Rob Wall, Head of Policy, CMI

In an uncertain world, effective managers and leaders will be needed more than ever. Today’s Chartered Manager degree apprentices will be tomorrow’s senior civil servants, business leaders and key influencers.

That’s why I was delighted that Chartered Manager degree apprentices from some of the country’s largest employers - such as the BBC, BT, the Civil Service, IBM, Nestle and the NHS – as well as from small and medium-sized businesses gathered at the House of Commons last night to celebrate 3 years of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA).


In a generation’s time it will be these apprentices – and others like them – who will responsible for making whatever Brexit deal – or no deal – Parliament finally approves a success.

Going From Strength to Strength

In the last three years, the CMDA has gone from strength to strength. With over 2,000 starts in 17/18, the CMDA remains one of the UK’s most popular degree apprenticeships.

CMI has long highlighted that senior management in the UK doesn’t look like the population at large.

If you want women, BAME employees or those from the poorest parts of the UK represented at the highest levels of UK companies, you need to build thet pipeline of talent.

With more female apprentices (54%) than male, the CMDA is helping to build the pipeline of future female leaders and redress the imbalance in our boardrooms.

Boosting Social Mobility

Equally, no one should ever feel like their lot in life is based on their life-circumstances rather than their ability.

With 2 in 5 apprentices coming from the poorer parts of the UK, the CMDA is a great example of how apprenticeships can widen participation and boost social mobility, opening up career routes which may traditionally not be available to those from a poorer background.

It’s no surprise that a poll of the public’s attitudes to social mobility from the Social Mobility Commission found that apprenticeships are seen as the best opportunity for progression for a school leaver compared to other traditional routes.

Solving the Productivity Puzzle

A key reason for the success of the CMDA is that learners see it as a great route to achieving their goals. With over a quarter of CMDA apprentices (27%) under 25, it is helping young people as they take on their first management roles.

The CMDA however is also playing a key role in reskilling and upskilling older workers – helping senior managers’ progress in their careers by learning cutting-edge management and leadership theory, and supporting them as they take their first steps into the boardroom.

Looking ahead to the future of the CMDA was just as important to the assembled guests last night as looking backwards.

Whilst not perfect, apprenticeships and the apprenticeship Levy is providing a crucial role in joining up the UK’s education and skills environment, and helping to solve the UK’s productivity puzzle.

Real Parity of Esteem

This is why we should be celebrating degree apprenticeships. Shouting from the rooftops that there is a high quality route to a degree for those learners who would prefer a vocational pathway.

At the end of the course, your new employer isn’t going to be asking whether you did a degree or a degree apprenticeship - that is real parity of esteem!

And who is the perfect poster child for celebrating CMDAs? That would be way too difficult to choose. There are many great examples, such as the Civil Service and the NHS.

Both organisations are the envy of the world, and both have heavily invested in their staff via high-quality management apprenticeships.

In less than a generation I predict we’ll see many more senior leaders in both organisations with CMgr or MCMI after their names.

Stability Needed Now More Than Ever

A key ask to policy makers arising from last night’s event was stability. We know the system is not perfect, and there is certainly more that policy makers can do to help small and medium-sized business take on apprentices. And recent changes to funding bands have certainly damaged employers’ confidence in the system.

But if we are to encourage employers to engage in the system and to take on apprentices, then they need to be confident that the reforms are here to stay and that the employer voice remains central to those reforms.

As the parliamentary celebration drew to a close, minds focused on the challenges of the future. Regardless of what was happening 100 meters away that evening in the Commons Chamber on Brexit, helping to develop the next generation of managers and leaders will be key to our success post-Brexit.

I’m already excited to return for the next celebration of the CMDA in another three years!

Rob Wall, Head of Policy, CMI

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