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The 5 key elements of an apprenticeship-levy leadership pathway

By Cranfield Executive Development
A collaboration between Aon and Cranfield Executive Development is setting the blueprint for how Apprenticeship Levy funding can be used strategically to develop senior managers


Julie Hyett, Talent Development Manager at global professional services firm Aon, and Alasdair Poole, Apprenticeship Principal at Cranfield Executive Development, describe five key elements to using the Apprenticeship Levy, as applied at Level 7 Senior Leader, to great effect in delivering high quality executive development for individual leaders, in a cohesive way which furthers organisational goals long-term.

1. Set the ambition

The organisation should make a firm long-term commitment to using 100% of the levy fund available to it. In Aon’s case it has taken four years to achieve this. “We now have apprenticeship pathways across all of our technical and leadership capabilities,” Hyett reports. “10% of our permanent population are currently apprentices, and there is a great deal more to come.”

2. Overcome barriers

There will be both external and internal barriers to overcome. Externally, understanding how the levy works and how to comply with its rules is a challenge. “The whole process is actually quite complicated,” she admits. It starts with assessing your organisational and individual leaders’ needs, then understanding what you can spend your levy fund on, where the standards are, who provides them, how to access them and how to establish the training and contracts with providers.

Internally, overcoming the word ‘apprentice’, in the context of executive development, is a challenge—how will an executive feel about being an apprentice at the age of 45? Hyett’s solution was to “crash through” this by promoting Aon’s programs as a way executives could take advantage of thousands of pounds of investment in their personal development.

3. Building a partnership for co-creation

The organisation needs to work with savvy training providers, able to customize and contextualise to its culture and its employees’ needs, within the parameters of levy requirements. As Poole describes it “A provider must find out what the market wants, relate that back into design, and then push ahead with co-creating programs.”

“The majority of the executive population is on the non-academic side—starved of, and in need of leadership development,” observes Poole. Whereas Degree Apprenticeships were originally ‘academic’ in approach, they are now short, pacey and ‘Exec Ed’ in style, with providers co-creating programs with a commercial acumen focus.

4. Developing a leadership pathway

The Aon leadership pathway takes a future leader through the levy’s different levels, from, “level three, level five, and level seven leadership standards,” explains Hyett. “This takes somebody from just starting to manage the work of others, through early leadership, to focus more strongly on the human elements in the team, right up to strategic leadership.” Cranfield comes in at level seven, the strategic leadership level.

Driving awareness of the levy scheme across the organisation gets people engaged who otherwise may not have looked for further development. “It has become an expectation now at Aon,” notes Hyett. “Internally we have branded them as ‘Go Further’ programs and people are asking to be included.”

5. Defining success strategically

For Aon, “This approach is more strategic. It is a more purposeful engagement with our high potentials and our leaders—with an expectation that their skills will elevate throughout their careers. We are giving them those tools in a way that gives them a security and a grounding within our organisation—but also the prestige of joining a significant, highly-regarded development program outside of the business.”

As the Apprenticeship Levy is a 0.5% tax on employers’ total pay bill, which can be used to fund employee training, the more that can be used the better. “We look at how levy spend is increasing. We look at whether more people are taking up the opportunities, and at feedback being given from the programs.” These metrics are extremely positive, Hyett reports, “It’s phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. We're in no doubt that this is the right thing to be doing.”


Tags: leadership, executive development, article

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