article banner

Using the Apprenticeship Levy – Manager as apprentice

Justin Rix Justin Rix

Learning to be better leaders with the Apprenticeship Levy is the key to agility and resilience.

In volatile times, being ready to change at a moment's notice is vital. That agility has to come from a leadership and management team with the right mindset to see change coming, to react to it and to adapt, and the Apprenticeship Levy can help with that.

Tools like the Apprenticeship Levy are designed to allow businesses to invest in training. It can help improve the diversity of your senior team, so that the mix of perspectives means you're better prepared for whatever might come down the line, and develop skills focussed on agility and resilience.

When the Levy was introduced, Heidi Mulvey, Head of Community Engagement at Cambridge University Press, and her team “identified leadership and management as an area where we’d love to do more”. Since September 2017, around half of the 80 Cambridge University Press employees on courses have been running leadership and management programmes.

They’re not alone in looking at this kind of training as a means to upskill at senior levels. Sixty-eight percent of the UK mid-market surveyed now believe apprenticeships can develop leadership skills; 53% believe apprenticeships are attractive to experienced managers and senior executives1.

This switch in focus is important. Poor management creates a myriad of issues; higher levels of team attrition and increased employee turnover are just two persistent examples. As they say, people don’t leave their job, they leave their manager.

Leadership development, through apprenticeships, is one way to solve these problems.

A matter of policy

The government agrees with all this. The impact of poor leadership on productivity was a key driver for the Levy in the first place and it’s not the only legislation impacting the issue. Sally Hudson, Senior Adviser Talent and Performance at James Hay Partnership, has been trialling apprenticeship programmes at all levels of the business. Looking ahead, her plans for the Levy have a very practical focus.

Sally says that, as a financial services provider, “we have to react to what our regulators, the FCA require” and what the regulators will soon require is for some team managers to be professionally qualified under the Senior Management and Certification Regime “The Levy can obviously help with that a great deal.”

Whether regulation is the answer or not, most employers will accept the need to invest in their leadership and management capability. For Heidi, the Levy provided a chance to provide all “the training that we’d like our people to have to be confident and really excel as a manager.”

In their case, the process proved rewarding in and of itself. By laying out the choices and leaving options open they discovered potential apprentices were proving themselves “self-reflective, analytical and strategic” in order to pick the right course. Before they’d even started, these apprentices were learning.

A tailored offer

Andrew Davies left school to play football. When an injury meant a career change, he got an entry-level position at Severn Trent Water. Over the last 14 years, Andrew successfully worked his way up to a management role, but knew to get further he’d need a more-formal qualification. For Andrew, the Levy and the Executive MBA (EMBA) we offer in partnership with Cranfield School of Management (the first ever offered through the Levy), meant that qualification was both affordable and specifically tailored to real-world business leadership development.

“The course has opened my mind in terms of leadership style and the way I manage and work with others”. While Andrew won’t officially graduate until later this year, he’s already seen practical benefits. The engagement with Andrew’s team at Severn Trent Water "rose from 32% to 84% (the industry average is 52%)", a rise he credits to the skills learned on the EMBA.

Looking to the future

A leader’s sphere of influence and the negative impact of a bad manager cannot be overstated. But inspiring leaders, drawn from a mix of perspectives and given the proper training and development can drive innovation, and spot and embrace change while it’s still an opportunity. The key is investing in creating that mindset. The Apprenticeship Levy can help with that.

For more information, get in touch with Justin Rix.


  1. The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) is a survey of mid-market businesses. The results represent the views of 510 respondents from UK companies with turnover between £15 million - £1 billion. The data for this release is from interviews conducted in May and June 2019 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors.

Looking to create a more resilient and agile workforce? Find out how your people strategy could be the answer

Solve three key challenges with the Apprenticeship Levy

Find out more

HR insights: tailored content for today’s HR leaders

Receive the latest insights covering future-fit skills, diversity and inclusion and transformational change.