Big firms set to feel the pain of the levy warns apprenticeship provider

Big firms will feel the pain of the Apprenticeship Levy this spring when the first wave of levy payments will be wiped from their accounts unless they have invested them in training apprentices.

Apprenticeship provider Develop Training Limited (DTL), whose customers include household names in construction and the utilities, says the deadline should focus attention on making the controversial initiative work.

Companies with payrolls above £3 million have been paying into the scheme since its launch in April 2017 and continue to do so monthly. They can get the money back if they invest it in apprenticeship programmes with approved providers such as DTL, but there is a two-year deadline.

That means in April this year, levy payments dating back to the start of the scheme will go to the Treasury, and funds will continue to be funnelled away each month on the second anniversary of when they were paid in. So, for example, the levy payments that companies made in September 2017 will no longer be available to invest in apprenticeship programmes from September 2019.

The levy was supposed to encourage firms to invest in apprenticeships but confusion and concerns about costs meant the scheme initially had the opposite effect.

DTL hosted an Industry Skills Forum in late 2017 for leading figures in HR in construction and the utilities that highlighted wildly varying views on the levy, from companies that were embracing it to train new and existing employees to those who saw it as a tax.

Since then the government has tweaked the scheme significantly, reducing the amount of levy payments and allowing smaller companies to use levy money to help other organisations finance their own apprenticeship training, typically those in the big companies’ supply chains.

Now, despite wider political and economic uncertainty, DTL hopes 2019 could still be the year that kick starts the faltering programme. The training company has campaigned vociferously for businesses and government to invest in training in the construction and utility sectors to address the massive skills shortage faced by the industry.

Whether by using levy-funded apprenticeships or by investing directly in learning and development, DTL is urging companies heading for the looming levy deadline to meet the challenge and ensure Britain has the workforce it needs to keep the country’s infrastructure and building projects running into the future.

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Is Print Still Valued in Our Digital World?

In our digital age it’s not uncommon to find marketing campaigns swamped with digital methods. This includes a most sectors, including construction. But the question is… does print marketing have its place or is it really its way out? Let’s explore the subject some more with this insightful discussion piece produced by UK event signage company, Where The Trade Buys.

Marketing strategies swamped with digital solutions

Many campaigns today are lost without digital. With more consumers than ever before spending time on the internet, businesses would be foolish not to get involved with online marketing.

Search engine marketing is one area of advertising that companies are becoming more involved with. As the name suggests, this side of digital marketing focuses on driving a business’ site to the top of the search results around relevant target phrases — from corporate keywords like ‘event signage’ to more fashion-focused targets like ‘dresses’. As a result, this can increase brand exposure and site traffic while improving sales figures.

Social media marketing is another area of business activity that wasn’t popular a few years back. From paid adverts to viral campaigns, the digital world has opened up many doors for small and medium companies in particular — exposing themselves to an audience that may not have known they existed and in turn, generating mass interest.

The digital world has made room for businesses to begin analysing their audience, allowing them to gain a greater insight to their general behaviour and spending patterns. From tracking analytics, whether this is across social media platforms or the main website, marketing managers are able to identify key areas of interest and create campaigns around this to drive sales.

There are many methods businesses can follow to hook an online audience and stay ahead of their competitors. Through a combination of search engine and social media marketing, many brands are beginning to run competitions and deals that are only exclusive to an online following. These low-cost campaigns will benefit from extensive reach.

Print is still a credible marketing method… fact!

Although more businesses are beginning to take their focuses online, they shouldn’t neglect the power of print and the opportunities that can come off the back of it. Print very much has a place in modern advertising as it can offer a personal touch unlike no other and generally has a longer life cycle which is always beneficial for the exposure of your brand. Take printed leaflets for example, once they have been posted through the door, whoever picks them up will have to acknowledge your materials!

As well as door-to-door print advertising, business merchandise has not taken a backseat since the sprout in popularity of online promotions. Brand image has never been more important for businesses and shouldn’t be ignored — as a result, more companies are making investments in personalised products that represent what they stand for. Whether this is to help them externally, with the likes of outdoor banners, or internally for your office with the likes of customised calendars.

Although printed goods can often be higher in price, they can drive exceptional ROI to your campaign and create a memorable experience for the receiver which should be a core focus for your print campaign. This can be achieved through eye-catching designs and a choice of luxury materials which will lead to a meaningful engagement.

Where print meets digital: the way forward?

Although online and offline advertising are two entirely separate entities, they can work well together, and some brands are already utilising such methods.

Take QR codes for example, more businesses are trying to audiences in the real world to their online solutions. As QR codes are unique and can entice people to be more inquisitive, they can drive immense traffic to online campaigns when printed on banners. Through this method of advertising, marketing departments can track success and gather data on users when they’re interacting with the code. With the data collected from campaigns like this, businesses can record contact information (such as email addresses) if users decide they want to opt-in.

When looking closer to news publications, many of them still offer printed versions of their product — blurring the line between print and digital. With an understanding of the influence they have online, they’ve been able to merge two channels together and to distribute stories to a wider audience.

Near field communication is another area that should be further looked into when it comes to the relationship between online and offline platforms. Essentially, near field communication is a type of technology that has the ability to connect two smart devices — often with the help of a print medium. For example, a section of a poster can be tapped with a mobile phone which will then take the user to the ecommerce site for a specific product.

Digital giants are employing print marketing

Online hospitality marketplace, Airbnb has made huge waves in the way that we now book our holidays. Predominantly a digital business with its own website and downloadable app, the company decided to launch its own magazine for registered hosts (those who advertise their property) which is around 18,000 people. This magazine included personal stories of hosts and their accommodation, encouraging interaction with the digital business through print. Although the magazine production has been put on hold since, it’s a good example of how an online business can promote its services elsewhere.

Remember those iconic Coca Cola bottles that had labels with your name on? The printed labels for the Share A Coke campaign allowed the drink manufacturer to become more personal with its customers and as a result, buyers then shared their bottles on social media which made it an integrated campaign.

As we can see, digital and print both play huge parts in the marketing of a business. But often, they can be most successful when they’re brought together.

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Meet the “start-up” architecture practice that’s 35 years young

Successful businesses drive change, but the larger you get and the longer you have been around, the harder that becomes. Reaching its 35th birthday, expanding architectural practice Maber found a surprising solution – start again.

Too often, established traditional businesses see workers confined to delivering management’s instructions. By contrast, a start-up conjures up images of energy, investment, shared vision and democracy. That’s the feeling maber set out to recapture.

On the face of it, Maber doesn’t need to change. With five offices in the Midlands and London, the practice employs a growing workforce of 80 people and occupies a solid place in the AJ100 list of the country’s biggest architecture practices.

Yet the firm saw that it needed to evolve to get to the next level. That led to a management restructure in 2018, as Ian Harris was appointed Managing Director, leaving Mark Hobson to take on a strategic role as CEO. Change at the top was accompanied by a determination to invigorate the business. That manifested itself as an idea to challenge its 35-year-old ways of working by instilling a start-up culture. It is a decision that is not only changing the way that people work but also their physical environment, with new agile working premises replacing one of the practice’s traditional office locations in January 2019.

Ian Harris takes up the story: “Lots of businesses want a more agile, more engaged, more productive, more profitable workplace. We asked ourselves what that would look like, and what we needed to do to get there. Like everyone else, we are chasing improvements in productivity, efficiency, quality and the experience of working with us.”

He highlights Maber’s strap-line ‘Great to work with, great to work for’ and says: “That may sound like a slogan but it is something we actually use to make decisions and measure ourselves against. The idea is to work in ways that improve our credibility with our clients and improve our relationships with each other, and the choice of the word ‘great’ is a commitment that we want to be the best at it.”

Maber’s journey covers eight areas of improvement.

  1. Agile Working Environment

Taking on a historic, quirky, former shopping arcade in Leicester city centre to replace its traditional offices in the professional district means not only more space but also an opportunity to think differently about the way people work.

Ian Harris explains: “We are a knowledge-based business, so it makes sense to treat our talent carefully. That means creating a workplace where people can take responsibility for their work and be well supported to tackle challenging projects.”

The new office is not just a one-off. Maber is using it as a cultural experiment. It will see a mix of spaces, with some formal areas and a wide range of informal areas, from stand-up meeting tables to a 3D printing area and a ‘family’ kitchen.

“We are moving away from allocated desks to a richer variety of spaces and working environments,” says Ian Harris. “The emphasis is on individuals and teams selecting the spaces that suit the task they are working on at any particular time.”

  1. Democracy in Innovation

Everyone at Maber is part of at least one of the practice’s 14 working groups that review ideas in key areas of the business including design quality, virtual reality and visualisation, BIM (Building Information Management) and sustainability.

Each group reports to Maber’s associates and directors’ forum with a summary of recommendations. Ian Harris calls it “the open and transparent engine room of the business”. As well as being democratic, the working groups give people the opportunity to get involved with subjects outside their normal working remit, accelerating the chance of new ideas breaking through.

  1. Supporting People

Giving administrative work to architects makes no sense, says Ian Harris. Over the past two years, Maber has brought a dedicated admin team into its Leicester and Derby offices. The impact has been so good that it is now being replicated in the practice’s HQ in Nottingham, the city where Maber was founded 35 years ago.

Ian Harris explains: “Our admin people take a bunch of tasks off the architects’ desks and do it better.” Maber also employs office administrators to look after the practice’s buildings and the people within them.

  1. Keeping it Together

Now that Maber has achieved a certain size as well as being distributed across several offices, it has to work to keep everyone connected. Slack is really useful, according to Ian Harris, and it is starting to connect not just Maber staff but its consultants and clients as well. Maber is using Trello for visual and collaborative project planning and management. The practice now has two dedicated IT professionals who have brought forward plans focused around collaborative working. Change is the new norm in the practice’s IT, as demonstrated by a recent move of its entire mail system to the cloud with barely a murmur.

“We have put a lot of thought into building communications systems that are a pleasure to use and are as open as possible,” says Ian Harris. “Agile working is now a technical reality, allowing us to work together on anything wherever we are.”

To ensure that the practice’s priorities are distributed across all of its locations, each of the five Maber offices has a champion in each of its key areas, including BIM, eco and interior design.

  1. Harnessing Technology

Maber is harnessing technology to drive change. It has implemented new finance and time-tracking systems, for example. Moving to the cloud is giving its people the opportunity to work from anywhere, and the practice is now discussing how to manage providing opportunities for working from home.

  1. Driving Creativity

Creativity is a watchword at Maber, as Ian Harris articulates: “We want a workplace where people are motivated to get engaged and expected to bring their best to work every day. We want great ideas and we want people to try things out, to learn and to try again. We want creativity, conscientiousness, collaboration and community. We want high-performing people to influence and inspire their colleagues to do even better.”

To drive ‘creative conversations’, everyone in the practice gets two days of time and £200 every year to do something creative away from their desk. People have used their creativity budget to make stained glass, arrange flowers, write poetry, 3D print, build in VR, learn blacksmithing, visit great buildings, attend festivals and carve stone among many other things.

“By sharing their experiences with the team, we hope to drive up the quality of creative discourse and ultimately our architecture,” says Ian Harris.

  1. Sharing a Vision

As the business grows over time, Maber has realised it needs to consider how to communicate across the generations.

Ian Harris explains: “Our Millennials are starting to think about taking on more influential roles in the business, so consciously considering cross-generational conversations is increasingly important. Labelling individuals is actively discouraged in the practice, but we need to recognise how misunderstanding might arise because of different priorities, expectations or emphases.”

It is a debate worth having, as Ian Harris points out: “To harness the best talent and build the strongest sustainable plan for growth, we need everyone to share a vision for the future.”

  1. Tools for Improvement

As well as advances in technology and a changing culture, Maber is on a journey to refine its more traditional tools for improvement. These include the practice’s design review process, appraisals and performance management, training and knowledge sharing. It is using workshops and online platforms, and working with internal and external providers, to do that.

Ultimately, the most valuable advantage from becoming a start-up again may be the ability to see your business with fresh eyes. “We haven’t previously been very self-aware,” says Ian Harris, “but we are finding that having discussions about how we operate is making us challenge old habits and assumptions, which is both invigorating and exciting. Change is the new normal.”

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Pavers for Building Market Outlook, Geographical Segmentation, Industry Size & Share, and Qualitative Analysis: Belgard, KloroTech, Belgard, Wienerberger

This report focuses on the Global Pavers for Building Market data Tables, Pie Chat, Graphs & Figures spread through Pages and easy to understand detailed analysis, Market status, future forecast, growth opportunity, key players. The study covers important players Such as Belgard, KloroTech, Belgard, Wienerberger, Brock International, Carlson, Borgert Products Posted via Industry Today. Follow us on Twitter @IndustryToday Continue Reading

Pipe Relining Market Outlook, Geographical Segmentation, Industry Size & Share, and Qualitative Analysis: Advanced Trenchless, Inland Pipe Rehabilitation (IPR), Roto-Rooter Group, SilverLining Holding

This report focuses on the Global Pipe Relining Market data Tables, Pie Chat, Graphs & Figures spread through Pages and easy to understand detailed analysis, Market status, future forecast, growth opportunity, key players.The study covers important players Such as Advanced Trenchless, Inland Pipe Rehabilitation (IPR), Roto-Rooter Group, SilverLining Holding Posted via Industry Today. Follow us on Twitter @IndustryToday Continue Reading

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