Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

I am not going to get into a debate about whether there should have been an explosion in the number of L3, L5, L6 and L7 – Leadership and Management Apprenticeships, if it is where the levy should be spent, if the volumes of people undertaking them are appropriate and indeed if we, the Public Purse, should be funding MBA and Degree Level Management Qualifications at all. 

I have heard all the arguments about how it improves the productivity of UK PLC and that many of our team leaders and middle managers have never received any formal training on management. All of that may be true, it has a basis underpinned by research I have no doubt and I am sure there are many individuals getting some benefit from the training they receive. 

The more profound question for me is one of Value For Money. Management Apprenticeships were rolled out in 2017, one of the first to be launched under the umbrella of the new Apprenticeship Standards. 

So we have nearly three years’ experience, many years before that of the existing qualifications, over 100,000 enrolments at various levels, which will consume conservatively nearly £1/2bn of public funding and the most recent fact, achievement rates of these qualifications, which are frankly appalling by anyone’s standards.

I accept there have been teething problems with the new Standards, which some businesses state they are getting benefit from the Apprenticeships (often promoted by CMI itself) but less than half of everyone who takes part in the Team Leader (L3) and Departmental Manager (L5) has actually achieved  – More in fact, either over ½ have withdrawn from the training or have not been successful. 

Given the high levels of attainment at the end test assessment, we have to conclude that more than 50% of those starting have withdrawn for one way or the other. 

A broad measure of the quality of an Apprenticeship is the achievement rate – if learners or businesses do not like it, particularly those over 25, they will often ultimately vote with their feet. The Quality of lots of these programmes have also been called into question by OFSTED. Nearly 1/3 of new providers have ‘failed’ their monitoring visits – whilst this is not entirely Leadership and Management programmes, the majority of those failing are indeed focussed on these programmes. 

So in terms of value for money – the cost of a Team Leader Programme is not £4,500 to the Public Purse not the Departmental Manager Programme £7,000. Simple mathematics tells us the cost is significantly more, factoring in the level of withdrawals. Whilst COVID-19 is out of our control, the position for 2019/20 isn’t going to present an improved picture but it will be interesting in the future to draw a line at 31st January 2020 to gauge the underlining improvement – or not!

It’s time for people to come together, review the fitness for purpose of the programmes and indeed the End Test Assessment Processes and objectively work out how we go forward because more of the same is simply not working. I simply pose some simple questions:

  • If the End Test Assessment delivers such an overwhelming success rate – is the cost justifiable because it is simply endorsing the quality of the work of the Apprenticeship providers. 
  • If so many participants are withdrawing – do they really know they are on an Apprenticeship and what that means from the very beginning of their programmes 
  • What is the plan to get a 20% improvement in Achievement for these programmes – I don’t see anyone coming up with a Strategy or Plan
  • Where has the proactive supportive measures gone that used to exist for providers?
  • Is there an approach by some providers to ‘chase the money’, in-short ‘cash is king’? It could be said that the Levy has produced a system where funding is being chased, the quality seems to be reducing (as can be seen by the achievement rates), and the proactive supporting mechanisms for providers has diminished; and
  • How many employers have used the levy and these programmes to train their staff with little or no intention of completion of the Apprenticeship – I am sure many providers have delivered the totality of the training but have encountered significant issues with employer commitment for the rest of the Apprenticeship – now that would be an interesting statistic!

And finally; if we introduced co-funding for these programmes – whilst the volumes might go down, employers and their staff may be a little more committed and selective about who goes on them and why and we will then really see improvements to productivity and competitiveness. 

Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

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