Sheffield Hallam University


My boss is an Apprentice

By Sam Moorwood, of Sheffield Hallam University’s Directorate of Education and Employer Partnerships (DEEP)

The new dawn of degree apprenticeships in recent years has had a transformative effect on the higher education landscape and business leaders are becoming much more aware of the benefits of employing apprentices in their organisations.

The removal of age restrictions on entry, combined with higher levels of opportunity and a controversial skills tax (the levy) has meant the expansion of apprenticeships - formal training (including degrees) combined with on the job learning - into new arenas.

The introduction of higher level and degree apprenticeships has been seen by many as a great opportunity not only for universities and colleges but also for school leavers, their parents and employers to address productivity and skills gaps through better partnerships with providers.

But a new generation of masters level executive management degree apprenticeships - aimed at junior, middle and senior managers who are already achieving in the workplace - are pushing the boundaries and challenging traditional perceptions of the ‘typical’ apprentice.

The stereotype of an inexperienced school leaver with limited academic attainment who has been brought in on a low wage to plug lower level skills gaps is outdated. Actually, there is nothing wrong with that scenario as long as the student is given support and opportunities to grow and there is a three way partnership between provider, apprentice and employer that has the apprentice’s best interests at heart.

Ideally there will be opportunities for the apprentice to develop their skills further - providing benefits for the employer and their particular sector, too.

But at the other end of the spectrum, low productivity in the UK and the growing phenomenon of accidental managers - high performing employees who have management responsibilities thrust upon them regardless of their ability to manage - has created a perfect storm for the proliferation of new leadership and management apprenticeship courses, such as MBAs, being offered at a higher level - meaning a growing post-graduate executive offer.

These courses are attracting ‘a new breed’ of apprentice - the wealthy but time-poor, experienced entrepreneur who holds a good degree from a higher education institution, or the technical expert who has progressed to a senior or CEO level role within an organisation. Both are looking to translate their instinct into insight; experience into knowledge; and natural talent into demonstrable competence - something a masters level management degree apprenticeship can offer.

This raises new challenges - who, for example, will be their mentor and sit down for the required three-way review to ask whether they have gained the missing knowledge, skills and behaviours (or KSBs as they’re known in the trade) needed to gain the apprenticeship?

Is this even a scenario we might have anticipated?…

Let’s say it out loud…. My Boss is an Apprentice!


Sheffield Hallam University is currently creating a National centre for Excellence for Degree Apprenticeships which is due to open in Autumn 2018.

The university received a grant towards the project from the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority to provide bespoke teaching space and IT equipment for hundreds of learners on degree apprenticeships.

Hallam is one of the leading universities for its offer of degree apprenticeships with a diverse and growing portfolio helping businesses and public sector organisations to tackle current and future skills shortages in key industries.

The University currently offers degree apprenticeships in: £Construction and Chartered Surveying, £Digital Solutions and IT, £Engineering, £Food Technology, £Health and Social Care, £Leadership and Management.

Hallam works in partnership with a host of organisations including Nestle UK and Ireland, JCB, Wipro, Horbury Group and Henry Boot to deliver these courses.

To find out more about degree apprenticeships for senior leaders at Sheffield Hallam University why not sign up for our live, interactive £webinar on 28 June?

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