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How tempting is an MBA Apprenticeship?

Five people in a business meeting

The latest CBI Education and Skills survey is clear – UK businesses remain concerned about filling high skilled jobs and predict this will only get harder as Brexit becomes a reality.  A key component of the Government strategy for plugging this gap in high-level skills is the Apprenticeship levy, due for introduction in April 2017.

The introduction of the Apprenticeship levy will see large businesses (those with a turnover of £3m or more) paying 0.5% of their annual payroll into a fund which can then be drawn down against Apprenticeships.  This is expected to create a fund of close to £3bn by 2019/20 (the same amount UK employers paid in fees to external training providers in 2015). The introduction of the levy has been seen by many HE sector institutions, including The Open University Business School, as an opportunity to support and help businesses develop their workforce further.

However one of the criticisms of the levy has been the expectation that this will do little to address the higher level skills shortages, with Apprenticeships traditionally associated with high skilled vocational trainees.  However, this perception of Apprenticeships is likely to be challenged with the biggest gains in the post-levy world predicted to be in the number of Degree apprenticeships.  Some are even suggesting that degree apprenticeships could attract as much as 50% of the levy funding by 2020. Quite a shift when you consider higher and degree level apprenticeships made up only 4% of the Apprenticeship market in 2014. 

One intriguing aspect to this emerging market is the introduction of a number of new Masters level standards, stretching still further the public perception of an Apprenticeship.  A new standard, due for release later in 2017, meets this challenge full on – a Masters Apprenticeship in Leadership and Management.      

At The Open University Business School we work closely with businesses to develop our MBA and Masters in HR Management and Finance qualifications. Our practice based approach focuses on using skills directly in the workplace.  However, the introduction of the new level 7 Apprenticeships, offer the opportunity to provide Masters level qualifications that dovetail even more closely with the workplace, making our qualifications more relevant to employers than ever.  

With the publication of the new Masters Apprenticeship standard in Leadership and Management due later in the spring we are already looking at ways that this may provide a route to elite qualifications such as the MBA.  The Apprenticeship MBA is an enticing opportunity to open up the MBA market to a new generation of leaders.

Jacky Hinton, Associate Dean, Curriculum & Quality, The Open University Business School

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