Why it pays for companies to invest their apprenticeship levy funding in managers

Spare a thought for your managers when allocating apprenticeship levy funds
Steve Meddle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

HR and learning professionals may not agree with the questionable management practices on The Apprentice, but when considering where to direct their apprenticeship levy funding, using it to develop managers is a good call. Sacha Joyce from Cirrus explains.

As The Apprentice enters its 13th series, we’ve all become used to the candidates shamelessly parading their egos and performing horrendously in real-life business situations.

Outside of the world of reality TV, however, employers are facing some important decisions when it comes to apprentices after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy earlier this year.

Some big employers already have millions of pounds in their apprenticeship levy digital accounts and are still deciding where to invest. We at Cirrus believe they should consider their front-line management population.

Research shows that line managers are often overlooked when it comes to learning and development, and the apprenticeship levy provides a great opportunity to address this all too often neglected population.

Where to invest?

Since the UK apprenticeship levy was introduced in April 2017, every UK business with a total salary bill of more than £3 million has been paying 0.5% of this total into a digital account with a 10% top-up added by the government.

Companies can invest these funds in a wide range of learning and development for colleagues across the entire organisation, including line managers, who can benefit from management apprenticeships.

Employers have two years to claim the funds in their digital accounts. If they don’t make their claims within two years, any unused funds will expire. So it’s now time for them to consider how they are going to invest.

It’s worth pointing out that the ‘apprenticeship levy’ label can be misleading, because the funds are not just for apprentices.

It is also there to benefit managers and leaders. Neither is it merely a ‘levy’ – this is money that feeds organisations’ own government-subsidised learning and development fund.

Engage the engagers

At Cirrus, when we talk to our clients, most of whom are HR and L&D leaders in major organisations, many tell us that upskilling line managers is increasingly important to remain competitive, agile and customer-centric.

Frontline managers are critical to effective communication of business strategy and goals. The competence and confidence of this population impacts significantly on employee engagement. A lot of organisations are carefully reviewing how they support this population and how they ‘engage the engagers’.

The CIPD’s 2013 research, Real-life leaders: closing the knowing-doing gap, found that more than a third of line managers have not learned how to lead and manage others effectively, creating relationship and culture problems.

A more recent CIPD study found that in organisations where line managers have taken on new people-management responsibilities that had been devolved from the HR function (the case for 50% of the survey respondents), only 44% had been given any formal training. Furthermore, only 60% are given continuous support.

For many organisations, developing line managers is a strategic imperative.

Equally, they are keen to ensure results when they do invest their apprenticeship levy funds.

If companies are keen to unlock additional value, it may be worth considering investing apprenticeship levy funds in management apprenticeships for line managers. Effective line managers are perfectly placed to improve the work of colleagues and improve relationships with customers.

Management apprenticeships can offer a unique blend of learning activities, assessment, and digital solutions. Managers will gain an internationally recognised qualification and the knowledge and skills to boost their career, and the careers of others. All of which can have a real impact on organisations’ performance.

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