Why management apprenticeships should be celebrated

Management apprenticeships have come under fire but they are crucial for fostering new talent, writes David Phillips

David Phillips

National Apprenticeships Week: "Management apprenticeships should be celebrated, too"

When thinking about apprenticeships, many immediately picture a younger person, ready to kick-start their career down a path of further and vocational education. This stereotype, among other factors, has understandably led some to question the legitimacy of management apprenticeships in this education landscape. But these valuable qualifications have an incredibly important part to play in the future of the UK economy.

At City & Guilds Group, we believe that at all levels, apprenticeships are vital and necessary. At their core, those undertaking apprenticeships will receive training inside and outside of work to obtain greater understanding of the skills and behaviours required to be occupationally proficient within their profession. And this is no different for those in management apprenticeships.

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Apprenticeships: tackling the UK skills gap

Apprenticeships increase occupational competency and help to reduce skills gaps – it’s important that they are accessible to a wide demographic of the population if the UK is to improve productivity and withstand future challenges to the economy.

Last week marked the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU and after years of uncertainty UK businesses will need to be more strategic in their approach of attracting and retaining the best talent. This is vital to ensure they remain competitive on the global stage. Apprenticeship programmes across all levels are therefore integral for helping to develop a high-skill, high-income economy.

Findings from our apprenticeship stigma research revealed that UK employers have identified growing leadership skills gaps in their organisations, with half (51 per cent) saying that the supply of leadership and management skills is impacted by factors such as a lack of talent with the right skills and experience.

So, why are management apprenticeships still being overlooked as a potential aid to this growing problem? From our findings, many organisations are missing out on leadership training due to misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships and the range and breadth of their offering. For instance, 58 per cent of employers felt that middle and senior managers would be unwilling to be labelled as an “apprentice”.

It is crucial for the UK government to tackle this stigma – these opinions could be putting businesses at a significant disadvantage. The reluctance and misconception surrounding apprenticeships is preventing mid- and senior-level employees from accessing valuable training to improve management and leadership skills.

Navigating the fourth industrial revolution

With the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimating that 38 per cent to 42 per cent of the UK population will need to completely retrain in the next decade due to the fourth industrial revolution and automation, the UK workforce cannot rest on its laurels. The expansion of artificial intelligence alongside an ever-evolving workplace will only serve to exacerbate existing skills gaps.

This is an astounding level of continuous learning required to keep UK industries productive. In this changing environment, the need for a joined-up system of lifelong learning is crucial – not just a framework that only targets younger generations.

It’s clear that the next 10 years will present many changes in skills and job requirements. However, alongside this, there will also be an increased demand for high-quality and skilled managers who can help teams and businesses adapt to this. These leaders will be tasked with navigating these turbulent changes, and their role in providing ongoing support to their industry, business and employees is crucial.

Address productivity, address economic growth

Any number of reports on UK economic performance show that stubbornly low productivity is often cited as a key reason for poor growth. Lack of investment by businesses in training and development is a core contributory factor to this. Investing in staff can have a huge impact on the success of a business – and apprenticeships are again an under-utilised tool for achieving this.

Moreover, management apprenticeships can often help to create and foster diversity within businesses. The 2020 Social Mobility Barometer illustrated that 44 per cent of people believe where you end up in your career is largely determined by your background. And almost twice as many people feel it is becoming harder to move up in British society.

These training programmes open new pathways to those from varying backgrounds who previously may not have considered gaining further qualifications. Thus, management apprenticeships can create access to new talent for UK businesses that are willing to help their employees progress to a range of management positions.

Learning for lasting leadership

National Apprenticeship Week  presents businesses with an opportunity to place the skills gap crisis front of mind. And, specifically, as management apprenticeships provide both technical and professional further education, these programmes must not be excluded from the discussion – they should be celebrated.

If the UK is to successfully navigate through the significant changes afoot, businesses must embrace the positive influence of apprenticeships at all levels, and the government should help to encourage reluctant companies to take advantage of the very programmes put in place to help them thrive.

David Phillips is the interim managing director of City & Guilds and ILM

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