The builders’ merchants Travis Perkins has a number of senior managers doing Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships. Louise Powell, Head of Education and Learning at Travis Perkins, says there are several reasons why Travis Perkins wanted to open up the apprenticeships to its existing workforce. First and foremost, it wanted to help leaders think differently and be more able to make critical decisions quickly. “It’s hugely important and we see it as a real driver for our organisation – making sure that managers have the skillset to be able to make decisions and support our teams to make decisions that will benefit the customer,” she says.
Even after just a few months of being on the apprenticeship programme, Louise says the apprentices were already noticeably more adaptable, more agile and more able to effectively manage change and customer needs. For example, one of the apprentices, Chris Walker, started displaying a stronger, more confident and questioning leadership style. “He’s putting things into practice and challenging people more, which is great for him and for the organisation,” says Louise. “It’s the ability to say ‘Actually I know we’ve done it this way before, but we should be doing it slightly differently’, which can only have value to an organisation.”
Chris, who works within the commercial team at Travis Perkins, agrees that the apprenticeship has been hugely beneficial and has enhanced his management and customer-facing capabilities. This is partly because the course material is specifically designed around how he and the other participants need to develop as managers and leaders, but also because the content is relevant to what he does each day. “I’m applying the material that I’ve absorbed almost on a daily basis. That’s really enriching my experience at work as well,” he says. “And there’s a big encouragement towards developing others around you, so I’ve been very mindful of every interaction I have – I’m very much trying to spread the learning journey to everyone I come in contact with.”
Mary Fox, a member of the account management team at The Open University (OU), says using the Levy in this way enables organisations to develop the skills and careers of existing staff to the benefit of everyone – the apprentice, their reports and colleagues and the organisation as a whole. The result is a more skilled workforce and improved recruitment and retention. “Degree apprenticeships benefit organisations like Travis Perkins through filling the skills gaps, upskilling existing and new staff,” she says. “They’re able to develop staff all the way up through the levels.”
Critical to the success of the programme is the level of support available and the flexibility that the OU provides. Chris has two tutors that he works with, who fully understand his needs as an employee and as a learner and help him make a success of both roles. Because the OU is so experienced at providing distance learning and apprenticeships, Chris says it has made his experience much easier than it could have been. “To be honest, it’d be a struggle without them. The OU has been really supportive and the tutors have been really good to work with.”
The high levels of support and flexibility are what really impressed Louise about the OU. “The reason we chose The Open University is because of their flexibility of locations and their flexible approach to the programme itself,” she says. “It really gave our colleagues and managers the opportunity to put their learning into practice in their regional environment. And because most of it is distance learning, they can plan their own time and their own learning, which really works for us as a business.”