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Degree Apprenticeships are pushing boundaries for businesses

Published: 08 February 2021

Student on laptop

With National Apprenticeships Week starting on Monday 8 February, York St John University is celebrating the achievements of its first MBA Degree Apprenticeship cohort.

Apprentices studying the 18-month Executive MBA in Senior Leadership have now all completed their course with 100% pass rate. The students came from a range of work areas, including the NHS, the veterinary sector and the charity sector.

And, whilst the course caters to those already in leadership positions, the cohort was testament to the different journeys people take to get there. For some, the MBA was the first time doing academic study. It was, therefore, a chance to build on business confidence and a challenging way to develop as leaders.

Becky Dobell, a senior business support manager for VetPartners, has worked in the veterinary profession throughout her career. Becky qualified as a veterinary nurse with an NVQ apprenticeship but moved to managerial roles over eight years ago.

Becky said: “Whilst I have worked in the veterinary world for a long time, I did not have a degree for the management side of things. Thanks to my time at York St John, my confidence has really grown. I had never done academic writing before, and the lecturers were really supportive.”

“The course pushed me to think about the future of both Vet Partners and my own potential. I feel ready to implement positive change into our young business and, on a personal level, to deal with the challenges and changes that all businesses face.”

Degree apprenticeships offer professionals from a variety of fields the opportunity to gain degree qualifications, customised to their employer’s needs. Students work full-time whilst studying, resulting in industry-specific training with academic backbone in areas such as science, leadership, and project management.

Apprentices welcomed the ability to learn from experienced business leaders through lectures, as well as from others in their cohort.

Becky said: “The group was made up of people from lots of professions and backgrounds. It was great hearing different industry perspectives.”

For Paul Hilton, team manager at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, the group dynamic was a huge plus. Paul said: “People challenged me to see there is a different way of doing things.”

Despite the disruption brought about by the pandemic, it also heightened the relevancy of the course content. Skills were being practically applied as the COVID-19 crisis continued, as well as being banked away for future business changes. Training for leadership in uncertain times reflected the reality many organisations were dealing with.

Speaking about the course, Paul said: “You are learning as you work, so the impact of the course is felt immediately. For me, this is so important for the patients we serve. The course opens avenues to develop services, to better management, and so to better the patient care we deliver.”

Despite the pandemic moving previous campus-based groups online, Paul found that challenges were met head on. He said: “The time on campus was wonderful and it was a shame to no longer meet in this way due to Covid-19. But the flexibility of the department and the incredible support from the YSJ team got me through the course. There was a personal touch that made new challenges manageable.”

Susie Maguire, Deputy CEO for St Anne’s Community Services, is an employer who has seen several staff complete the degree. She said: “If we could tailor a course ourselves, this would be it. As an organisation it meets our needs perfectly. All modules fit into the bigger picture as we want to see strong leadership and theoretical understanding.

“We really do see the difference in staff that have taken the course. In an ideal world, I would like all staff to do it!”

As part of the degree apprenticeship, students sit an independent assessment with Chartered Management Institute (CMI). They are awarded a CMI diploma, as well as the MBA and chartered manager status.Steve Heappey, Director of Service Delivery at the Chartered Management Institute, added: “Through our continued partnership with York St John University, we are helping navigate through the pandemic, developing senior leaders through degree apprenticeships, who continue to change the face of management and leadership across the UK. Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are equipped with the necessary core skills, in order to support the government's rebuilding efforts.”

Dr Brendan Paddison, Associate Dean at York St John University, said: “We are extremely proud of our degree apprentices for successfully completing the Executive MBA. We wish them all the very best with their future endeavours. This is a significant milestone in the completion of their studies and recognition of 18 months of both academic and work-based study. 

“Following the announcement that the new standard will be implemented on 29 March, we are now working towards refreshing our programme in response to employer feedback.” 

The Senior Leaders’ Apprenticeship is fully funded for levy payers through their digital account, or 95% funded by the Government for non-levy payers with the remaining 5% paid by the employer. The MBA is offered by York St John to those who have completed the apprenticeship at no additional cost.

Find a full list of Degree Apprenticeships and available funding options visit the York St John University webpage: 

Project Manager
(Integrated Degree Apprenticeship)

Healthcare Science Practitioner Apprenticeship 
(graduate with BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science)

Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship 
(graduate with BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences)

Data Science Degree Apprenticeship
(graduate with BSc (Hons) Data Science) 

New from October 2021 - Senior Leaders’ Apprenticeship (with Executive MBA as optional bolt-on)

Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship 
(graduate with BA (Hons) Management & Leadership)

Find out more about the Chartered Management Institute CMI visit

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