Celebrating Pareto's Achievement of Full Matrix Accreditation

10 mins

Pareto celebrates achieving Matrix Standard accreditation. Explore our commitment to excellence, quality, and impactful IAG services. Learn more about our journey and innovative approach.

We're pleased to announce that we achieved the prestigious Matrix Standard accreditation in December 2023. As a leading provider of information, advice, and guidance (IAG) services, we've maintained a steadfast commitment to excellence in supporting individuals and businesses in their learning and work journeys. 

This accreditation reaffirms our dedication to upholding the highest standards of quality and professionalism across all our operations. With a focus on delivering tailored solutions and fostering positive outcomes, we're proud to continue making a meaningful impact in the lives of our learners and clients. 

Our guide will first explore the Matrix Standard and why it is so important for businesses. We then go on to explore how Pareto successfully passed the Matrix Assessment. 

What is the Matrix Standard?

The Matrix Standard is a quality framework for organisations providing information, advice, and guidance (IAG) on learning and work. Owned by the Department for Education (DfE), it ensures excellence in IAG services through benchmarking against best practices. Upon meeting all criteria assessed by independent evaluators, businesses gain accreditation and the privilege to display the Matrix quality mark. It serves as a crucial benchmarking tool in the UK, validating organisations' ability to deliver high-quality guidance services effectively.

Why is it Important for Businesses? 

Key reasons why the Matrix Standard is important for businesses include:

  • Enhancing Quality - The standard provides a structured framework for businesses to assess and enhance the quality of their information, advice, and guidance (IAG) services by benchmarking against best practices.

  • Accreditation and Credibility - Achieving accreditation under the Matrix Standard validates the effectiveness of a business's information, advice, and guidance services and enhances its reputation and credibility.

  • Business Opportunities - Accreditation allows businesses to display the Matrix Standard quality mark, which can help them secure funding, contracts, and partnerships. 

  • Continuous Improvement - Adherence to the standard fosters continuous improvement, ensuring that businesses remain responsive to the evolving needs of their clients and stakeholders.

  • Performance and Organisational Development - The Matrix Assessment serves as a valuable tool for performance and organisational development, enabling businesses to benchmark their services and undergo critical review processes for improvement.

How Pareto Achieved Matrix Accreditation

We passed the Matrix Assessment by achieving the highest standards of excellence in the following areas: 

Providing IAG for Employers

The sales team actively provides IAG to employers interested in integrating apprenticeships into their workforce development strategy. They employ proactive prospecting methods, such as leveraging social sales platforms like LinkedIn and utilising existing industry connections to identify potential partners.

Their primary objective is to help employers grasp the advantages of apprenticeships for organisational growth, including navigating the nuances of the Apprenticeship Levy. Notably, Pareto prioritises forming partnerships with employers who recognise apprenticeships as long-term investments in individual development. 

In initial discussions, they cover essential aspects of apprenticeship operations. This includes structuring apprentice roles, managing expectations, and emphasising employer responsibilities in facilitating learning opportunities and monitoring progress.

Employer Involvement in the Apprenticeship Process 

The report underscores the active involvement of employers in the apprenticeship process. Employers participate in regular reviews and have access to a dedicated system (APTEM) to monitor learner progress in real time. 

This collaborative approach ensures that employers remain engaged and informed throughout the apprenticeship journey, enabling them to provide relevant support and guidance as needed. 

Additionally, the monthly newsletter keeps employers updated on developments and trends surrounding apprenticeships, encouraging transparency and communication between the organisation and its employer partners.

Changes to the Infrastructure Supporting IAG for Apprenticeships 

The report highlights significant changes to the infrastructure supporting IAG for apprenticeships. For instance, the Head of Operations and Transformation at Pareto is actively involved in training to become a Careers Leader, contributing to the development of Gatsby Benchmarks for use with training providers. This involvement reflects a commitment to aligning apprenticeship programmes with established benchmarks and industry standards. 

Additionally, introducing career champions within the organisation highlights a concerted effort to leverage internal expertise and resources to support staff and enhance the quality of IAG provision.

Recruitment and Assessment of Apprentices

The report outlines the recruitment and assessment processes involved in engaging apprentices. It details the methods used for recruiting apprentices, including utilising government apprenticeship websites and other recruitment platforms to attract candidates. Once recruited, apprentices undergo an initial assessment, known as an Eligibility Review, to determine their existing knowledge and skills. 

Notably, the organisation has adopted tools like Cognassist to provide assessments recognising neurodiversity. This has resulted in 34% of learners accessing some form of aid or adaptation to support their learning. 

Support and Guidance for Apprentices 

Pareto’s Skills Coaches are crucial in supporting apprentices' progress and well-being. They conduct regular monthly reviews to track progress, set goals and involve employers in planning actions. 

Additionally, they are available for informal support outside of these reviews, including addressing career-related queries and wellbeing concerns. They may refer learners to external resources like the National Careers Service if further advice is needed. Safeguarding and well-being issues are documented and managed according to established procedures.

Integration of IAG into the Curriculum 

The report emphasises the integration of IAG into the curriculum for all subject areas, with input from employers and staff with sector experience. This collaborative approach ensures the curriculum is relevant, aligned with industry standards, and reflects the career pathways available to apprentices. 

Trainers play a vital role in providing informal IAG within or at the end of their sessions, addressing any questions or concerns raised by apprentices. These interventions are recorded and monitored to ensure that any issues are promptly addressed and followed up in subsequent reviews, underscoring a commitment to continuous improvement and learner support.

The Impact of IAG on Pareto’s Learners and Their Organisational Growth

Next, we’ll look at the impact that IAG has had on Pareto’s learners and how it has helped the business to grow. 

  • Impact on Opportunities - The IAG provided to employers influences and supports the organisation's objectives, including increasing the number of apprenticeship starts and diversifying provision. Targets for 2024 include achieving 1,100 new starts, increasing digital provision, and having over 30% of learners on non-sales programmes.

  • Retention and Achievement Goals - Ongoing IAG plays a crucial role in ensuring the retention and achievement of learners. Targets include increasing retention rates from 62% in 2022/23 to 77% by 2025/26. and achievement rates from 51% to 62% over a similar period. Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) strategies aim to improve engagement and enrolment processes, align IAG with employer needs, and address challenges such as apprentices failing to meet employer KPIs.

  • Impact of Covid-19 - The Covid-19 pandemic has affected areas like apprenticeship retention, with high numbers forced to leave the sector. However, improvements in sales retention figures from mid-60% in 2022 to over 90% in 2023 demonstrate progress.

  • Apprentice Destinations - The destinations of apprentices completing programmes are tracked, with outcomes showing positive trends such as low employment gaps, role changes, and promotions both during and after apprenticeships.

  • Broad Education Approach - The IAG provided goes beyond apprenticeship achievement, offering a broader education to learners. Learning sessions incorporate topics like British Values, LGBT+ rights, and professional behaviours such as communication skills and resilience.

  • Soft Skills Development - The organisation utilises tools like the Skills Radar to help learners analyse and track progress in soft skills development, including self-motivation, initiative, and cultural awareness. Programme delivery methods have adapted since the pandemic, with a shift from virtual towards more face-to-face delivery in response to learner and employer preferences, aiding in the development of these skills and behaviours.

Seven Key Areas of Strength Identified in the Assessment 

1. Enhanced Infrastructure for Apprenticeship Delivery 

The organisation has revitalised its infrastructure for apprenticeship delivery, strongly emphasising IAG. Key appointments, such as a senior manager as Careers Leader and Career Champions, have bolstered expertise among staff and ensured effective operational support. Increased numbers of Skills Coaches have improved access to IAG for learners, while enhanced resources aid their ability to support learners effectively.

The Apprenticeship Experience team has contributed significantly to evaluation processes, which have directly influenced the delivery of IAG and consequently improved retention and achievement rates. Simplifying internal communications regarding IAG has enhanced the coordination of interventions with employers and learners. This has been facilitated by the introduction and continuous development of APTEM and using Google and a Matrix document to share information after training sessions.

This progress is supported by an incredibly positive culture and ethos, modelled by senior leaders and prevalent throughout the organisation. Staff feel consulted and supported, with effective communication channels ensuring coordination and alignment of interventions with employers and learners. A culture of celebrating success is evident, contributing to a supportive working environment.

 “I have never worked amongst such a supportive group of people.” 

2. Well-being Support

Pareto prioritises the well-being of our learners and staff, actively engaging in programmes and initiatives to promote mental health awareness and support. Our commitment to staff welfare is evident through regular well-being days and flexibility in addressing personal issues, resulting in a noticeable increase in performance levels. 

Additionally, Pareto is involved in the Ransdtad-wide Mental Health Ambassador programme, providing information and resources to staff to recognise and support mental health issues. Staff recognise the evolution of this type of support, further enhancing our efforts in developing a supportive and healthy work environment.

"Support has always been there with Pareto, but the variety and amount of support is now greater."

3. Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Staff appreciate the organisation's continuous professional development (CPD), which helps them perform their roles effectively. Thorough inductions, including shadowing opportunities for new staff, are valued. Accredited learning, such as teaching and mentoring awards and internal CPD sessions, contribute to skill development. 

Each staff member is allocated a day per month for CPD, and training elements are included in team meetings. Information on various subjects, including careers and well-being, is communicated through newsletters and different Spaces channels to support ongoing learning.

“The learning atmosphere allows me to express myself and be supported in my career ambitions.”

4. Thorough IAG with Employers 

The organisation provides detailed and thorough IAG with employers, ensuring they understand their responsibilities in apprenticeship delivery. This approach helps set realistic expectations and drives a long-term developmental approach to apprenticeships, improving retention and achievement rates.

5. Sector Experience and Knowledge

Learners and employers value the sector experience and knowledge of Trainers and Skills Coaches. Their passion, enthusiasm, and ability to tailor learning to individual needs contribute to positive learning experiences and support learners in fulfilling their potential.

“Pareto took time to learn and understand our business and we were always listening."

"The trainers and Skills Coaches were super energetic, efficient and knowledgeable."

6. Thorough Quality Systems

The quality systems in place are thorough and directly impact the IAG provided. Colleagues view quality as a supportive function within the organisation. A detailed 'deep dive' approach, similar to Ofsted processes, incorporates various elements such as data analysis, practice observations, and caseload management discussions. Skills Coaches are assessed on a Novice | Red | Amber | Green scale and are supported in their development. 

Feedback from learners and employers is collected, analysed, and used to improve provision. For example, learner feedback led to the new digital programmes offering the option of face-to-face or virtual sessions based on learner preferences.

"Quality is seen as a support function within Pareto."

Wrapping up our Achievement of Matrix Accreditation 

Pareto's achievement of the Matrix Standard accreditation marks a significant milestone in our journey towards excellence in providing information, advice, and guidance (IAG) services. This accreditation highlights our unwavering commitment to maintaining the highest standards of quality and professionalism in supporting individuals and businesses on their learning and work journeys. With a focus on delivering tailored solutions and driving positive outcomes, Pareto continues to make a meaningful impact in the lives of our learners and clients.

Furthermore, our dedication to continuous improvement and innovation is evident across various areas of our operations, from the proactive engagement of our sales team in promoting apprenticeships to the robust infrastructure supporting IAG delivery. We prioritise partnerships with employers who share our vision of apprenticeships as long-term investments in individual development. Pareto remains committed to driving positive change and developing a supportive environment where all stakeholders can thrive.

A Maxtrix Accredited Provider of Apprenticeship Programmes 

With over 25 years of experience in placing and training talent for global businesses, we understand the benefits that sales apprenticeships can bring to your business's future. We're dedicated to finding and developing talent to help you succeed. Whether you're looking to expand your team or just need advice on setting up a welcoming environment for sales apprenticeships, we're here to assist you.

For more details about our graduate recruitment services, contact our team today. 

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