The view of the apprenticeship is changing
Traditionally, apprenticeships are often associated with the manufacturing, construction and engineering trades, but this ‘assumption’ is being Challenged by senior executives across the UK, according to a survey from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Just over two thirds (69%) of respondents claim that apprenticeships are an effective way of developing management and leadership skills. This comes against a backdrop of evidence showing that the take-up of management apprenticeships has more than doubled since 2005, with the Management Standards Centre (MSC) reporting a 36% increase in apprentices in the 2008/09 academic year alone. The 2008/09 academic year saw 240,000 apprenticeship registrations (the highest yet) and with the government’s pledge of £140 million for a further 35,000 apprenticeships, numbers can only increase.
How can management apprenticeships add value?
CMI believes that management apprenticeships offer significant value for employers because they provide a perfect mix of theory and practical workplace project work as well as enabling organisation specific training and development. These schemes can also play an important role in an organisation's talent management programme because they are a fantastic way of widening the talent pool and ensuring employees have the required skills to improve performance.
CMI’s latest research also found that business leaders across the UK support this view as it suggests that the new found popularity for management apprenticeships has come about because managers are recognising the impact apprentices have on day-to-day performance. For instance, 92% claimed that teamwork and interpersonal skills are improved by apprenticeship schemes and 84% feel problem solving and analytical thinking are enhanced. Popularity is also rising as employers are beginning to appreciate that these schemes are a cost-effective way of training as they seek to re-skill and ‘plug’ the skills gap that still exists in the UK.
The research also identified other reasons why employers are taking on apprentices, which provided some interesting Results. The majority (84%) believed that by running apprenticeships schemes they will be improving their reputation as an employer and 60% felt that apprentices boost productivity. Interestingly, more than three quarters (79%) recognised the commercial value, saying that apprentices provide a quick and positive return on investment and 57% claimed that the schemes allow skills development with access to public funding.
Investing in apprentices
Clearly, the research shows that some perceptions about apprentices and apprenticeship programs are out-dated. In the UK, just 1 in 5 managers are professionally qualified, something that has been exacerbated by cutbacks to investment in training due to the recession. But as we emerge from the recession it is encouraging to see that British business is realising we cannot carry on in the same way, so employers are beginning to embrace management apprenticeships as a means of investing in skills development.
Investing in apprentices ensures that individuals have access to a wide variety of roles and functions within an organisation, which means that participants have genuine experience of work as they develop increased levels of responsibility. This potentially makes them more ready to manage than an individual emerging from university with huge debts and no real work experience behind them.
Apprenticeship schemes & benefits
The research also uncovered the top three attributes apprentices are most likely to demonstrate. These are: self-confidence (91%) receptiveness to training (88%) and a good attendance record (80%). So, it's not surprising to learn that most employers believe that apprenticeships have a positive impact on young people’s attitudes to work.
The survey provides evidence that running apprenticeship schemes improves organisations’ retention rates as 71% of managers suggested that apprentices demonstrate high levels of loyalty. This could be because the individuals have been supported through two to three years of development, so the individual is more likely to remain with their employer because of the help and guidance they have received throughout their apprenticeship.
Management & leadership: National Skills Academy?
For too long apprenticeships have been described as the ‘poor cousin’ in terms of career routes, but clearly the tide is changing as more employers begin to support the need for alternative development routes. For example 81% of managers questioned argued that there is a need for more progression routes to senior management roles other than the graduate path.
However, just under half (49%) of employers suggest that the lack of funding for those under 25 is a barrier to further uptake of apprenticeships. This is why CMI is looking to see if core skills for management can be better integrated across some of those technical apprenticeship routes in the future. One of the routes that CMI wants to utilise is a National Skills Academy for management and leadership.
CMI are particularly seeking to influence young people in management techniques. Yes, there are already established programmes for those currently in the workplace, but what about those not even in employment yet? Young people do not currently have access to core management and leadership skills early enough. This is why CMI is developing a model for 14-25 year olds, which will integrate the qualifications and training system all the way from GCSE to the 14-19 diploma, apprenticeships and graduate routes. So individuals would be able to progress all the way through from the age of 14 to 25, identifying relevant management units along the way, meaning that they would be extremely well prepared for taking on a managerial role in the future.
2010 - year of the apprentice?
It's clear that most people understand the economics and realise that now is a good time for companies to be investing in apprentices. Those employers already committed to the apprenticeship scheme are seeing the payback with improved productivity and higher levels of satisfaction amongst customers.
The advantage of management apprenticeships is that they provide individuals with the opportunity to earn while they learn and this can be a financial incentive to counter the debt-saddled experience of graduates emerging from university. Ultimately by investing in this way, employers are growing their own talent pool and ensuring employees have access to learning opportunities at work to enable them to have the right skills to ensure business success as the UK emerges from recession and attempts to meet the upcoming Challenges.