Improve the UK's Management Skills to Improve #Productivity

It seems that every few months a survey is published on the UK’s low productivity together with an analysis of why poor management skills provide part of the explanation for the UK’s productivity gap.

This August it was the turn of Lloyds Bank with a survey of large manufacturers.

Commenting on the survey in The Times, Lloyds Bank’s head of manufacturing Steve Harris stated:

‘Large manufacturers are being brutally honest about the skills shortage affecting their sector and are highlighting that the problem is most pronounced at management levels.’

He went on to say:Most experts agree good management is key to improving productivity. It is clear the sector needs to invest in up-skilling the next generation of managers now.’

DfE, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Ofsted should take note of this report – the health of our manufacturing sector is vital to the well being of the UK economy.

The Apprenticeship levy was, of course, introduced as a productivity tax, designed to compel employers to invest more in the training and development of their employees to raise productivity.

Management Apprenticeships, such as the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship are being used very successfully by UK manufacturers across sectors as diverse as automotive, aerospace, rail, informatics, food & drink, construction/civil engineering, electronics, oil & gas and defence to raise skills levels and productivity.  So good news and something to be celebrated? Not apparently to some in the so-called skills sector.

The schools and further education inspectorate, Ofsted has, for example, been clear in its view that the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship doesn’t need levy funding. A rather bizarre position given Lloyds Bank’s findings on the need to enhance management skills, which echoes points made in a range of other reports including the Government’s own Industrial Strategy and the position of the Bank of England. Enhancing management skills is fundamental to raising productivity and Apprenticeship is first and foremost a productivity programme. When using management apprenticeships employers are doing exactly what Government has asked them to do: that is develop and use the Apprenticeships their businesses need to raise productivity. So what doesn’t Ofsted get?

Employers paying to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector

The response is usually that Apprenticeship should be prioritised for young people, particularly those who don’t achieve a full level 2. But shouldn’t employers have a right to expect the schools’ system and Ofsted to ensure young people achieve a level 2 qualification after 11 years of compulsory education? While no one would deny the need to support young people, it seems inappropriate for Ofsted to argue that a hypothecated productivity tax imposed on employers, the Apprenticeship levy, should be used to fund training programmes to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector. After all, doesn’t Ofsted have some responsibility for school standards and performance?

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Many in the skills sector have also opposed the growth of management apprenticeships. Some going so far as to argue that level 6 and 7 Apprenticeships shouldn’t be funded by the Apprenticeship levy. Such an argument is, of course, nonsense. If the Apprenticeship levy is about productivity then employers should be able to use it where they need to, regardless of level, to raise productivity. I don’t doubt there are some skills shortage areas in the UK economy at level 2, but if we’re about using Apprenticeship to develop a high skill, high productivity economy provision will increasingly be focused on level 3 – 7, including Management Apprenticeships.

I hope the Treasury, DfE and IfATE take note of the Lloyds Bank report, get behind our large manufacturers and support the use of management apprenticeships to raise skills levels, productivity and UK prosperity. UVAC will be supporting providers deliver the Management Apprenticeships our large manufacturers need. We hope others in the skills sector will do likewise.

Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council

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