It’s a year on since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and, despite some criticism and teething problems, support for the scheme amongst managers is strong, according to research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
We’re not surprised by this news. New apprenticeship standards have moved on significantly from the old frameworks, particularly when it comes to higher level qualifications in leadership and management. We’ve all heard the old adage that ‘employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’ and most organisations can relate to the fact that lack of management skills is a major barrier to growth. This new research from the CMI highlights that managers are recognising the opportunities for growth from management apprenticeships.
With apprenticeships undergoing such a major transformation, some argue that it is to be expected that apprenticeship starts are down following the introduction of the Levy, rather than being seen as a failure of the system. The key challenge when it comes to apprenticeship programmes with a management aspect is that apprenticeships are traditionally seen as an ‘entry level’ qualification. As Petra Wilson of the CMI says: “too many employers, especially in smaller businesses, are not even aware that they can use the Levy to train managers and leaders at every level.” Overcoming this perception will take time and employers who haven’t yet taken the plunge will be looking for case studies from others who are leading the charge.
Diverting Levy funds to management
With many employers seeing the Apprenticeship Levy as a ‘tax’, HR and training managers have been left to find creative ways of spending it. While some have been accused of diverting what is supposed to be a social mobility tool to management training which they would have invested in anyway, others are being accused of doing the same thing at the other end of the spectrum. A recent study by think tank Reform accused employers of relabeling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships to cover the ‘on the job’ training they are now expected to contribute to.
The reality is that Levy funds are best spent on where there are skills gaps in the organisation and where there is an apprenticeship standard that fills the gap and has the biggest impact on both the employer and the learner. Focusing on leadership and management will have a knock-on impact across the organisation and so it makes sense for some that this is where Levy funds are spent.
Quality over quantity
The CMI believes that employers are rightly taking their time to understand how the levy can best work for them and build relationships with the right quality suppliers. This explains the success of management apprenticeships over other areas where we have been working with the CMI and employers like Civil Service Learning to demonstrate how the public sector is benefiting from new standards that are increasing productivity and employee engagement.