From Barclays to Boots, apprenticeships are transforming management training

From Barclays to Boots, apprenticeships are transforming management training

The start of this academic year saw a massive 424% increase in the number of management apprenticeships at level 4 and above, according to figures from the Department for Education. Numbers rocketed from 740 in August to 3,880 in September. Why so many?

A key reason is the level 6 chartered manager degree apprenticeship, launched in 2015 and funded via the apprenticeship levy from May last year. “It’s getting [students] the best of all worlds,” says Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at the Chartered Management Institute. “You get a full degree from a recognised university, work-based learning from an employer and the chance to have a practical impact on your workplace, plus professional recognition through the degree’s chartered status – three in one. Plus you’re getting fully paid to do the degree at the same time as working.”

Widening access to the degree course, now available at 31 UK universities, is increasingly attracting employers and potential recruits alike. The latest count by the institute reveals 1,200 registered apprentices, rising to an estimated 3,000 by the end of the year.

Wilton says the practical nature of the programme has many advantages, particularly for women. “You’re not being pulled out of the workplace to upskill or reskill; it’s a great way to build confidence and credibility for women in middle management by doing learning in a supported way. In fact, women returning to work see it as a way of rebooting their careers. It’s also tackling a huge deficit in management training.”

Barclays’ first cohort of 24 apprentices graduates this autumn. Among them is Bethany Barnes, 21, who gave up a traditional university place at Swansea for a more practical approach to learning.

“It’s allowed me to study, work and get a professional qualification in one go, and have no debt at the end of it – a huge incentive. To have a career, start it early, be on a clear career track with loads of support – and get on the property ladder at 21 … I’d never have done it otherwise.”

Meanwhile, Boots has taken 20 degree management apprentices since 2016. “They help to create a motivated workforce by bringing new ways of thinking into the workplace,” says Emma Metcalf, the company’s senior apprenticeships and education manager.

“Our existing workforce get to share their experience at the same time, and contribute to the success of the apprentice.”

One question that has been raised is whether employers will start to use the bulk of levy funds to develop staff through degree apprenticeships at £27,000 a shot, rather than spend the money on much cheaper, but far more labour-intensive, level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships. The latter can be seen as risky, because the younger learners who enrol on these courses are more likely to opt out of the course or change career path soon after they qualify.

Wilton dismisses these concerns: “Only 2% of the entire levy pot has so far been used to fund degree apprenticeships.”