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Business & Economy

Why the Apprenticeship Levy and executive education provide a route to a stronger North East

Professor Ian Whitfield, programme director for Durham University Business School’s Senior Leader Apprenticeship, highlights the qualification’s importance to organisations’ growth, as well as the region’s participation in the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda.


Businesses in the North East could be doing more to utilise training support schemes, such as the Apprenticeship Levy, to upskill staff and grow operations, say School academics. 

And Durham University Business School’s Senior Leader Apprenticeship (SLA), which is set to run again in June 2023, is a shining example of how organisations can benefit from the Government’s scheme.

The School has harnessed the levy to enhance its portfolio of executive education programmes, says Professor Ian Whitfield, SLA programme director, to make senior level education more accessible to aspiring managers, helping businesses remain competitive both domestically and internationally in increasingly turbulent economic times.

“The Senior Leader Apprenticeship is an important initiative that facilitates the continuous development of leadership skills and abilities for participants both regionally and nationally,” says Prof Whitfield.

“At Durham, the apprenticeship is delivered at a triple-accredited business school located in a university renowned as an outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence. 

“Furthermore, the programme provides an excellent opportunity for organisations to take advantage of the Apprenticeship Levy.

“Many more companies could benefit from making good use of the levy for executive education and, in doing so, contribute towards ‘levelling-up’ in the North East and other regions of England. 

“In the current challenging economic climate and rapidly evolving ways of working, there is clear value in using the Apprenticeship Levy as a tool to invest in lifelong learning and professional development. 

“Importantly, a Senior Leader Apprenticeship adds significant value to participants at many stages of their journey to senior leadership roles.” 

The SLA has been specifically designed for highly motivated middle to senior managers that are aspiring to become more responsible, innovative leaders. 

Delivered part-time over 18 months, the programme provides participants with a future-focused curriculum, specifically tailored to meet participants’ and employers’ needs.

Students will have the opportunity to enhance core leadership skills through subject areas covering strategic management, international marketing and finance, and organisational behaviour, as well as developing a firm grounding in contemporary and increasingly vital disciplines, such as technology management, sustainability and business ethics.

Learning is led by the Business School’s expert faculty, with contributions from respected industry leaders, and delivered in a classroom-based setting, as well as through utilisation of the School’s reputable online learning capabilities to provide additional materials, virtual activities and assessments.

Apprenticeships are paid for by employers, not apprentices. 

The support from the Apprenticeship Levy scheme means participants entering Durham’s SLA under a levy-paying employer will be able to have the study costs covered in their entirety, while non-levy paying employers could claim up to 95 per cent of costs back from the Government.

Upon graduation, participants will not only be awarded a level seven Senior Leader Apprenticeship qualification, but also a postgraduate certificate in senior leadership development by Durham University. 

To develop their management skills, participants will be offered the opportunity to build their qualification further by joining Durham’s prestigious Online MBA programme, which is ranked 3rd in the UK and 8th globally by the Financial Times.

What Durham SLA apprentices say

Chris Riding, a portfolio director at Sage Group and SLA programme student, believes the programme has provided him with a means to develop capabilities and new ideas, and apply them practically.

He says: “The Senior Leader Apprenticeship has been a real development opportunity for me, stretching my learning and helping me contextualise what I have been taught into my business environment. 

“The course has allowed me to step outside of my day-to-day activities and test my understanding of the subjects taught in both an academic and practical way. 

“These experiences have given me the confidence to take ideas back into my workplace and apply themes and practice to work I am undertaking. 

“This has brought value to the teams I lead and wider business, as I continue to grow and nurture the skills shared.”