 years if you have additional needs. FutureFocus advisors provide impartial information, advice and guidance on careers and future planning.
The National Careers Service (NCS) provides information, advice and guidance to adults over 20 and support for those unemployed on new Universal Job Match to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities. Further information about these services can be found at

Stop messing with your mobile!


I had a Manager who believed that delegates should leave their phones/email alone when they were on training. This was THEIR protected time for their development, without distractions. This must have sunk in with ‘yours truly’ as my phone is off and I don’t look at it during breaks whenever I attend a course. I make staff and clients aware that I’m away, what I’m doing, “out of office” etc.

A colleague and I delivered a session this week. During a break, a delegate got her laptop out, tuned into our Wi-Fi and started working, answering emails etc. When break was over and the next activity started, she was STILL on her machine in the background! Downright rude! It called for one of us to be assertive and ask her to re-join the group.

Are mobiles a menace?!



Oh no! I hate role play!

Role play 3

Every now and again, we include role play in some of our training sessions. More often than not, one or two learners will sigh and make it quite clear that they HATE HATE HATE role play!

One of my colleagues calls it “skills practice”. Nevertheless, however hard we try to “wrap it up” as something woolly and fluffy, for some folk, it’s like we’re asking them to walk across barbed wire!

Why do you think this is? Do you have any top tips to convince the cringers in the audience to go with it?


The Smiling Assassin!


You’ve had an amazing day’s training. All your fears, doubts and apprehension around whether the session would go well are unfounded. Fifteen happy learners, fully engaged. They’ve loved the content, enjoyed the activities and even laughed at your jokes!

Fifteen happy learners filling out evaluation forms – or so you thought!

<Cue scary laughter>

You review the feedback. Gasp! Fourteen happy learners and then someone I call “The Smiling Assassin”. Fourteen learners thought you were the “Torville and Dean” of trainers. HE thought you were “Eddie The Eagle Edwards”. Fourteen learners would shout from the rooftops that you’re the reincarnation of Albert Einstein. HE thought you were an extra from “The Only Way Is Essex”. Fourteen learners hung on your every word the whole day long. HE hung on for dear life!

Have you ever been faced with this situation? How did you deal with it? Did you brush the comments off? Did you approach the disgruntled delegate? How can us trainers deal with “smiling assassins”?!


Raving about The Rickter Scale!


Develop-meant Training Consultants has worked with The Rickter Company for a number of years. Manager Adrian Pitt talks about his relationship with the organisation and The Rickter Scale® assessment tool.

My association with “the brilliant blue board” goes back well over a decade. I’m never far from The Rickter Scale®! There’s a demonstration board in my car, a couple under my bed and one in my office, where inquiring minds often ask: “What on Earth is that?!”

I was fortunate to be put forward by Black Country Connexions as a fully-fledged Rickter Scale® trainer almost 12 years ago. I’ve never looked back. I’ve lost count of the number of training sessions I’ve facilitated, however, one thing’s for certain, those all-important feedback forms suggest that practitioners instantly fall in love with the super Scale.

Before I tell delegates about the power behind the plastic, they say: “It’s very colourful and easy on the eye…It looks like an abacus…It’s extremely tactile…” and, the strangest comment yet: “It smells like celery!” Cue 16 participants with the Rickter board glued to their noses.

I became hooked on The Rickter Scale® (not the smell of celery!) during my time as an Adviser working in schools and community bases. The young people on my caseload had never seen anything like the board. Most of them had been assessed, assessed and assessed again. Endless forms, meaningless questions, very few solutions.

Then, I’d come along with my “secret weapon”. I’d leave a Rickter board on my desk and curiosity would get the better of them. A great technique for getting clients to engage. People ask me: “What do you like most about the Rickter Scale®?” I always say, what appears to be quite a simple tool at face value is underpinned by a range of fascinating theories and concepts around motivation, learning styles, solution-focused work, to name but a few.

I love the fact that the Rickter Scale® instigates what I call “Light Bulb Moments”. Suddenly, when clients realise how different aspects of their lives impact on each other, it’s like a switch is flicked. They see the bigger picture and are motivated to change.

The Rickter Company has a lot to celebrate! Everywhere I go people talk about the Rickter Scale® with the utmost respect. I’m sure the team will have loads to tell you on The Rickter Company website how the board continues to change lives in this country and beyond.

On a scale of 0 to 10, how happy am I being a Rickter Associate? I’d say “9”. How can I get from a 9 to 10 – well; that would be telling!

To find out more information and to book a place on the next Rickter Scale training course, click here: Course information

Adrian Pitt is the Manager of Develop-meant Training Consultants – learning and development how it’s MEANT to be! Accredited training for staff in the Advice and Guidance, Careers Guidance, Education and Training, Children and Young People workforce sectors. Find him and the team at

Level 3 Education and Training course goes down a storm!

PTLLS Shropshire

Our recent Level 3 Award in Education and Training course in Shropshire went down a storm with delegates. A thoroughly enjoyable and interactive workshop, covering legislation, roles and responsibilities, learning styles, facilitating group work and effective use of resources.

The next course on the timetable is the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training with induction and introductions taking place at 1:30pm on 14th July at Always Consult’s Upton Magna (Shrewsbury, West Midlands) training centre. Please note that you may know this course by its old name, DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector).

Please call 07979 525 708 or email as soon as possible if you are interested in booking a place on the Level 5 Diploma as the start date grows nearer.

Here is some of the feedback received from delegates on the Level 3 day:

Excellent resources. Good balance of taught and practical activities throughout the day invaluable and practical knowledge gained.

I think both trainers were open, honest and approachable this makes the day easier and less confusing as I feel comfortable in the fact that if I am stuck help is available.

Excellent delivery which kept me engaged and interested throughout. Looking forward to the next instalment! After 3 failed attempts to start this qualification with other providers, I am already further ahead than I previously was!

I have been given a lot to reflect on and will incorporate this into my daily activities.

Business babble


Adrian Pitt ponders the use of business speak in the corporate world, how it clutters communication channels and hampers our ability to learn and develop. Let’s run this article up the flagpole and see who salutes it…

Do you ever wish you were ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ as your colleagues, but find you’re more Mozart than ‘morning has broken’? Maybe you fancy indulging in a spot of ‘blue sky thinking’, however the skies where you are remain grey and overcast? Perhaps your boss has given you a project to manage that’s ‘not rocket science’ but requires you to ‘think outside of the box’ that you keep tripping over in the corridor?

Idioms and impenetrable business speak are part and parcel of corporate life. We hear the phrases and we appear to accept them. Many of them just wash over us.

Have you ever stopped to think whether they actually hamper our ability to learn and develop? When I moved from the banking world to a career in training some 25 years ago, as part of my induction, I met a manager who could only be described as ‘Mr Mixed Metaphors’ and was pretty acronym-tastic. So bad was his babble that, as a ‘rookie’ trainer, I hadn’t the heart to stick up my hand and say: “Excuse me? What exactly do you mean?” As I got to know colleagues, many of us would sit in his briefings and notch up many a five-bar gate on our notepads listening out for his freaky phrases. Looking back, did we actually take on board a word the man said? Of course not! We were far too busy trying to determine when his next “We’ll put this on the back burner” was coming.

Let’s examine a time when you changed career or maybe moved departments: remember that first team meeting when the air was saturated with acronyms and initialisms? (a new word I’ve learnt). Did you get your KPIs mixed up with your KSIs? Did your KLOE take you on a wild goose chase? Did you know your ARS from your LBO? I felt as if I was on the set of Countdown trying to solve one of their conundrums. It comes to something when you have to make a list of these letters to take home and Google, yet again for fear of looking foolish in front of your workmates. Many a time I’ve heard staff say: “We should compile a table of these acronyms and their meanings so that everyone, new staff in particular, will understand what they mean.” Great idea: been there, done that. But by the time the list’s published, it’s often out of date.

So, why do our colleagues bamboozle us with this business speak that many of us abhor? Is it to sound ‘on trend’? Maybe they’re leading us into a false sense of security by brainwashing us? We’ll start to believe they do know what they’re talking about, when, in reality, they haven’t the foggiest. Whatever the reason, being barraged by sloppy one-liners, in my opinion, just clutters communication channels and hides what people are really thinking. Surely “with all due respect” translates as “I don’t really like you – it’s my way or no way!” and “I hear what you’re saying, but…” once deciphered means “What a ridiculous idea! You do the listening, I’ll do the talking”.

I’m not one to stand in the way of linguistic evolution, however, take half a dozen of these phrases, unpick them and what do we find? Many are empty, meaningless, designed to be dishonest or throw us off the scent.

Anyone who says: “We’ll park that there for later” usually means they have no intention of revisiting that particular piece of work, but they can tick it off their to-do list as having been mentioned!

I was at a multi-agency meeting once where a rather impertinent and obnoxious woman stood up and said: “We’ve just got to stop working in silos!” I looked at the other professionals round the table raising their eyes to the ceiling and wondered whether it was the case or if, with that attitude, they actually didn’t want to work with her and would prefer her to be buried head first in one of her silos!

We also get phrases dreamt up by the Political Correctness Police. I walked into a ex-colleague’s training session once; all her delegates were hard at work. “We’re thought showering,” she said. I looked at her sideways as she claimed: “…because we can’t say ‘brain storming’ any more, can we?” (even though you just said it).

‘Thought showering’? Put down your PC umbrellas. That expression sounds so namby-pamby. The Epilepsy Society clarified that if the word ‘brain storming’ is being used in the context of a group of people suggesting ideas, then it’s not offensive to people with epilepsy.

“At the end of the day”, “I’m not being funny, but…” by not challenging our colleagues, by not sticking up our hand and asking what exactly it is they mean, are we not colluding with them and just letting them get away with clogging up our grey matter with their verbal litter? I’d rather know where I stand, be given clear and concise instructions and information.

Come on, Mr Line Manager – tell me how it is! Don’t flower things up with your corporate clichés. It’s a no-brainer. See you around – I’m off for a rain check!

Adrian Pitt owns Develop-meant Training Consultants, delivering Careers, Advice and Guidance, Coaching and Mentoring, Leadership and Management, Education and Training and Assessment and Verification qualifications at all levels.

Find him at


Does “email etiquette” exist?

email etiquette

Hi all,

As someone who runs his own business, I pride myself on my levels of efficiency and customer service. That’s why I’m often blown backwards by the way some folk handle themselves over email.

If a prospective client makes (what I believe to be) a genuine email enquiry about one of my company’s qualification programmes, I go out of my way to send them the details – way within 24 hours – putting myself in their shoes by answering the questions I think they may have.

So then, NOT to get a response, not even the slightest acknowledgement like: “Thanks Ade”, has a tendency to wind me up ever so slightly!

I’m sorry – no one is TOO busy or TOO important to spend a few seconds being courteous.

Does this get up anyone else’s nose? Are my expectations too high? Am I imposing my own values and beliefs? Is there such a thing as “email etiquette”?!