It’s time to unleash the power of apprentices

by | May 25, 2017

New research from Towards Maturity demonstrates that new approaches to work-based learning is a long term talent investment that can pay out sustainable dividends.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 has put the spotlight on work-based learning. With only 57% of apprentices agreeing that L&D professionals understand and are able to provide help with their performance needs – it’s time for action.

New research, authored by Towards Maturity, in conjunction with The Open University – the largest academic institution in the UK – challenges outdated thinking and urges L&D leaders to embrace the changing landscape.

Organisations who focus on achieving a sustainable, high performing and healthy workforce understand the importance of smart investments in their talent pipeline to propel profit, productivity, growth and transformation.

Apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to develop, nurture and grow a more qualified workforce. Work-based learning – bolstered by the apprentice input – is a long term talent investment that can benefit all employees whatever their role and pay out sustainable dividends:

  • Access to a broader and more diverse talent pool

  • Higher retention rates and levels of motivation

  • Social and economic advantages

Jane Daly, co-author and Head of Strategic Insights at Towards Maturity, adds:

Towards Maturity’s 13 years of evidence-based research with more than 5,500 L&D leaders and more than 35,000 learners globally, provides a unique insight into learning innovation and what works.

“This latest research, combined with the insights I gathered interviewing apprentices and leaders as part of this research, has highlighted that leaders and people professionals not only need a growth mindset, but also the ability to create long-term, networked and boundary-less talent experiences.

“Smart work-based learning experiences will pay out huge dividends if they are intrinsically linked to a learning organisation prepared to listen, learn and continuously transform itself.”

Learning innovation delivered through work empowers learners to take control of their development, something that is also core to apprenticeship programmes:

  • 85% of apprentices feel responsible for managing their own learning and development

  • 86% report that learning is considered part of their everyday work

  • 88% of apprentices seek out opportunities to gain new skills in the workplace

Towards Maturity’s 2016 Benchmark Report, Unlocking Potential, demonstrates the value of a collaborative teaching model that involves learners as partners with:

  • 77% of top performing learning organisations involve end users in learning design (compared to an average of 37%)

  • 64% encourage learners to organise their own personal learning strategy (compared to 34%)

David Willett, Director of Corporate Sales at The Open University, adds:

“While the introduction of the apprenticeship levy has presented organisations with a challenge, on the flipside there is also an opportunity. Those willing to embrace work-based learning can benefit from higher skills and increased productivity, and open up new possibilities.

“Employers that will thrive in the future will be those who integrate learning and work to create a skilled and diverse workforce. At The Open University, we want to help organisations transform their workforces into powerhouses of learners, who are motivated, driven and smart enough to not only deliver against current strategic objectives, but actually propel productivity, growth and transformation in the future.”

The full report can be accessed for free at:



Data for this report is drawn from:

  • A Learning Landscape audit with over 300 apprentices, interns and trainees gathered between October 2016 and February 2017

  • Four focus groups and interviews held during February and March 2017 with C-suite executives, L&D leaders, apprenticeship providers and apprentices

  • Towards Maturity 2016 Benchmark™ research with 600 L&D leaders, reported in Unlocking Potential

  • Towards Maturity’s Learning Landscape™ research, gathered online during 2016 from a sample of 4,500 workers, The Learner Voice: Part 3.


About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in supported, flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has worked with over 2,400 organisations, taught more than 2 million students and has almost 180,000 current students, including more than 7,000 overseas.

76% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and 88% of FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework, 2014), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

Regarded as Britain’s major distance learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.9million unique visitors in 2015/16, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 70 million downloads.


About Towards Maturity

Towards Maturity is an independent research company that provides expert advice and support to help organisations accelerate business performance through learning. It leverages the data of its longitudinal Benchmark Study, the largest learning strategy benchmark in the world. Since 2003, over 5,500 organisations and 35,000 learners have contributed to the Towards Maturity Benchmark.

Learn more about the Towards Maturity Benchmark and model at:

Thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors, annual benchmarking findings, case studies and resources are available to download for free at

The Towards Maturity Ambassador Programme is made up of leading learning organisations. They work together as Ambassadors for change, identifying and improving good practice, raising awareness and driving the whole learning industry forward.

Towards Maturity Ambassadors include strategic partner the CIPD, publishing partner Emerald Group Publishing, the founding Ambassadors: Learning Technologies, LEO, Charity Learning Consortium, Acteon, Kallidus and Speexx, plus: Bray Leino Learning, Clear Lessons, Cognician, City and Guilds Kineo, CrossKnowledge, Degreed, Docebo, Dossier, DPG plc, getAbstract, GoodPractice, KPMG, Learning Pool, Lumesse, PurpleMedia, Raytheon Professional Services, Redware, Saba Software, Skillsoft and Workstar. Learn more about Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors at:

Towards Maturity is a part of the Emerald Group.

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