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Leadership Apprenticeship Reality vs Expectations

leadership apprentice levy reality

Leadership Apprenticeship: Reality vs Expectations

There’s been a lot of discussion around the impact of the new apprentice levy. So much of it has been theoretical. We thought it was about time we asked some learners about their experience so far. Last month, I interviewed a group of learners from automotive parts supplier Gestamp Tallent, who are half- way through a Level 5 leadership and management programme. In this post I will share what can be learnt from their experience to date.

Growing Their Own Talent

Gestamp Tallent are one of the leading partners to the automotive industry. They have a long tradition of investing in their people, with their current UK CEO having worked his way up through the ranks.

As part of a 5-year development strategy, 25 employees began a new levy funded Leadership and Management Apprentice programme.  I spoke with Hannah Potter – UK training and development coordinator and asked her what was the inspiration for the programme?

“It’s about growing our own talent. We know we have great potential in the company and we want to develop the leaders of the future.”

What has the programme been like so far?

The programme has been designed around a blended learning approach. The Level 5 Apprentice programme mixes classroom sessions, self-guided study with accompanying workbooks, additional learning resources, online tutor support, active line manager involvement, residential events, tutorials, one to one coaching sessions and work based action learning sets.

Each person had their own preferred format. Some favoured the structure and support of classrooms and tutorials, whilst others preferred the self-guided approach working online with their accompanying workbooks.

 “The one to one coaching time we had here in Aycliffe worked really well for me. Steve (trainer) went through the workbook so I understood exactly what I needed to do and when.” – David

“When it comes to being alone with a text book, that’s not the best way for me. If it was all just going through the workbook, then I would be demotivated. I work best in classroom, group and one to one settings.” – Martin

The aim of our blended approach is to provide enough variety to appeal to a wide range of learning styles.

leadership apprenticeship reality

Standout Moment

The stand-out feature so far has been the residential session which is part of our leadership apprenticeship delivery model (this programme includes two 3-day residentials at one of Dove Nest’s two venues in the Lake District.) Whilst an apprentice programme doesn’t have to include a residential, Gestamp Tallent agreed that the potential benefits made including this essential for them. The belief was that participants would not only learn from the programme but also build a network beyond their immediate department and start to learn from each other. The response from participants was extremely positive.

“Being able to share knowledge and ideas with people from different areas of the business has been really good. Being away from the usual environment makes it even better. The residential and the one-day coaching / tutorial we had was great for this.” – Stuart

“Not only was it good fun, but it was also about getting to know people a lot better. You get to share how each plant does things, how they solve problems. Its now much easier to stay in touch with colleagues.” – Daniel

“What I really enjoyed was the more informal connections, getting to know other people on the programme in a less formal way was the best part.” – Lowri

Biggest Challenge is time

The content of the apprentice programme is demanding, challenging and stretching. But by far the biggest challenge for participants proved to be how they manage their time.

“The biggest challenge was time, managing it, juggling it between work, spending time with my kids, coaching the local football team. Its not about commitment, but more about balance.” – David

“The biggest challenge is time and staying on top of the deadlines. I have to set time aside to work on this. The Action Learning sets have been really good, but its easy to let them drop off, I get a lot from more structured time to work together and talk things through.” – Lowri

Learning whilst working can be a recipe for confusion, especially if the perception is that learning should fit round the day job. Lines often blur between what is expected at work, and what ends up being done outside working hours.

However, apprentice programmes are very clear – 20% of an employee’s contracted hours must be made available to complete their apprenticeship. Indeed, recording how apprentice time is utilised, forms part of the final end point assessment.

The potential difficulty then, for both apprentices and employers, is how to balance the different time requirements. Working with a structured programme provides a practical solution. A typical Dove Nest apprenticeship will consume between 50-60% of the required learning time. This is through a blend of face to face engagement, guided learning and self-study. Whilst this doesn’t cover all of the 20% required, it ringfences a significant chunk of this time. By building it into a structured programme, life is made a little easier for all.

A Host of Benefits

Despite the perceived challenges around juggling time, the benefits from the programme seem to be worth the investment in time and effort. In their own words, some of the participants describe the benefits they have realised on the programme so far:


“I think being selected, nominated was part of it. I know we want to develop the business so we have a stronger succession plan.” – David

 “Being selected for the programme was motivation in itself; being recognised.” – Martin

Mindset change

“I was initially sceptical. But then my mindset changed: I realised I could learn more from other people on the programme. Its about how much I put into it. You can’t expect all the information to come to you, from doing the bare minimum. You have to drive it yourself”. – Stuart

“It (the programme) has given me more confidence to step up and try things I probably wouldn’t have done in the past. Now I’m much more likely to put myself forward for something new. A good example was a project we are working on, there was a lack of data and information, so I stepped up to start gathering the data. It felt good.” – Daniel

Emotional Intelligence

“It has changed me for the better. It’s improved my softer skills. The plant manager Graham calls the changes out in me. Says specifically when I’m using some of the new skills, like ‘that’s you using your emotional intelligence’.” – David


“I definitely reflect more, take the time to think about how I do things. The 360-degree assessment and feedback was really valuable, made me think about how I approach things. Now I think more, plan more and reflect more.” – Lowri

 “I reflect more. More likely to take a step back and think about things. Now I talk less and listen more. I’ve stopped jumping in like I used to in the past. Less likely now to give people all of the answers, more likely to get them to answer the question for themselves.” – David


Leadership apprentice levy reality

Final Thoughts and Advice

In terms of research, interviewing just a couple of cohorts from the new apprentice programme does not represent a comprehensive or statistically robust sample size. However, there is still much that can be learned from hearing the experiences of participants first-hand.

For clients who are considering a levy funded apprentice programme, it is worth making sure that the expectations of participants, in terms of balancing work and learning are clear. For potential participants, it is worth considering the commitment and investment required in getting the best from the programme. But for both learner and employers, the anecdotal evidence to date suggests that benefits far outweigh the investment.

“Participants are definitely more self-aware. They understand how they come across. Its clear they put into practice what they have learned about behaviour and differences in learning styles.” – Hannah

To talk about whether a leadership and management apprenticeship programme is suitable for your business, call us on 015395 67878, email us at or visit our website at