From education to employment

Review looks to inclusive and digitally driven future for sales, marketing, and procurement 

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Improving equity, diversity, and inclusion and keeping pace with digital change have emerged as top priorities for future workforce training in sales, marketing, and procurement.

The findings are part of an influential report published today by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), following its review of skills needs for these sectors, which looks at what is working with apprenticeships and wider technical education and key priorities looking ahead.

At the time of publication, sales, marketing, and procurement is served by 35 apprenticeships ranging from level 2 (equivalent to GCSE) through to level 6 (degree level). 15 are in sales, 10 are in marketing, seven in customer service and three in procurement. Over 36,000 apprentices have passed and completed them.

All apprenticeships are now designed and updated by groups of large and small businesses, with support from IfATE, to make sure they match the economy’s needs. Work is also progressing well with employer-led Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) and a T Level in marketing should be available to learners in 2025.

IfATE’s report found that skills training does a good job with supporting equity, diversity, and inclusion. Over half of respondents agreed apprenticeships help people from diverse backgrounds into their sectors, improving achievements among ethnic minorities and learners with disabilities.  

However, there is more to be done. For example, 80% of people who started on the level 2 butcher apprenticeship in 2021/2022 were male. It was a similar story in a very different occupation, public relations, where data revealed that 90% of UK practitioners were white and one in four had a private education.

Respondents to the review warned that difficulties in finding available apprenticeships could be holding people from diverse backgrounds back from accessing them. IfATE is helping to address this through the recent launch of its occupational maps, which provide a comprehensive guide to training opportunities.

It was also recognised that sales, marketing and procurement is experiencing a digital revolution. For example, marketers are already applying digital platforms to manage content and AI tools such as chatbots to speak to customers. To make sure apprenticeships and technical education keeps pace all occupational standards, which are defined by employers and IfATE uses to clarify what must be learned through training programmes for each given job, will in future have to include content on digital literacy.

Greater demand for sustainable practices and professionalisation across sales, marketing and procurement were also identified. Housing managers, for example, now need housing management qualifications to at least Level 4.

Godfrey Moger, chair of IfATE’s employer-led Sales, Marketing and Procurement Route Panel, which approves all apprenticeships and wider technical education for the sector, said: 

“This review has given us a wealth of insight from key stakeholders about sales, marketing and procurement sector skills needs and the challenges they face. Professionalism is becoming more important to employers and customer service skills need to rise to the challenges of a digital marketplace. At the same time, sustainability is increasingly important, whilst equity, diversity and inclusion are key concerns for businesses across the board.” 

Nikki Christie, deputy director of IfATE, said: 

“The findings set out in this report will do a huge amount with helping IfATE deliver the right improvements for apprenticeships and technical education in these vital sectors. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the employers, professionals, end-point assessment organisations, training providers, and apprentices who made valued contributions.” 

The report closes by identifying the need for many more employers to help design and update apprenticeships and wider skills training. To get involved contact [email protected]

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