UK business faces a growing skills gap. In a 2016 Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey, 69% of 500 employers expressed concern over a lack of available highly-skilled staff in the UK, compared with 55% a year previously.
With Brexit likely to reduce immigration, companies may need to recruit more from within the UK and invest more in training their own staff.
This month, a new apprenticeship levy introduced by the UK government will see organizations with a pay bill greater than £3 million forced to pay a 0.5% levy on it – money which can then be used to fund apprenticeship training for new and existing staff. If companies fail to spend the money within 24 months, it’s lost as tax.
Cranfield School of Management has become the first UK business school to tap into the new legislation. Cranfield’s just launched a new Executive MBA in partnership with Grant Thornton which will allow companies to sponsor EMBA participants through the apprenticeship levy.
“It’s a no-brainer for business,” says Professor Paul Baines, director of the Executive MBA program at Cranfield University.
“We’ve jumped at this because it’s our mission to be close to business,” he continues. “We’re listening to what companies want. We’re offering them the opportunity to gain advanced skills for senior managers at no extra cost.”
Cranfield’s Executive MBA program is delivered over two years part-time. Participants study at Cranfield’s campus in Bedfordshire and Grant Thornton’s purpose-built training and development facility in London. 20% of the program is delivered online. Cranfield is also introducing a new, cutting-edge EMBA module on cyber security.
“Our participants will build enormous confidence in what they do,” says Paul. “They’ll learn so many things from the different modules – about business plans, strategic marketing plans, investment appraisals – that they can implement in a contemporary business environment.
“It’s a very different world that we live in at the moment, and the EMBA gives an insight in how to deal with it.”
To engage new participants, Cranfield is reaching out to multinational companies across a range of sectors, from consulting and banking to automotive, and consumer goods. The program is also open to self-funded applicants.
Paul expects the new partnership with Grant Thornton – the world’s fifth largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms – to boost the EMBA’s class diversity and help fight the management skills shortage nationwide.
Grant Thornton is looking to bolster its MBA hiring. Simon Littlewood, a partner at Grant Thornton, says the collaboration with Cranfield is about helping his firm’s company clients to grow.
“Across the UK, our quality of executive education is exceptional, and yet relatively few people from mid-market businesses have access to it,” he says.
“That’s something we’re really excited to be addressing. With the apprenticeship levy, we’re seeing lots of organizations that have never put people through MBAs or EMBAs before, now coming through and enrolling on this program.”
Paul agrees: “Companies are facing a huge skills gap,” he says. “It’s now up to the education sector to deliver the training to fill it.
“As a university with a strong business orientation, we recognize that need and we’re scrambling to develop new programs that will align to the apprenticeship levy.”