CMI Women: Apprenticeships hold the key to finding the missing middle

03 April 2017 -


We take a look back at how a recent CMI Women event celebrated the benefits of apprenticeships for young female managers

Matt Scott

CMI has long been an advocate for apprenticeships being one of the key solutions for building the next generation of leaders, and a recent CMI Women event showcased how degree apprenticeships are already helping young female leaders develop their career and push on the next level, quickly.

Speaking at the event, CMI director of strategy and external affairs Petra Wilton said: “We see apprenticeships as a key way to enable women at all stages in their careers to push on from the start but also throughout their careers, to push up into management and to the very top.

“When we look at the numbers, 53% of all apprentices are female. We weren't quite sure what the numbers would tell us but that's really very positive so more women have started apprenticeships since the Government's launch in 2010 than men, and looking at the new Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, 46.5% are women.”

Read more: The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship

But while this is good evidence that progress is being made, more still needs to be done in order to find the missing middle, and create the 1.5 million new female managers needed by 2024.

Sue Husband, director at the National Apprenticeship Service, said it is vital that businesses and government continue to push the benefits of apprenticeships to young females.

“We need to ensure a stronger connection, enabling more young women to leap from GCSEs through to an apprenticeship and then ideally to progress all the way through to a degree apprenticeship,” she said. “We're really working hard to change behaviour to ensure that apprenticeships are as desirable as university and other higher education options but let's remember degree apprenticeships are actually higher education

“In many ways you could say they are better than the degrees that you might earn through academic study because they're more relevant, they are better rewarded and they're more practical. Attitudes can be slow to shift but apprenticeships are changing rapidly and effectively and the prestige will be the golden thread running through our new standards.”

Showcasing Excellence

At the event, CMI showcased a number of female apprenticeships who demonstrate just what can be achieved, and how apprenticeships are already helping to forge the careers of future female leaders.

Rachael Rhodes is a degree apprentice with Nestle, and she was attracted to a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship because of the way it differentiated itself from other higher education pathways and the enthusiasm she felt from existing degree apprentices.

“I chose an apprenticeship because I had originally applied to physiology at university, and I went to the offer-holder days and there was a certain level of apathy over what the students were doing,” she said. “They weren't as engaged or as motivated as I found that the people at Nestle on the open day were.

“The other chartered manager degree apprentices were interested in what they were doing and they were engaged because they'd been given something practical and tangible to do, whereas when I went to the university days there was a little bit more of an I'm-not-really-sure-but-I'm-doing-it-for-the-interest-of-doing-it, which is fine but I thought I would find it very difficult to motivate myself through a degree if that was the attitude that I was going to take.”

And the importance of showing off the benefits of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship to future leaders cannot be underestimated.

Sophie Knight, now a degree apprentice at IBM, was convinced to enroll in a scheme after seeing a presentation at her school.

“The reason that I chose the apprenticeship route was because IBM came to my sixth form and promoted the scheme,” she said. “Before then I'd never really thought about doing an apprenticeship As you were saying earlier, it didn't seem as desirable. I thought, if you want a successful career you have to go straight to university [but that is not the case].”

And Knight’s course has helped her gain experience that she would never have otherwise achieved at university, including running a transition team for a complex and male-dominated IT project.

“I was the transition leader for a project 8,000 miles away in the Falkland Islands,” she said. “I was leading a team of nine males and an all-male client. We completely ripped out all the servers, put in the new servers and there were quite a few different problems along the way but in terms of being a young female, to be managing something like that so far away from home was completely throwing me in at the deep end. But it was such a great experience to be able to go through something like that.

“Obviously if I had gone down the degree route straightaway after my A-levels without the work experience I would never have had experiences like that at all and it's been absolutely incredible.”

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