Enhancing the degree apprenticeship curriculum through work-based manager and mentor intervention

Becky Quew-Jones, Lisa Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose: Educational policy instruments such as apprenticeship levy and forthcoming lifetime skills guarantee are creating unprecedented opportunities for rapid growth in a range of work-based learning (WBL) programmes, requiring increasingly complex levels of collaboration between providers and employers. Apprenticeships require providers to assume responsibility in ensuring apprentices’ work-based managers and mentors (WBMMs) are equipped to provide effective support to individuals as they learn ‘on the job’. After six years of higher education institution (HEI) apprenticeship curriculum delivery, there is opportunity to examine existing WBMM practice to inform the design, content and delivery of a shared knowledge base via a practical interactive toolkit. By developing clearer understanding of WBMMs’ experiences, expectations and challenges, the study aims to reduce potential gaps in knowledge and skills and encourage more effective collaboration between employers and providers to better support apprentices as they progress through WBL programmes.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper discusses evolution of higher level and degree apprenticeships, explores guidance for WBMMs and investigates the influence of expectations and motivations of WBMMS. Theoretical and conceptual foundations relating to WBL programme delivery and WBMM role are analysed and discussed. Qualitative data drawn from semi-structured surveys are analysed thematically to investigate common patterns, clarify understanding and identify development areas to inform future university provider and employer practice.

Findings: The findings suggest a number of themes to improve apprentice management; further clarity of WBMMs role, greater involvement of WBMM’s for negotiated learning, unplanned experiences do add value and scope for richer mentoring dialogues. WBL value for WBMMs is broader than expected, incorporating apprentice performance and output improvements, and solving complex problems.

Research limitations/implications:
The research is drawn from an established university with five years of experience. However, the context in which programmes are delivered significantly varies according to providers and employers. This means factors other than those highlighted in this paper may continue to emerge as the research in this field develops.

Practical implications: The practical implications from findings can be used to cultivate stronger collaboration, providing a foundation of knowledge intended to provoke further dialogue regarding content for an interactive toolkit. The findings signal the need for further resources, a review of the restrictions associated with levy funding for co-creation of a more effective national apprenticeship framework.

Originality/value: This paper builds on a limited body of research examining employers’ perspectives of apprenticeship management. Degree apprenticeships have attracted limited scholarly attention over six years since their inception (Bowman, 2022) resulting in a significant paucity of research that focuses upon employer role. This study addresses this void by exploring WBMMs experiences, requirements and expectations, revealing new insights for providers of WBL, employers and individuals employed as WBMMs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Work - Applied Management
Early online date3 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 3 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Work-based manager mentor
  • Work-based learning
  • Higher level and degree apprenticeships
  • Negotiated learning
  • Toolkit

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