Management degree apprenticeships: the UK’s engine room where overalls are not required

Petra Wilton

Petra Wilton

Director of Strategy and External Affairs
Chartered Management Institute

On the first anniversary of the apprenticeship levy this month, the Reform think-tank published The Great Training Robbery; a critical missive aimed at low level apprenticeships, and management degree apprenticeships in particular.

While some of the analysis was well-founded, the report failed to grasp that the fundamental nature of apprenticeships is changing. The idea of apprentices as young people in overalls getting stuck in to a manual trade is outdated and nostalgic. Apprenticeships have been re-invented and revamped by employers to train the next generation of managers and leaders, as well as workers on the front line, and in doing so, are helping to address the UK's problems with social mobility, chronic skills gaps and low productivity.

Management degree apprenticeships are no exception. Indeed, of the 1,500 Chartered Manager Degree Apprentices who began their studies last year, nearly half (47%) are from an economically deprived region of the UK, and over half were women. As Universities UK's 2016 report Working in partnership found, improving social mobility across the UK will require action at all stages of the student journey – including in the workplace. Many employees who enter employment without a degree find it hard to progress; the provision of management degree apprenticeships will help build their confidence and develop their skills, providing a real ladder of opportunity for their future careers. 

In addition, the UK needs effective managers. At present, four in five managers are 'accidental' – promoted to their position without professional training and support. The Productivity Council, the ONS, the OECD and the Bank of England all agree that management quality is the biggest determining factor in productivity, with poor management practice costing the UK economy £84 billion per year. Training managers effectively in the workplace while simultaneously educating them to degree level cannot possibly therefore be a bad thing.

Thankfully, many of the UK's leading employers, including Barclays, Nestlé, Boots, GE Aviation, the Civil Service and McDonald's, already offer these new degree apprenticeships, having designed their programmes in partnership with university business schools. Pizza Hut in particular is using the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship to attract and develop new talent; the mix of professional skills and academic qualifications degree apprentices provide is seen as critical to their business.

While these are positive developments, it is only by encouraging and supporting more employers – especially smaller businesses – to use these new apprenticeships that we will grow the next generation of world-class managers and leaders needed to for the UK to enhance productivity, and compete internationally post-Brexit.

It is pleasing to see this week that Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, recognises​ the role degree apprenticeships can play in boosting productivity, and aiding social mobility, and he is right to call on the government to 'make it easier for universities to expand their provision'. At the Chartered Management Institute​ we very much believe in this too. Far from being a 'training robbery', degree apprenticeships have the potential to be the engine room of the UK: it's time everyone realised it.​

Leave a Comment

R N Sharma
R N Sharma says:
26 April 2018 at 21:50

RH Madams / Sirs

We highly appreciate and thankful to your good selves contribution for excellence of education.

There is need to integrate apprenticeship and University education.

It is desirable to have Degree Apprenticeship in consultaion with universities and Universities degrees with students part appenticeship/practical training / industrial training or whatever name it is called . It will be very good to consider starting Post graduate Apprenticeship , Doctorate apprenticeship at school level , undergraduate level , graduate level , post graduate level as well as mechanism of certificate of equivalence in various fields 

Thanks & Best Regards

Two people are sitting next to each other at a computer, one is teaching the other a new skill

Laying the foundations for a skills-led recovery

29 January 2021
​Following the publication of the UK government’s Skills for jobs white paper, Greg Wade, UUK’s policy lead on innovation, growth, employability and skills, studies its proposals and makes the case for a ‘whole skills approach’.


Pathways and flexibility are key to supporting lifelong learning

18 December 2020
Dave Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University, argues that if we are to facilitate lifelong learning and avoid ‘educational dead ends’, universities must play a core role in qualification design.