The new levy gives L&D professionals a powerful new tool to combat the UK’s management problems, writes Steve Hill

Many of us have experienced the impact of management problems, from lowered productivity to reduced engagement. The frustrating effects of ineffective management have been felt across the UK economy, which is widely recognised to be suffering a management skills gap.

Poor management is estimated to cost UK businesses £84bn per year, and the talent pipeline is somewhat shaky, while only 14 per cent of businesses surveyed for Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report said they would describe their leadership succession planning as ‘strong’. A further 40 per cent of respondents said they saw only ‘some’ value in current organisational initiatives to develop management capacity.

Perhaps these results should come as no surprise, given the challenges involved in developing managers and leaders. Compared with some of the more technical skills that organisations are also expecting shortages of, the capabilities of an effective leader tend to be more strategic, high level and people oriented.

Traditional models of training are particularly unsuited to this development need. Management theories that are not immediately tried out in practice can often become the sort of ‘inert’ knowledge that fails to add any value.

This is where the degree apprenticeship as a model of L&D comes into its own. By blending academic study with workplace activity, the apprenticeship has the goal of making training relevant to employment. Additionally, less time away from the workplace for learners ensures there is no overall dip in capacity while training takes place.

Now, with the the apprenticeship levy coming in April 2017, these practice-based L&D solutions can be directed towards the UK’s management skills gap.

Under the new rules, the levy can be used to deliver training to each and every layer of an organisation, allocated towards the areas of greatest need. This transforms the traditional perception of apprenticeships; rather than being an instrument that is mainly directed towards training for school leavers, businesses will now be able to offer these work-based degrees all the way up to executive level.

In meeting the UK’s management challenge head on, higher-level apprenticeships represent more than another training option. The expertise of a group of employers and the Chartered Management Institute has gone into a new Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship that is directly relevant to business needs. Companies will be able to develop a skilled workforce that is aligned to the individual needs of their organisations – which is of particular importance when training the managers who will lead those businesses into the future.

With 69 per cent of UK employers expecting to need more people with management skills in the coming years, there is a real challenge for decision-makers to put adequate succession planning in place. The upcoming apprenticeship levy has the potential to empower L&D professionals with a new tool to unlock management capability in their workforce. This opportunity does mean that businesses need to understand where current and future skills needs will occur within their organisation, but, once this is identified, degree-level apprenticeships will offer them a very credible solution to their challenge.

Steve Hill is external engagement director at The Open University