From education to employment

Degree Apprenticeships a Key Element of a Broad Apprenticeship Offer

Sir Gerry Berragan, Chief Executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships

On the third anniversary of the launch of the Chartered Manager Degree apprenticeship, it is apt to say a few words about the Institute’s view of management apprenticeships and the CMDA in particular.

There is a lot of heat and noise generated over management apprenticeships and whether they are an appropriate use of levy funding. To keep things in context, out of the 193,000 starts on apprenticeship standards since the reforms began in 2014, around 31,000 – or 16% – of these have been on one of the four CMI management standards.

The 2,900 or so starts on the CMDA represent just 1.5% of all starts on standards.  This doesn’t seem disproportionate.


From my perspective, the apprenticeship reforms – and indeed the wider reforms of technical education – are a key component of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which highlighted an historically low rate of productivity in this country. This was, in part, caused by a shortage of skills in both the workforce and the wider domestic labour market. This acted as a brake on growth and productivity improvements.

A key element of the apprenticeship reforms, which were launched some time before the levy came into being, was to engage employers in defining their skills needs. This re-shapes the apprenticeship programme away from a relatively narrow focus on a small number of low-level skills to a much wider range of skills shortages at all levels.

Management Skills

One of those areas identified by employers was management skills. Almost every employer requires employees who, as they develop more technical and professional competence, take on greater responsibility for managing resources – be that people, money or other commodities.  And if those resources are not managed or led effectively, then productivity and efficiency will suffer.

I am supportive of management apprenticeships, where they are used to upskill people – and that includes existing employees as well as new joiners – to be able to perform effectively as they transition to the next level of occupation.  Because that is what will best serve the economy.

When people ask about the future of the CMDA and degree apprenticeships, my view is that as long as they have the continued support of employers; remain relevant to the occupations they are focused on; and meet the quality criteria, I would see them continuing to be a key element of a broad apprenticeship offer.

Again it is worth looking at the data here.  For although there are 58 degree apprenticeships approved for delivery (out of 390 – so just 15%), only 8,600 (4.5%) of all starts on standards have been on degree apprenticeships.

As they go through the statutory review process, all degree apprenticeships will in future need to be aligned to the three policy criteria for funding qualifications within apprenticeships, namely:

  1. if the qualification can be shown to be a regulatory requirement within the occupation;
  2. if it can be shown to be a requirement of a professional body; or
  3. if it can be shown to be a requirement of the labour market in that occupation.

These are now applied to all levels of apprenticeship.

I know this generates concern in some areas.

But what is not widely appreciated is that, for non-degree apprenticeships that broadly align with the majority of the degree syllabus, higher education institutions are able to complete the degree qualification for a relatively small administrative fee.

Successful apprentices would only need to fund the final exams or dissertation to secure the qualification.  The levy just won’t pay this additional cost.

In sum, apprenticeships play a key role in enabling our economy to grow, and professional management apprenticeships are an important part in this. 

They clearly need to: be used for the right purpose – to upskill employees; meet the quality criteria – 20% off the job training and an independent end point assessment; and finally provide value-for-money for the taxpayer.

Sir Gerry Berragan, Chief Executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships

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