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8 February 2012
This week is the fifth National Apprenticeships Week. Why does the CMI consider apprenticeships to be of such importance?
CMI believes that apprenticeships, particularly management apprenticeships, are a great thing for employers. In hard economic times, they do widen the pool of talent that is available and help to attract new people into the workforce. They also provide training that is specific to an organisation’s needs, which helps raise productivity.
Could you tell us about management apprenticeships, the CMI’s involvement in this and what the schemes typically entail?
There are a range of apprenticeships in management, from intermediate through to advanced. This helps to enable clear career progression routes through management for young people and also means that adults can use apprenticeships to help develop later careers in management.
The CMI’s own qualifications, Certificates in Management from Levels 2 to 5, form part of the apprenticeships programme. When someone is studying for an apprenticeship there are three key elements. One is the technical element, which will involve the CMI qualification. They will also study functional skills, which will include numeracy and literacy. Finally, and of critical importance to employers, is the work-based knowledge that they will pick up through on-the-job learning.
This is very much a three-stage process, which then means that the employer will benefit, whilst the apprentice is learning on the job. The apprentice will also, of course, be earning as well as learning, so it is a win-win situation for them.
Have these schemes proved successful in equipping young people with management skills?
In the UK, only one in four managers has a qualification. We often hear stories about poor line management and our research has shown that ineffective management is costing the UK more than £19bn a year.
The apprenticeship route is particularly valuable for improving the standard and quality of managers across the UK. It is an important vocational route that helps both employers and learners understand the value of management education, because they can see the skills and behaviours being applied in the workplace.
Are the economic benefits of apprenticeships sufficiently understood by parliamentarians and the general public alike?
Government, in particular, has really understood the benefits of apprenticeships and there has been a lot of public funding to push apprenticeships schemes across the nation.
However, there is still a case to be made for employers to understand the benefits of apprenticeships more.
Funding has been made available, but it is critical for employers to provide the placements for apprentices. We find that this can often be the blockage, with small companies in particular finding it difficult to engage with what can be a bureaucratic process.
Many businesses tend to prefer the idea of someone being able to work from the off, rather than training on the job. There is still some way to go in showing the added benefits, in terms of the learner’s commitment and the enhanced productivity, through the apprenticeship programme.
What are the CMI’s views on the effectiveness of adult apprenticeships?
The CMI believes that management apprenticeships are relevant across all ages, as a stepping stone for anyone looking to move into management.
Unfortunately some of the financial constraints do mean that there is not public funding or support available for adult learners.
What more can parliamentarians do to promote apprenticeships as a viable career path for people of all ages?
I do feel that government in particular, and parliamentarians more broadly, are promoting the value of apprenticeships very strongly.
Having said that, there are occasionally mixed messages coming from government about the importance of vocational as opposed to academic qualifications.
In particular, I feel that there is a very strong push for academic achievements from the Department of Education. Arguably more could be done to promote vocational education as a viable alternative.
Barriers could also be broken down so that there is an easier transition for learners from apprenticeships through to university and vice versa.
What do you feel are the real benefits of an apprenticeship?
All of the CMI research points to the key value of on-the-job learning and how that experiential route to learning really does improve productivity in the workplace. That very much matches our approach to vocational skills, where we do value that experience-based route into the profession.
An apprenticeship for us, looking at it from a management perspective, is very much a progression route through demonstrating the impact that someone has in their job and applying that knowledge.