Old-fashioned views on apprenticeships must change

George Feiger (PR)
Professor George Feiger, Executive Dean of Aston Business School

9 May 2018

  • Business school dean defends firms using apprenticeship levy funds for leadership courses
  • ‘The idea that an apprentice can only be a young, inexperienced trainee is old-fashioned’, says Professor George Feiger
  • Senior leader apprenticeships vital for addressing UK management skills deficit, he adds.
  • Executive Apprenticeship MBA open evening on Thursday 17 May. Register here.

Businesses need to change their view of apprenticeships being only for young, inexperienced trainees, according to the dean of Aston Business School.

Professor George Feiger, Executive Dean, reacted to recent criticism that universities were exploiting the apprenticeship levy to recruit older, more experienced workers through MBAs and high-level courses.

Professor Feiger said it was wrong to see apprenticeships as being only for the young given that poor management is one of the main causes of the UK’s low productivity.

He said: “One of the country’s greatest challenges is our dwindling productivity – and a core aim behind the apprenticeship levy is to jump start workplace performance by injecting much needed skills.

“One of our biggest skill deficits is in management. 71 per cent of businesses do not train first-time managers according to the Chartered Management Institute. The high-profile collapse of huge companies like Carillion should be a sharp reminder of the need for businesses to invest in leadership skills.

“The idea that an apprenticeship can only be for a young, inexperienced trainee is old-fashioned. The apprenticeship levy has broadened the definition to encompass skills that do not fit the traditional mould but are nonetheless vital to jump-starting productivity.

“The evidence is clear – better managers lead to more efficient workforces, and if firms believe this is a barrier to growth it is right that they should be free to spend their levy funds as appropriate, just as if a software company wanted to fill a shortage in coding skills.”

Aston University was the first in the UK to launch degree apprenticeships, and are currently the only university to have produced degree apprenticeship graduates in partnership with global consultancy firm Capgemini.

The university recently reacted to the government cap on funding for Senior Leader Masters Degree Apprenticeships by unveiling a new version of its existing Executive MBA repriced to match the £18,000 tariff.

The move means that employers can use the levy to send their staff to study for an Executive Apprenticeship MBA – one of the first MBA programmes to be created for apprentices. The programme’s first cohort started in April.

“Our ‘levy-friendly’ Executive Apprenticeship MBA opens up our expertise to ambitious senior staff who want to learn how to be an effective leader,” Professor Feiger added.

“The solution to improving a business’s productivity has to start at the top, and by widening access for senior managers we are providing a valuable opportunity which is good for companies, good for careers, and good for the nation’s productivity.”

An open evening for employers and prospective apprentices interested in the Executive Apprenticeship MBA will take place on Thursday 17 May at Aston Business School. Register here.


Notes to the editor

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About Professor George Feiger

George Feiger is the Executive Dean of Aston Business School. Before joining Aston in 2013, George ran a wealth management business in the US. Before this, he had senior roles in business including Director of McKinsey & Co, Global Head of Investment Banking for SBC Warburg and Global Head of Onshore Private Banking for UBS. George started as lecturer in economics at Harvard and then Associate Professor of Finance at Stanford. He has written and spoken on a wide variety of topics in international economics and finance and investment strategy.

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students.  Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers.  Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are also ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, call Ben Kennedy, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4592 or email b.p.kennedy@aston.ac.uk. Alternatively, email pr@aston.ac.uk

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