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Review of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship – 6 points to consider

Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive, University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC)

Let’s #LookBeyond – Review of the Senior Leader Degree #Apprenticeship

UVAC welcomes the review, but in our response to the Institute, Department of Education and Treasury we will be making clear that this should be undertaken as part of a broader review of Apprenticeship funding and the operation of the levy

We also believe that the review should be conducted on the basis of the evidence and the impact the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship is and could have on the two policy objectives of Apprenticeship:

  1. Increasing productivity, and
  2. Enhancing opportunities for social mobility

We would ask the IfATE to consider the following:

1. Percentage Of Apprenticeship Starts

The Number of Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeships – In 2018 – 19 there were approximately 3,000 Senior Leader Degree Apprentices.  This figure represented 0.79% of all Apprenticeship starts. In comparison there were approximately 7,000 Hair Professional Apprenticeship starts.

Given the importance of management skills to the UK economy the number of Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship starts seems low rather than unduly high.

2. Value For Money

Value for Money and if Apprenticeship is a Productivity Focused Programme – The Government’s Industrial Strategy, together with a host of other reports, has highlighted the detrimental impact poor management skills are having on UK productivity.  From the IfATE review the Secretary of State will want to know whether £ for £ Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeships represents a good rate of return compared with other Apprenticeships at different levels.

Similarly, the Treasury and BEIS will want to know what impact spend on Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeships is having/will have on management performance.

The IfATE will also need to estimate the detrimental impact the removal (if this was decided) of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship will have on the long-term investment of employers in the training and development of senior leaders / managers.

3. Social Mobility

The Role of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship in Supporting Social Mobility – Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeships need to increase the diversity of senior leaders, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is frequently a false assumption that social mobility is just about supporting individuals into low level (and often low paid) jobs. 

Apprenticeship has just as an important, if not more important role in developing new progression routes to the professions and higher-level occupations for under-represented cohorts.

The IfATE review needs to consider the potential of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship in opening up senior roles to individuals from more disadvantaged groups.

4. Employers In The Driving Seat

If Restricting Employer use of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship is Consistent with an Employer Led System – When the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced Government promised that Apprenticeship would be an employer led system. 

Employers through the Trailblazer process developed the Apprenticeship standards their sectors needed and then could choose to use their levy payments on the Apprenticeships their businesses needed to raise productivity and performance.

As an employer led body IfATE needs to determine if the removal of a standard such as the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship undermines the concept of an employer –led system and would therefore undermine the integrity of the Apprenticeship brand.

5. Essential Services

The Detrimental Impact Stopping the use of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship would have on the NHS and Police – No doubt as part of the review the Secretary of State will want the IfATE to examine which employers are using the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship.

From our work on Apprenticeship, UVAC believes that among the biggest users of the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship are the Police and NHS. Given the Government’s Manifesto commitments to the Police and NHS the IfATE will want to be clear whether preventing public sector employers from investing THEIR levy payments in training their senior managers is appropriate. 

Would stopping the Police (Home Office budget) and NHS (Health budget) from using their levy payments to improve the skills of their managers so such funds can be used to train lower level Apprentices in small private businesses be ‘good value for money’ and be an appropriate use of levy funds paid by the public sector? 

6. An Aspirational Programme

Finally, Government should be proud of the policy success of the Apprenticeship Reforms – The integrity of the Apprenticeship brand is not being damaged as some claim. Apprenticeship is increasingly being seen as an aspirational programme and not just a programme for other people’s children. 

Apprenticeship has moved from being an intermediary and provider led programme with little focus on skills gaps and shortages to a high quality employer led programme where Apprenticeship is focused on the real skills needs of employers and the UK economy.  This success should be celebrated.

Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive, University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC)

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