05 April 2018

Anne Ashworth -  Head of Employee Apprenticeships, Pearson and CMI Member

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company with over 30,000 employees worldwide, of which more than 4,000 are in the UK. Pearson provides a blend of content, curricula, assessment, training and information systems to make learning more engaging and effective.  In the UK we are probably best known as an awarding organisation for our suite of qualifications including Pearson Edexcel’s GCSE and A level qualifications, BTEC vocational qualifications and a number of other qualifications, including functional skills, which is so integral to many apprenticeships. 

As both a provider of apprenticeship services, and an employer supporting our own apprentices, its key to our values that our apprenticeships are delivered to the highest possible standard and in a way that puts the learners at the very heart of the programme.

We have invested in delivering apprenticeships within our business for nearly a decade and in 2015 made some big changes to ensure they were fully embedded into our learning and development approach in a systematic way.  The Levy has provided the catalyst for this change, challenging us to completely re-think how we use apprenticeships and their place in the development of our colleagues, as well as the knowledge and skills we need in our business in the near and longer term future.

We created some underlying principles when we started on this journey. Firstly, our apprentices are recruited into permanent, full-time roles and paid the going rate for the job according to the role band.  Secondly, no-one goes onto an apprenticeship unless the line manager and the HR Business Partner are in agreement over the time and support necessary to support the role.  Thirdly, that we would set up support processes to ensure that the apprentices had a real ‘voice’ about the quality of their learning journeys. 

Implementing all of these principles has ensured that we meet and exceed the expectations we expect our apprentices to have of Pearson as their employer and of our training partners.

We have several apprentices currently on CMI accredited management programmes and two of them are based in this region.  One is an engineer in our qualification processing department undertaking the Operational level 5 apprenticeship and the other is the manager of one of our customer contact centre teams undertaking the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship.  This is what one of them has to say about their experience so far:

‘I am currently studying towards achieving Level 5 CMI in Management and Leadership.  I was at a stage in my career where I felt I needed to take the next step. This apprenticeship opportunity came along at just the right time and, as I am naturally ambitious, I felt this would be a great way to achieve a recognised qualification and gain management experience.

In the beginning, not long after I began my apprenticeship, I would admit that I went through a stage of struggle, having to find a way to organise my study around a very hectic work load. With help and understanding from my manager, the team and provider, I feel I have managed to find a good balance that will enable me to achieve the best results going forward.

I am currently still in the early stages of my apprenticeship, but so far it has really opened my eyes to the field of leadership and has been a new challenge’.

We have a good number of management apprentices from level 3 to level 6, with a mixture of young people new to the world of work and more experienced people who have not had significant management training.  This inclusive approach is allowing us to plan our ‘talent pipeline’, so that we can plan for the career development of our colleagues.  We are also able to utilise our internal leadership and management programmes and training modules to further support our staff as ‘bridges’ between the apprenticeship levels.  We are finding that the apprenticeship programme design has a positive effect on our own learning and development, with a re-focus on face to face interaction where possible. Moving away from self-directed online learning to a more blended approach incorporating face to face interaction and using work-related assessments.

There has been a huge amount of interest from colleagues across the global business in the new apprenticeship programme, and how a version could be offered in their countries.  With two of our training partners, we have developed a remote learning offer for the CMI level 5 and 6 Apprenticeship. We are working on a level 7 one so that, no matter where in the business a colleague is, they have the opportunity to access a great learning experience.  While they don’t have access to the local funding we have in England, the wider benefits to the business are clear.