Recent reforms and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy have transformed the scope of apprenticeships. However, many still cannot get past the label of apprenticeships being about young people learning a trade at entry level.

There is widespread debate about whether the scope of apprenticeships, particularly at management level, has become too wide, with some saying that the idea that an apprenticeship can lead up to an MBA is not reflective of what apprenticeships are designed to do – to fill specific skills gaps at a more operational level.

A recent article in Personnel Today magazine looks at the competing arguments for more management focused apprenticeships. It highlights the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) concerns about ‘accidental managers’ who fall into leadership and management roles because of their technical skills but are never given the training required to actually manage teams. This is seen by many in leadership and management circles as the biggest barrier to UK productivity and skills development. It also holds back talent attraction and retention at lower levels – as the old adage goes, people leave bad managers, not bad organisations. These vital leadership and management skills can’t just be an ‘after thought’, they need to be embedded into all forms of training from the beginning of the employee lifecycle.

But with recent CIPD research claiming that the Apprenticeship Levy will simply mean that employers will ‘re-badge’ their existing learning and development programmes to re-claim Levy funds rather than using the Levy as an opportunity to re-think how to address skills and productivity gaps, are we really going to see any changes in management training?

At Premier Partnership, we believe that widening the scope of management apprenticeships is a huge opportunity, not a threat to either the ‘brand’ of apprenticeships or to UK productivity. It is still early days for the Apprenticeship Levy and there is much to be done to educate and inform employers on how best to spend their funds. But we are seeing the public sector leading the way in thinking differently about what skills are needed at different levels of organisations and understanding the importance of management skills from the grass-roots up.

The fact that higher level management training is badged as an apprenticeship will help to overcome the ingrained idea that apprenticeships are a somehow inferior type of training to academic studies and other forms of workplace L&D. It will demonstrate the power of the apprenticeship model to adapt to the ever-changing needs of a modern workforce in a disruptive environment.

With years of experience specialising in blended learning at operational and management levels, we have seen first hand the benefits of taking a more holistic view of learning and development across the organisation. There is no doubt that when it comes to maximizing return on investment on Apprenticeship Levy funds, employers could do much worse than to focus on critical leadership and management skills, which will help them to develop a workforce fit for the future challenges that all organisations are facing.

Premier Partnership supports Leadership and Management development through a blended learning approach that can be modified to suit the organisation and individual needs.