All organisations in England have the option to drawdown from the apprenticeship levy to upskill their managers and leaders. If your company’s wage bill is >£3M then you’re paying into it directly. But are you capitalising on the opportunity to bridge the skills gap and prepare your people to thrive amid a dynamic and uncertain business landscape? How can you best utilize the levy and ensure you’re effectively upskilling your talent for the challenges that your organisation specifically faces? And what are the most effective ways to empower your leaders to drive change from within?

Utilizing the levy effectively

One of the questions I am often asked in the context of apprenticeships is how can employers best utilize the levy and ensure they’re able to upskill their workforce effectively for the challenges that they currently face. As an organisation that has specialised in leadership development for over 65 years, we see this as a multifaceted endeavour requiring leaders to be able to develop their own practice coupled with the necessary skills and knowledge to take on new challenges.



In an era characterized by disruptive innovation and rapid technological advancement, organisations should be looking to adopt a proactive stance toward talent development to remain competitive and resilient. To do so, leaders need to be humanistic, resilient and able to take on the challenges of developing teams who are capable of change. Leaders need an awareness of the strategic opportunities of digital transformation, the ability to be able to innovate and the necessary insight to lead major strategic changes.  It’s these skills that apprenticeships develop—ensuring that learners not only learn the academic principles behind these subjects but also gain hands-on experience of applying their knowledge back into the workplace. Let’s explore further why apprenticeships should be and are becoming a core part of many organisations’ talent development strategies.

Leaders need an awareness of the strategic opportunities of digital transformation, the ability to be able to innovate and the necessary insight to lead major strategic changes.  It’s these skills that apprenticeships develop.


Elevating leadership competencies

Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders have one thing in common: they need a comprehensive ‘leadership toolkit’ that equips them with the requisite skills and competencies to navigate complex business landscapes. If we’ve seen one aspect of organisations that remains constant, it’s the increasing complexity faced by leaders.

Apprenticeships go beyond traditional training programs, to:

  • Offer a holistic approach to leadership development that integrates theoretical knowledge with practical application
  • Provide an immersive experience for senior leaders with real-world challenges and strategic decision-making scenarios
  • Foster the cultivation of critical thinking, innovation and adaptive leadership capabilities
  • Help leaders assimilate a multifaceted view of their organisation

This enables leaders to foresee problems and develop solutions using multi-layered thinking in the face of the ever-growing complexity and uncertainty that we operate in.

Strategic alignment with organizational goals

One of the hallmarks of effective talent development is alignment with organizational objectives. This requires leaders who are able to think strategically along with being able to drive strategic implementation. Apprenticeships should be carefully tailored to address the specific needs and strategic priorities of the organization. This requires close collaboration between academic institutions, training providers and organizational leadership to ensure that the apprenticeship curriculum is aligned with the organisation’s vision, mission and strategic imperatives.

By integrating business objectives into apprenticeship programs, organisations can maximise the relevance and impact of leadership development initiatives. At Hult Ashridge, our unique history as a provider of executive development has helped us to ensure we work closely with our clients to deliver apprenticeships that provide a way for organisations to fulfill their strategic objectives through the impact that their apprentices deliver back into the workplace with new ways of working, new strategic ideas and effective leadership that helps drive strategic change.



Fostering a culture of lifelong learning

In today’s knowledge-driven economy, the skill and practice of lifelong learning has never been more pertinent. Apprenticeships provide senior executives with an opportunity to engage in the knowledge, skills and behaviours tailored to their organisation and professional development. By fostering a culture of lifelong learning, organizations can empower their senior leaders to embrace change, innovate boldly, and drive organizational transformation. This not only enhances individual capabilities but also cultivates a culture of innovation and agility that is essential for long-term success.

By elevating leadership competencies, aligning apprenticeship programs with organizational goals, harnessing the apprenticeship levy for strategic talent investment, measuring ROI, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning, organizations can unlock the full potential of their senior leaders and drive organizational excellence. As we continue to see the impact of our apprenticeship programs, it’s clear that organisations effectively harnessing the apprenticeship levy is one of the key drivers for organisational success in the UK.

it’s clear that organisations effectively harnessing the apprenticeship levy is one of the key drivers for organisational success in the UK.

Constant optimization and innovation

Recently, we worked on the redesign of our Senior Leader Apprenticeship. It’s a program with a successful history having originated as one of the UK’s first virtual courses nearly two decades ago. Over time, it’s evolved into a multi-modular program with an eclectic alumni network across sectors and industries. So, you might think, why make any changes at all? As one of only 120 triple-accredited business schools in the world, we’re constantly speaking to our clients, seeking feedback, innovating and optimising our program offerings to ensure we’re aligned with the needs of employers.

We based our redesign on extensive feedback and based this iteration on some key design principles aligned to that feedback. Our design principles evolved from two questions:

  1. What is it that learners want?
  2. What are leaders of organisations expecting from a level 7 Senior Leader apprenticeship program?

We learned several interesting insights from our clients and our learners, which we’ve incorporated into our new Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership and Management pathway. These are the three key needs we’re addressing:


Learners need learning to be easy

The pressures of studying and working have certainly been one of the most longstanding tensions for senior executive development. Learners want as much knowledge as possible that they can use or might use in the future. But they also want to balance that with the pressures of work and life. Our program took this into account by ensuring a mix of delivery modalities. The program combines face-to-face learning with virtual webinars and self-study online material. This mix allows learners to pace their learning through each module. It also forms a personal learning journey that might lead them to delve deeper into some areas of a subject that they feel are more relevant to them right now.



Organisations need learning to be impactful

Organisations want to develop leaders who can show impact back into the teams they lead and the projects that they’re working on. Within our program, one of our key considerations was to provide apprentices with mechanisms to be able to reflect on their learning—not just through assessment but also through the practical ways in which they had applied the learning on a day-to-day basis. Each of our modules contains a learning review. This is an opportunity to reflect on how they’ve applied their learning with their teams and with their line managers. We also incorporated elements of action learning to create Professional Action Learning Sets. These run at the end of each module and are principally an opportunity for learners to share their experiences of implementing their new learning and gain support from their peers on how to overcome the challenges they face.

Professional Action Learning Sets run at the end of each module. These are an opportunity for learners to share their experiences of implementing their new learning. And gain support from their peers on how to overcome the challenges they face.


Apprenticeships need to be creating the leaders of tomorrow

Our program covers the seven main management subjects taught by business schools. These are Strategy, Marketing, Finance, Leadership, Change, Innovation and Operations. We’ve learned over 20 years of providing programs in this area that leaders benefit from this variety in the curriculum. It provides the opportunity to see and learn about different subjects and creates leaders capable of dealing with complex situations. Leaders also gain an understanding of different business areas. This allows them as senior leaders to ramp up their capabilities to develop and create strategic change.

A key design principle of our program is how it helps to develop leaders capable of implementing strategy:

  • Preparing leaders to focus on knowledge, skills and behaviours that bring together their capabilities to drive home strategic change
  • Enabling leaders to understand how strategy happens and what makes for good strategy
  • Helping leaders to be able to communicate and market the products, services and processes that they create
  • Ensuring leaders can understand and deliver value through financial analysis and strategy
  • Providing leaders with the opportunity to explore and improve their leadership skills
  • Developing leaders who can help focus on driving change
  • Empowering leaders with the ability to innovate
  • Creating leaders who can manage and plan for operational initiatives


As Leaders continue to evolve, we’re ready to evolve with them. Whether that’s through utilising new technology or developing new curriculum opportunities to learn and develop as leaders.