Exciting new figures from the Department for Education have revealed that management is now the UK’s second most popular apprenticeship framework, with 46,640 new starters in the 2016/17 intake. If apprenticeships under the standard system are also included, that figure rises to 64,480.

The upshot of the figures is that management has slightly pipped business administration to second place, making it the field’s best showing for apprenticeship starts since the 2012/13 period – and the culmination of a gradual lift since a 2013/14 slump.

Now that management apprenticeships are bouncing back to a high level of popularity, it will be vital to ensure that the learning experiences of these thousands of young people reflect the most positive, forward-looking attitudes towards the management process.

With that in mind, what are the most helpful and constructive approaches that firms should adopt when taking apprentices under their wings?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper explains: “The origins of apprenticeships lie in the notion of learning from a master – from someone who has excelled at a particular craft. There are many things about that original vision that should still hold true today.

“I talk frequently about the value of role-modelling the sorts of behaviours that one expects to see, and that’s of paramount importance within a management apprenticeship programme. You need exponents of the art to guide and mentor inductees, in order to provide them with visible models of what skilful, intelligent management looks like. Equipped with such models, apprentices will grow and develop in an environment where there are figures that they will be eager to emulate.”

Cooper points out: “Learning by doing is a powerful experience. But in apprenticeships, there’s also a requirement for 20% off-the-job training based upon in-depth study. If managed and used correctly, that makes a brilliant opportunity for the apprentice to examine what’s going on in their chosen domain, reflect upon it and ensure that those reflections are informed by the highest-quality, best-practice knowledge. In the field of management, there’s a huge amount that apprentices could read to help them make sense of what is happening in the organisation they’re learning from.”

She adds: “Understanding why good behaviours take a particular shape, and are so distinct from sub-optimal behaviours, is a critical thread in that part of an apprenticeship. So being guided towards the correct documents and materials is something that apprentices will find of tremendous value. It will help them find their own way of being, so that by the time the course is finished, not only will they have been able to learn from some of the best – they’ll have absorbed the context of where their management is to take place.

“Context in management is crucial, because it tells the manager what is suitable and appropriate, and what makes sense. If they’ve been advised on how best to use their 20% off-the-job time, then they’ll have really informed insights into themselves as managers, the workings of the organisation, and what they will need in order to keep developing. Remember: the end of the apprenticeship is only the beginning of something else.”

For further thoughts and insights on mentoring, check out these learning resources from the Institute