Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, CMI, addressing the Westminster Employment Forum Keynote Seminar: The future for higher and degree apprenticeships - expansion, integration and standards

Firstly, why management? Management is actually the fastest growing degree apprenticeship, and this is clear from the Universities UK data. So why is that? 

Our key role in working on apprenticeships has been as providing that professional recognition and that route to chartered status which really does help build the prestige of the programmes and actually gives that employer recognition back to the individuals, and also that commitment to the continued professional development after the programmes which further helps stimulate skills development.

We are also, in terms of our role, delivering the end point assessment, so we are coming in as that independent end point assessor at the end of degree programmes. We’re also out there sharing best practice and celebrating these new routes, because too often there is kick-back against early success.

We see in some of the media comments such as why on earth would we be using the Levy to fund, management degree apprentices, surely employers would be doing that themselves. And why is there this unstoppable rise of management apprenticeships? But actually, it is still only early numbers, it is a fantastic programme, and it is the young people and those on programme are really getting great benefits already, and we look to see that also with the Masters.

We are facing huge skills issues and you know what is the outcome of those skills issues for management? It’s actually the poor productivity of the UK, we might be all obsessing about Brexit at the moment, but the divorce bill of Brexit could be about £50bn or so, but actually the cost per year of poor management and leadership according to OECD data is £84 billion a year, so that’s a huge cost to the economy which we’re really not addressing.

But if we want to address that and look at that, what’s the main factor driving the productivity gap? All the research from the Bank of England, from OECD and others is that it’s poor management and leadership that’s holding us back. And why is that?

We say it’s because we’re still a nation of accidental managers, most of us get promoted into management positions because we’re good at what we do, not because we’ve been developed into that role, know how to manage finance budgets, but because we’re good at another discipline first. So 71% of organisations report in the skills survey data that they’re not training their managers before putting them into management roles. So this is providing an opportunity to address that and it is also providing us an opportunity to upskill those already in the workplace.

We do focus a lot on the social mobility and the opportunities for young people, that’s absolutely critical, but we also need to think about the social mobility of those who have been left behind, those who are returning to work, those who are looking for new opportunities to grow. And this is a fantastic all age policy that is actually helping the social mobility of those who have perhaps been left behind, who can now re-enter and start degree apprenticeships later in life, or mother returners, so there’s a lot of good practice emerging here.

What can we do about this situation? We do see the benefits where companies are training, where they are offering degree apprenticeships that is offering significant value. And it does also have a trickle-down effect when you’re looking at management as a discipline, because it affects the teams, it affects the engagement of the employers across the organisation. Indeed, the Trailblazer degree apprenticeships have provided a route for the last three years to show how this is a national way of finally addressing some of these issues.

We’re now very pleased that there are apprenticeships as a ladder of progression and a full pathway all the way from team leader, that is a Level 3 apprenticeship which is also really significant for many as that starting point, to operations manager, the degree apprenticeship - the Chartered Manager Degree apprenticeship and now, the Senior Leaders Masters Degree apprenticeship.

We hear a lot about the ladder of opportunity and escalators and now having a Masters degree can take people through to the very top. We need to keep it aspirational, we need to also keep supporting people in their journeys. If we only put people at one or two rungs on the ladder and just invest in lower skills, which is what we’ve done for the last few decades in terms of skills funding policy, we’ll never get to those high level skills which we’re really needing to drive the economy. So that’s been part of the argument in terms of developing and making the case for the Masters degree.

The submission for developing the Masters went in from the employer trailblazer group and it very much has been led by the employers who are really seeing the need for this skills gap to be addressed. It went in over a year ago and there’s a lot of evidence around why do we need to invest in these top management level skills, a lot of people saying, well surely the employers can fund it themselves. But we have seen the MBA market fall out for domestic national managers in the last couple of decades, it’s only international students on the majority of those senior executive programmes.

Employers haven’t been naturally investing, apart from the very large corporates, in developing these senior skills and particularly for SMEs, so we see the data that bad management is the main cause of companies not surviving and that’s from the Insolvency Service, so it’s 56%, ahead of lack of access to finance and other routes which we blame for the continual failure of small businesses, that we’re all aware of.

When we did comprehensive research across a wide range of employers around what are the components that would really support that development of those senior leaders in both small businesses and in corporates, and across the public sector: 93% of 769 employers who responded to that did support that as part of the development of the programme, they really did want a Masters qualification in there, that had the kudos, that had the status and had a lot of the core skills and knowledge that employers were looking for. They also did want the professional recognition of Chartered status. They were also very concerned about the behaviours and about how do you create the management culture of a company that really does engage and has got the agility to respond to uncertainty. All of those issues we hear regularly.

It’s that combination of the degree and the apprenticeship which is that work-based learning which is so important, plus the professional status, it’s what the employers were really looking for.

It also linked very much back to all the outcomes of the skills research that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills had been doing for many years. Unfortunately the UKCES is no longer, but all their research does still exist and what they did highlight as one of their final outcome papers, Ambition 2020 and where we should be, is that we do need senior managers who are absolutely key to driving the business strategy and our competitive positioning and that’s where we have that severe deficit compared with international competitors. And if we’re not going to invest in those senior managers then never mind the sort of Brexit argument, we’re going to fall over internally in terms of our business growth.

Employers who are leading on the trailblazer, there was over 20 involved in the detailed trailblazer group, but a broader network of over 100 other employers. And so the key components across all the apprenticeships is about the skills knowledge and behaviours and that was across the three key areas around creating organisational performance, interpersonal excellence and personal effectiveness, key elements of Masters programmes. The business schools are all ready to deliver this programme, there’s already ten and counting at the moment, but there’s a lot that have already developed the programmes ready to go.

So what are some of the key areas that we’re facing now? It is the uncertainty from the IFA now around funding bands, so that’s the one thing that stops this programme going operational. So we are working, with the employers, with the university partners to say we do need clarity on that and we do need to have faster policy decisions so that all these employers and universities who are waiting to go are not being held back by funding decisions. And then that really will sort of open the doors to the start of delivering and celebrating the success, and also mirroring the success that we’ve seen in the early stages of over 1,000 apprentices now on the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and mirror that programme.

It is important for the productivity arguments of the UK how we fundamentally change management cultures which is an issue we see day-to-day that escalates in many problems across UK society around not having those skills in place. And we do really need to keep raising the prestige and the value of apprenticeship programmes by keeping the associations of professional recognition and keeping a ladder all the way through to the top, so it isn’t just a stepping stone for those early lower level skills, but really keeps the prestige and status and opportunities up there.

Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, CMI

Despite best endeavours to ensure accuracy, text based on transcription may contain errors which could alter the intended meaning of any portion of the reported content. Speakers have not had the opportunity for any corrections.

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