The development of strong company leadership relies upon fostering a culture of learning and development within organisations. However, UK businesses are in danger of coming face-to-face with a crisis when it comes to investing in the talent to lead companies into the future.   

UKCES research has discovered that 58 per cent of employers complain that management skills are in short supply, and only 37 per cent of employers say they are actively investing in training future managers despite an increase in training budgets.   

It appears that there are lingering barriers in business leaders’ minds when it comes to investing in this essential area. In fact, Deloitte’s most recent Human Capital Report revealed that some 40 per cent of respondents see only ‘some’ value in current organisational initiatives to develop management capacity.    

Perhaps these results should come as no surprise, given the challenges involved in developing managers and leaders. In comparison to some of the more technical areas of skill shortage, the capabilities of an effective leader tend to be more strategic, high-level and people oriented.   

Frankly, many have been disappointed in the past by management and leadership courses which have fallen short of the so-called ‘learning-doing’ gap, where training is irrelevant to workplace application. Knowledge that is not immediately put into practice can often become ‘inert’; in the realities of the workplace, management theories often fall by the wayside. Management training must be implemented as part of a strategy that combines the practical application of knowledge with comprehensive and rigorous academic study scheduled around business needs.    

Decision makers may be seriously wondering how their best people can be trained whilst also managing the busy day to day demands of their role within the business. Most leaders need to be on the lookout for solutions which can fit around the working schedule of an employee while delivering solid training that is relevant and applicable to the specific needs of a company.   

In this context, the Government’s upcoming apprenticeship levy comes at a welcome time. It will provide companies with a tool that can be used to channel resources towards building stronger senior leadership teams and a more robust management pipeline.  

All companies, whether or not they reach the £3 million payroll threshold at which companies are required to pay the levy, will be able to draw upon funds to finance apprenticeships when the scheme kicks off in April this year. Contrary to the most common view of apprenticeships as entry-level qualifications, the levy will give businesses the freedom to offer higher level qualifications such as Degree Apprenticeships to employees of any age, experience or seniority. This makes the levy’s introduction a prime opportunity for any business looking for a more impactful leadership training programme.   

Degree Apprenticeships in management deliver industry-recognised training through the vehicle of an apprenticeship which has practical application woven into its fabric. The new standards for apprenticeships, developed as part of the Government’s apprenticeship strategy, have been rigorously designed by groups of businesses, industry bodies and academic institutions. This ensures the material in each accredited apprenticeship addresses the needs of the workplace with highly pertinent academic content. Different providers are able to tailor training material around the specific field of operations that each company engages in, meaning that all learning is heavily contextualised.  

Workplace application is a core element of all apprenticeship qualifications, helping to close the gap between learning and doing which can plague more traditional leadership training options. However, looking out for providers who are offering the academic components of an apprenticeship via flexible methods such as online teaching will go even further in helping decision makers to fit study around their ongoing workplace responsibilities.   

With this flexibility, the discipline and self-motivation required of anyone who completes a Degree Apprenticeship is significant – another reason for decision makers to value the training option as a credible method for boosting management capability in their workforce.  

The importance of learning and continuous professional development is well-acknowledged within the area of management, but this doesn’t make reservations about the effectiveness of some training options disappear. This is why the introduction of the Degree Apprenticeship comes as a welcome alternative for delivering academically rigorous work-based training.