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UK leaders back apprenticeships for all ages

Petra Wilton
pimlico

Amid concerns Government will miss 2020 targets. 88 percent of managers support the Apprenticeship Levy being spent on training for workers of all ages.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) would like to have a management and leadership apprentice in their team. Majority of managers (63 percent) agree the Apprenticeship Levy is needed to increase employer investment in skills. Almost half (47 percent) of managers believe the Government will not hit its target of three million apprentices by 2020. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) calls for greater cooperation to ensure apprenticeships improve employability and works for business.

Managers back apprenticeships for workers of all ages as a way to overturn the long-term employer underinvestment in skills, according to a new survey of 1,640 managers by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Of those surveyed, 88 percent believe the Apprenticeship Levy should be spent on apprenticeships for all ages. Seven in 10 (69 percent) say that they would like to have a management and leadership apprentice in their team. As National Apprenticeship Week brings the Levy into focus, CMI’s research reveals broad support for the initiative. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of those surveyed agreed that the Apprenticeship Levy is needed to increase employer investment in skills.

Despite strong support, almost half (47 percent) of all managers expressed doubt that the Government will hit its 2015 target of creating three million apprentices by 2020. This is paired with concerns from more than half of respondents (51 percent) that the country will need greater investment in skills post-Brexit. Indeed, the biggest ask to drive up numbers, backed by 81 percent of managers, was for access to the digital apprenticeships service to be extended to small businesses. This was followed by 80 percent of employers wanting more freedom to spend the Levy on small businesses in their supply chain.

As employers slowly get to grips with the new breed of apprenticeships, almost half (48 percent) of managers across the country expect to see a rise in the number of new starts in the next 12 months. The picture varies from region to region, with 60 percent of managers in the South East predicting a rise in the number of new apprentices, compared to just 40 percent of managers in the North West.*

Key reasons for the slow take-up in numbers are the time-lag in adjusting to the new system (28 percent) and waiting on relevant standards to be approved (22 percent).  Indeed, over 900 new apprentices have been eagerly waiting to start their Senior Leaders Masters’ Apprenticeship, with funding only finally approved last week (27 February), despite the Standard being approved back in August.

The research clearly suggests that managers are seeing the value in apprenticeships. There was strong agreement with the following benefits of new management apprenticeships include increasing productivity (73 percent); employee retention (72 percent), engagement and motivation (76 percent), expanding the talent pool (85 percent) and creating a learning culture (84 percent). CMI calls on businesses and the Government to work more closely to make apprenticeships more easily available for all at a time when the UK needs to prepare for a post-Brexit future.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy for the Chartered Management Institute, said: “For those managers and apprentices now using the Levy, they’re clearly already advocates and starting to reap the business benefits.  But too many businesses are still missing out.  As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week, far more needs to be done to showcase successes, widen access to smaller businesses, and to raise awareness of how apprentices can work for all.

The Apprenticeship Levy should be seen as a “skills investment plan”, and the funds can be used to invest in programmes for school leavers and existing employees. Businesses may not even be aware that they can use the levy to train managers and leaders at every level.  We now need more collaboration to ensure that this support from managers for apprenticeships translates into a new way of training and upskilling the workforce.

The broad scope of these new apprenticeships means that we’ll see school leavers all the way to executives embark on apprenticeships that will advance their careers and benefit their employers. The likes of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship programme is now producing its first graduates, managers with world-class skills needed to meet the business challenges of the 21st century.”

The Department for Education has announced a review of the effectiveness of the current funding bands of the Apprenticeship Levy, yet CMI recommends employers and providers should be encouraged to make the current funding structures work as stability is needed for the system to function. Mike Thompson, Director, Early Careers, Barclays, said: “The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy should be seen as a huge opportunity and not a cause for concern to businesses. Establishing your own apprenticeship scheme can seem daunting, but there is huge support out there to help any company interested in setting one up and there are countless benefits that come with bringing apprentices on board.

“Eighty percent of companies that have run an apprenticeship programme report a significant increase in employee retention and 76 percent have reported an increase in workplace productivity. Providing an apprenticeship programme can also be good for business, with 81 percent of consumers favouring a company that takes on apprentices. It’s a chance to invest in the long-term health of your business and your workforce; and hiring apprentices is a very good way of bringing in a rich, broad, diverse talent set to your business.