Apprentices struggle to find time to study, says Open University

New research from The Open University launched at the CIPD Learning and Development Show finds employers could do more to support apprentices and gain from the process.

Image of clock with time to learn superimposed
The study of 300 apprentices and interviews with managers and learning and development (L&D) experts found half (45%) of apprentices struggle to find time to study. This is despite the requirement to spend 20 per cent of working hours on off-the-job training. The new rule, enforced this month, stipulates that, in order to access funding, employers must have evidence that the apprentice spends at least 20 per cent of their time learning.

Line manager support critical to apprenticeships

In Focus: The Work-based Learning Dividend, researched and written by Towards Maturity for The Open University, also identifies line manager support as critical to the success of apprenticeships.Three in five (61%) apprentices rely on mentoring from a more experienced colleague as part of their work-based training. However, one in five (20%) apprentices reports a lack of support from their line manager.

Embedding apprenticeships in organisational culture

With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last month, and funding for a further 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 announced in the Spring Budget, many more employers in England are considering apprenticeships for the first time and how to use the funding effectively to meet their business objectives, says The Open University.

The impact on organisational culture – defined as ensuring all staff are informed, engaged and managed through change – is just one of many important points employers need to address to ensure smooth integration of the new requirements.

Related reading:

According to research from the UKCES, close to half (48%) of employers don’t train their managers, and yet these are the most influential people for most apprentices. Buy-in from senior management is also an issue in many organisations. However, just 41 per cent of senior managers demonstrate a commitment to learning according to the study.

Yet, those organisations that have successfully embedded workplace learning are reaping the benefits. The research found they are five times more likely to report increased performance and agility. They are also three times more likely to report improved efficiency and fine-tuning of business processes – indicating the crucial impact the right workplace training programmes can have for employers and their staff.

Role of technology in supporting apprentices

Technology-enabled learning is a further solution to the problem of apprentices struggling to find time to consolidate learning. Researchers found technology enables both more effective delivery and study, saving time for apprentices and employers. Learning is delivered 27 per cent faster and apprentices are able to study 21 per cent more efficiently, reducing overall time away from the workplace and with greater learning impact.

Two-thirds (66%) of apprentices also have access to online support networks, whether that is finding support from an online tutor, or collaborating with other learners, providing flexible and efficient delivery and keeping employees engaged. A quarter (23%) of leaders in L&D agree that by introducing technology-enabled learning apprentices have upskilled faster as a result.

Real need for learning organisations

Commenting on the research, Steve Hill, external engagement director at The Open University, said:"Addressing the talent deficit is crucial to tackling productivity and ensuring the UK remains competitive on the world stage. Never has there been a stronger need for the 'learning organisation' – an employer that values the development of adaptability and agility in its employees.

“Supporting a culture of learning is central to this. And it’s up to the influencers in the organisation, senior and line managers, mentors and teams to build an environment where the apprentice becomes a confident and respected team member making a valued contribution to the business. Using technology will also alleviate concerns around the requirements to deliver work-based training, by significantly reducing time for all involved.

“But employers are not alone. Training providers can do more to help organisations build these learner support networks. Here at The Open University we provide training for apprentices’ line managers and mentors to ensure they can support and fully integrate work and learning, and our technology-enabled learning model not only enables flexible delivery but consistent delivery at scale, helping organisations achieve their business goals.”

Linking learning to the business

Jane Daly, co-author and head of strategic insights at Towards Maturity, adds: “This latest research has highlighted that leaders and people professionals not only need a growth mindset, but also the ability to create long-term, networked and boundary-less talent experiences."Smart work-based learning experiences will pay out huge dividends if they are intrinsically linked to a learning organisation prepared to listen, learn and continuously transform itself.”

Read more from the CIPD Learning & Development Show 2017 here.

Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory
Click to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  

Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

Related Articles