This apprenticeship is aimed at developing the skills needed to be innovative and support organisational growth. It is suitable for a wide range of job roles where innovation is an important aspect of the job role. Job roles may be very innovation focused – e.g. business development executive/manager, innovation scout, marketing executive/manager, product development executive/manager, or may be generalist roles which benefit from an innovative perspective – e.g. supervisor, operations executive/manager.
There is an established evidence base which documents the contribution of innovation to productivity and economic competitiveness in the United Kingdom, as well as in the majority of other developed market economies. Innovation is not only important in terms of research and development activity in high-technology and high added value sectors but also through enabling new and different forms of business activity to take place.
As a result, innovation is a high priority for government policy. Successive governments in the UK have introduced a range of policies and programmes of support to facilitate innovative activity amongst organisations in the public, private and third sectors. There have been, for example, national innovation and growth strategies, innovation vouchers for smaller businesses, innovation advisers and innovation incubation centres and funds for encouraging innovative provision.
Despite such activity, the innovation performance of the UK continues to lag behind a number of competitor economies, such as the United States, Germany and Sweden in terms of levels of innovation activity and the outcomes from innovation (e.g. number of patents and levels of commercialisation activity). For example, the EU Community Innovation Survey highlights that approximately one business in two in the UK is innovative, in comparison to three in four in Germany.
A key contributory factor to this performance gap relates to the development of human capital. A number of recent surveys have identified a mismatch between the skills ranked as important to the performance of businesses, such as being innovative and creative, and those possessed by recent entrants to the labour market. This apprenticeship seeks to remedy the mismatch by focusing on the enterprising and supporting skills identified by employers as being most needed, including:
- Enterprising skills including creative problem solving, thinking critically and creatively, proposing solutions (e.g. new and different ways of doing things), making things happen, being resourceful and the ability to manage complexity
- Interpersonal and communication skills including empathy, intercultural awareness and receptiveness to innovation
- Leadership skills including team building and steering, coaching and mentoring, lobbying and negotiating
An adequate supply of such skills is highly important for managing and supporting business innovation and growth. However, unlike a number of other occupations, such as in Human Resources and Finance, there have been no apprenticeship programmes to develop the skills of new or existing members of staff to manage innovation and growth. The Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Business Innovation and Growth will play a key role in addressing the mismatch between the needs of employers and the skills possessed by employees.
The tasks undertaken by apprentices will vary depending upon the specific job roles held by the apprentice and the size, sector and stage of development of the organisation in which they are working. Job titles will also vary according to the size of the organisation. For example, a business development role might have the title ‘manager’ in a small business and ‘executive’ in a large organisation.
In research carried out with employers, smaller businesses noted that apprentices were expected to be involved in a variety of different aspects of innovation and growth within the business, and that they needed to demonstrate certain personal attributes including enthusiasm, energy, passion, sharpness and a desire to learn and contribute. By comparison, larger organisations noted that the apprentices were more likely to be working within a specific team or department, often on specific developments or projects where they would be involved with scoping out ideas, planning and pitching, supporting others, monitoring and reviewing progress and presenting ideas to others in the business.
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