Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

Source: RTM April/May 2019 Sponsored Interview

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of Pearson College London, offers the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA). RTM’s Jack Donnelly sat down with Andy Ware, director of strategic partnerships at Pearson College London, to find out more.

The creation of the two largest rail infrastructure projects currently under construction in Britain, HS2 and Crossrail, have been tumultuous to say the least. For HS2, the high-speed rail link primed to rebalance the disparity of wealth between the northern and southern regions of the country, the early developments of the project have unspooled into a series of reports that the £56bn project could be over budget and layered with logistical issues. And in April, MPs slammed the management team of the £17bn Crossrail project, citing poor budget management and failure to meet key deadlines as two of the key factors for the failures of the project.

“In meeting those deadline and budget aspects, the key areas are operational and project management, and, to a certain extent, financial management skills that need to be brought to bear on these major projects,” said Andy Ware. “From what you read of analysis of the issues they’re having, it’s those areas that are causing problems.”

Andy believes the CMDA can help address the issues that have marred Crossrail and HS2. By ensuring managers within the industry are equipped with the best skills and correct knowledge to manage large-scale projects, as well as committing to ensuring that future projects meet the budget, the CMDA can “bring to life” the principles an individual is learning through the benefits of linking the theory and work-based practice.

Reflecting on the standard of workforce competency for projects such as HS2, the question needs to be asked: is the current UK management workforce prepared to deal with the challenges that come with major projects such as these, with billions of taxpayers’ funding at stake? A recent White  Paper survey conducted by Pearson Business School uncovered that a staggering seven in 10 respondents believed there were not enough training opportunities within their industry for managers and leaders to continue to develop their skills base.

When assessing the avenues of work-based training for established managers in the sector, one of the rapidly growing choices is the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship. The CMDA is an at-work, business-led training programme giving those on the course vital experience with industry leaders such as Transport for London (TfL) and Atkins, receiving the academic background and degree qualification to give the individual every opportunity to succeed and thrive in their sector.

Andy explains: “For the apprentices themselves, I think they’ve been amazed by the variety of work that they’ve been involved with – they get involved with strategic planning, but also on an operational level they’ve worked as supervisors on stations, they’ve been  involved with the emergency response units, they’ve also been involved with some of the personnel type of issues in terms of diversity and inclusion policy. It’s an incredibly broad experience they get.”

The CMDA scheme works for the employers, too, in terms of both the academic and employer mentoring that is an important part of the programme. In the Pearson Business School White Paper survey, 64% of respondents felt that mentoring programmes was the best way to nurture and develop young talent within a specific sector.

Commenting on TfL’s impressions of the scheme, Andy said that one of the most successful aspects of the CMDA was the diversity of apprentices it is able to bring in. “I think what they’ve been very happy with is the diversity that it’s brought into their management population,” he said. “So they were keen to set up the scheme for their managers which didn’t just get the typical Russell Group graduate applicants into their management cohort – they wanted to come up with something that would appeal to a wider, more diverse group of people, and I think they’ve been very pleased with the way that has happened.”

The fiscal benefit for employers is that the funding is government-led: larger employers paying an apprenticeship levy can use those funds on the CMDA, adding young, talented, and ambitious apprentice managers to their already strong workforce; or, if an SME who does not pay the levy is interested in the scheme, paying just 5% of the overall cost, the government will pay the remainder, allowing an apprentice to play a vital role in the SME’s growth and development.

To continue to allow the CMDA scheme to thrive, however, Pearson College London has called on the government to improve the flexibility for small businesses to access degree apprenticeships. Currently, Andy says, it is “trickier” for an SME to take on a degree apprentice because the demands of the scheme require apprentices to take time away from work for academic responsibilities, which is more straightforward to manage in a larger organisation, but much less so in an SME.

The institution believes greater access for SMEs across the country to the CMDA scheme would help improve social mobility: something which cutting-edge rail projects such as HS2 and Crossrail strive for. “I think the funding would help with those kinds of broader agendas of equality of access and provision across the country, and therefore the social mobility benefits that can come with that as well. From Pearson College London’s point of view, if we had the ear of government, that’s what we would be whispering into it,” Andy added.

The CMDA is delivered by Pearson Business School. Based in the heart of British business in London, the Business School is the first to be founded by a FTSE100 company, and has an unrivalled track record and extensive experience running CMDA programmes, working with organisations such as IBM, L’Oréal, and public sector organisations like TfL and the NHS. Pearson Business School degree apprentices work in Moorfields Eye Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, and many others, helping these organisations build management training and development programmes that work with their existing workforce, or help them bring new talent into their business.

Andy said that the potential of the CMDA to supply talented apprentices for the public sector meets a growing need in the industry: “I think it is true to say that young people don’t necessarily have the public sector as their first option as a potential employer. To be able to create pathways into the public sector that have this broader aspect to them, with management degree apprenticeships developing more widely-applicable skills that could be used in any large organisation, and giving the apprentices skills for the future, I think it really is helping increase the attraction of the public sector as an employer.

“I think we and other colleges and universities should be doing all we can to help promote these routes and support the public sector in developing these programmes.”


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