AtkinsRéalis’ Early Careers Director for aerospace, defence, security and technology, Joanna Page, explores how apprenticeships deliver a positive impact in management consultancy.

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February), I believe it’s important to recognise the benefits apprenticeships offer, not just to our individual organisations, but to the wider management consultancy sector. Watching our management consultancy apprentice scheme develop from scratch over the past few years has shown me the significant value that apprenticeships bring to our business – they bring creativity, challenge, and energy and this results in richer and more innovative responses to our clients’ problems.

Inquisitiveness – the desire to understand and get to the heart of a situation – combined with creative, analytical thinking skills, are key attributes of good management consultants. Apprentices bring this curiosity, adding a fresh perspective that often includes a deep understanding of emerging technologies to clients’ problems. Yaw Kusi, who looks after our early careers professionals as they work towards a management consultancy career, highlights how they can challenge the status quo: “They ask questions that others may not have asked before, looking at complex problems through a different lens.”

This questioning attitude, Yaw suggests, drives their curiosity and passion to learn – and having studied the technical aspects of being a management consultant, they can then apply this learning straight into delivering solutions to customers. Our apprentices work with major global clients from very early on after joining the scheme, bringing useful insights that can be shared to benefit clients’ organisations. “They are passionate about the workplace, and passionate about consultancy,” comments Yaw, “and driven to give their best to help make a difference.”

Apprentices’ enthusiasm and drive, as described by Yaw, also inspire Caroline Bimson, Director of AtkinsRéalis’ Business Consulting and Advisory practice, who says: “At a personal level I feel energised whenever I do a presentation that involves our apprentices.” Caroline was involved in creating our management consultancy apprenticeship scheme, and remembers some of the initial discussions that took place: “There were vastly differing opinions in those pre-apprentice days as to how to set [the scheme] up, what level of performance to expect, how many years’ experience apprentices would need before we could put them in front of a client, etc.” She feels that the outcomes have more than proved the value of the apprenticeships: “The lived experience of seeing the apprentices coming through exceeds all our expectations. Our first cohort have completed their five-year apprenticeships and have developed into impressive and experienced young consultants.”

By working directly with clients, apprentices are not only gaining experience, they are acting as ambassadors for the company, bringing their skills, enthusiasm and questioning attitude to add value to the solutions consultancies deliver. “The benefits to us as an organisation are manifold,” says Caroline; adding “A university degree isn’t going to work for everyone. This gives us access to a richer and more diverse pool of talent.” From a social value viewpoint, organisations who recruit apprentices can also increase their inclusion and diversity, resulting in a range of differing perspectives that can only benefit management consultancy activities. “I would like to think that our apprentice scheme gives a route into consultancy for people who might not otherwise have had this profession open to them” says Caroline. “Apprenticeships provide an alternative route for people to achieve a university degree while working and open the door to a career in consultancy.  With fewer barriers to entry, not least the cost of a university degree, there’s a wealth of talent to whom we can offer a rewarding, challenging career, delivering projects that have real world impact.”

As a degree apprentice in management consultancy at AtkinsRéalis, Tash Tustin, Vice Chair of School Leavers and Apprentices on the Young MCA Executive Committee, believes there are many positives in taking the apprenticeship route. “For me, I really value being able to go into an industry that I love while studying for a formal qualification at the same time; and getting an early understanding of the consulting specialisms I can choose to work in. Advancing my career journey by networking with others from across the business and the wider consulting sector is an incredible opportunity, I’ve met like-minded people and made lifelong friends.”

With the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2024 of ‘Skills for Life’, I believe apprenticeships not only help people to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career in management consultancy, they can help our consultancies deliver excellence, by building and sustaining a workforce with future ready skills.