Senior managers don't want 'apprentice' label

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Deeply ingrained stereotypes mean apprenticeships have been dismissed by senior managers

More than half (58%) of employers believe middle and senior managers would be unwilling to be seen as apprentices, despite recent efforts to broaden apprenticeships to cover all seniority levels, new research from ILM has found.

The research from the leadership qualifications provider found that stigma exists around apprenticeships among senior-level employees, with 53% of the 1,000 UK HR decision-makers surveyed citing reputation and image as the main reason employees would not want to participate. The implication that a senior employee needs additional support was another reason cited (by 41%).

These misconceptions could be causing mid- and senior-level employees to miss out on opportunities to improve their leadership skills and leave businesses at a disadvantage by failing to use the levy to fund leadership and management training.

The research found that just a quarter (25%) of those currently running a formal leadership training programme to help fill management or leadership roles would consider using apprenticeships to upskill middle managers, and fewer (21%) to develop senior managers.

Jake Tween, head of apprenticeships at ILM, said: “Deeply ingrained associations with trade, low wages and a perception that they put a glass ceiling on progression, mean that apprenticeships have long been dismissed by those aspiring to seniority, and it’s time to put an end to it.

“We must work collectively – government, employers, and providers – if we are to get to a place where these prejudices are considered outdated."

The research also showed that just 37% of UK businesses are very confident about their long-term supply of leaders and managers.

Some organisations have set out schemes to help employers develop leaders. Earlier this month the first apprentices on the CMI and Coventry University's new chartered manager degree apprenticeship scheme completed their qualifications, achieving a degree and CMI diploma in management and leadership.

The CMI’s director of strategy and external affairs, Petra Wilton told HR magazine: “There are of course some outdated understandings of what an apprenticeship is, but in reality there is significant interest from employees of all seniorities. We have hundreds of people waiting in the wings to get on our scheme because they are drawn to the fact that these apprenticeships can offer professional recognition, degree status, and work-based learning all in one.”

This research comes a week after the UK government approved an £18,000 funding allocation for higher-level skills, MBAs and degree apprenticeships. Around 900 executive-level apprentices will be able to begin their courses now this funding band for the Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship has been confirmed.

However, the move was met with criticism from those who claim employers will rebadge existing training activities as apprenticeships to receive government funding top-ups. The CIPD has warned that this could be counterintuitive to the purpose of the levy and could do little to upskill the workforce and increase apprenticeship uptake.

Wilton said though that while some organisations may have already offered similar training opportunities, the levy “has forced businesses to realign all programmes into one place to meet the necessary standards.

“For some managers this is giving them opportunities for the first time in their careers to receive management-specific training rather than function-specific training,” she said.

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