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National Apprenticeship Week: CMI research shows business leaders' commitment to apprenticeships


Today marks the beginning of National Apprenticeship week, which will run until Friday. Business leaders have given their backing to apprenticeship schemes, as organisations up and down the country look to boost skills and performance, according to research released today by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Senior executives in the survey have also challenged the traditional assumption that apprentices only learn ‘trade' or ‘low level' skills.

According to the data, which is based on the responses of 503 business leaders, 69% of respondents claim apprenticeships are an effective way of developing management skills.

The news comes against a backdrop of evidence showing the number of management apprenticeships has more than doubled since 2005 and news that the Government has pledged £140 million to fund an additional 35,000 apprenticeships in the current academic year.  

The CMI's latest research suggests the new-found popularity has come about because business leaders see the impact apprentices have on day-to-day performance.  For example, 92% suggest apprenticeship programmes improve teamwork and interpersonal skills.  

Ruth Spellman, chief executive of the CMI, said: "Perceptions about apprentices and apprenticeship schemes are outdated.  We're facing a skills shortage in this country - not least among managers, where just one in five are professionally qualified - and this has been exacerbated by cutbacks on investment in training due to the recession.  British business cannot afford to carry on like this because, without the right skills in place, we face a leadership vacuum. We urgently need to increase our investment in skills development and it is welcome news that employers see management apprentices as a cost-effective way of doing this."

The majority (84%) think taking on apprentices ‘improves their reputation as an employer', with nearly two-thirds (60%) adding that apprentices boost productivity. More than three-quarters (79%) recognise the commercial value, saying apprentices quickly provide a ‘positive return on investment' and 57% comment that apprenticeship schemes allow skills development with access to public funding.

David Fairhurst, senior VP, chief people officer, McDonald's UK & Northern Europe, added: "A year ago, we announced ambitious plans to become one of the UK's biggest apprenticeship providers. Within this short time-frame, apprenticeships are delivering both for our people and our business. Apprenticeships give people the confidence and pride to do their jobs well. They also equip them with a respected national qualification and valuable, transferable skills that they can use to progress their careers within the hospitality sector and beyond.
 "It's been exciting to see that our people clearly have such a strong appetite to learn.  Look at employees like Jodie O'Neil, and you immediately see the value of apprenticeships.  A long-term unemployed young mum of four, she joined McDonald's as an apprentice following a successful work trial scheme last year. Ten months on, she's already been fast-tracked onto our management programme, and we're very excited about her future with us.  
"UK businesses have a vital role to play in helping the economy to recover. Apprenticeships have taken on a renewed importance in these tough times and employers' investment in their people can only be good news for the wider economy."