Proof the apprenticeship levy could create female CEOs

05 July 2018 -


With female apprentices outnumbering male peers, degree-level apprenticeships could see more women in business become leaders

Jermaine Haughton

Make no mistake; women are at the forefront of the advancement of the UK apprenticeship system. In diverse sectors – from healthcare to digital to telecommunications – the number of women starting apprenticeships in England has been higher than men every year since 2010.

The Apprenticeship Levy has given managers further impetus to enhance their female manager pool, at a time when the pressure is on British businesses to open pathways to female leadership. Recent data showed an 18.4% national median gender pay gap, while a government-backed report highlighted fears FTSE 350 firms are likely to miss 2020 targets to have a third of boardroom posts taken by women.


Currently, 63% of managers support the Apprenticeship Levy to increase employer investment in professional skills, according to a survey of 1,640 business leaders carried out by Chartered Management Institute in February 2018.

They acknowledge that there is a professional gap to fill. The CMI’s The Missing Middle research revealed that 513,000 women are missing from management, with only 34% of the UK’s 3.3 million managers being women. The report predicted that the gap would still be 480,000 in 2024, if it continues to follow current trends.

The cost of gender-unbalanced leadership teams? A mammoth £150bn a year.

Although there are other practical steps employers can take to improve gender equality at work, The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship is a reliable option.

Read more: The Blueprint for Balance report


The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship is designed to educate professional managers with the technical and soft skills necessary to lead teams in a fast-paced working environment. In conjunction with Serco and a number of leading employers including Barclays and Nestlé, the apprenticeship provides on the on the job training combined with world-class academic tuition.

It helps to buck the trend that sees females traditionally overrepresented within lower paid apprenticeship schemes in healthcare, and outnumbered by men in better-paid technical apprenticeships such as computing, engineering and construction.


“The CMDA just seemed a perfect fit. I think it was the fact that you can learn on the job, that's what I really wanted,” says Olivia Smith, who chose her Level 6 Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) with Pearson College London.

Currently an assistant brand manager at Unilever, Smith has worked in the supply chain at Tesco, in the water innovation team at Unilever, and she's also set to begin working at IBM.

She adds: “You have to be prepared to work hard. I think there is a perception that apprenticeships are easy, but they're not. It's very full-on and the companies that we work for are very demanding of their staff – that's why they're so successful.”

Teaching students how to apply their creative and problem solving skills in real-life workplace pressures, management apprenticeships are an effective way to ensure the future leaders develop the right skills to contribute to the improvement of the business.

Oana Apostol, a labour and training coordinator for London Engineering and Rail, at NG Bailey, has used her Level 3 apprenticeship with Babington to develop key skills in project and personnel management.

Apostol is responsible for 145 people across several locations, and manages everything from worker salaries to promotions. As the only woman in her senior leadership team, the 28-year-old says the Level 3 apprenticeship has given her greater confidence handling difficult situations, such as disciplining older, experienced male labourers.

“Nobody teaches you how to manage people,” she says, “and I wanted something to back me up”. Describing the key takeaways from the Degree Apprenticeship, Apostol said: “Having a structure to how I manage people and how I set my own objectives in professional situations.”

Find out more about apprenticeships, including the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship. More information about degree apprenticeships is also available in the Summer 2018 edition of Professional Manager magazine. To become a member of the CMI or subscribe to the magazine click here.

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