National Apprenticeship Week: Making the levy work for your business

Jane Crombleholme

Jane Crombleholme, Managing Director, Executive Education, Alliance Manchester Business School

As National Apprenticeship Week comes to an end for another year we’ve seen a plethora of news articles about how well the apprenticeship levy is (or isn’t) working and the many new opportunities for school leavers.

However what much of this rhetoric seems to be missing is how businesses can make the apprenticeship work for those further along in their careers – say at management or executive level.
Managing misconceptions

We know there are still misconceptions about how the levy can be used for upskilling within businesses – indeed research we commissioned from YouGov recently showed that only 13% of businesses even knew that the funds from the levy could be used for training at any level.

But for business executives who have many years’ experience already under their belts, even the term ‘apprenticeship’ is one with which they struggle to align themselves. As a term which evokes connotations of early career nurturing, it’s one that often simply doesn’t resonate with business executives when considering their own career next steps.

There is certainly a job to be done in gaining some balance in opinions around what an ‘apprentice’ looks like in 2019 and the fact that carefully crafted leadership development opportunities are now accessible under the levy system – options that could hugely help the UK close its significant managerial talent gap.

Taking time out

There is no argument that level seven apprenticeships such as MSc and MBA courses require a level of commitment from participants and appeal to driven individuals, so it is essential that businesses and educators work closely together to provide compelling evidence for the value of that time investment.

For many managers the idea of 20% off the job learning – a requirement under the levy – is commonly misunderstood to mean busy managers will need to reduce their full time role into four days a week. However, senior level apprenticeships are rarely this black and white.

Working closely with an education provider enables flexibility which means that 20% can be used to learn skills and tasks that might be outside of their usual job role but that add value to the business and the individual alike.
A partnership approach

Every organisation is different, and this means that any training at senior leader level needs to reflect the individual needs of that business and the nuances of the sector in which it operates.

More often than not, even with the levy funding in place, senior leaders need to see some kind of immediate return on their time investment when undertaking executive education. It’s not enough that these learned skills will pay dividends in years to come, managers must be able to meet the needs of the business today.

One way this can be addressed is by taking a partnership approach to senior apprenticeships where businesses and providers work together to create schemes that meet both the core levy standards but also fulfil the specific needs of that business or industry.

By working with education providers to identify skills gaps, senior executive apprenticeships can be tailored with modules that can enable leaders to make immediate improvements to their business performance.

While traditionally apprenticeships have been used as a way to bring in new, energised talent, the apprenticeship levy has opened up new opportunities for businesses to work with education providers to motivate their existing and future executive level staff by providing the skill sets they need to meet the specific needs of their business both right now and in the future.

For more information about the Apprenticeship Levy and courses for managers and leaders, please visit Alliance Manchester Business School