Line managers are crucial to successful learning and development. It doesn’t matter how much money an organisation spends on giving employees opportunities to increase their knowledge and improve their skills, if line managers don’t then give employees the opportunity to use those new capabilities in their day-to-day work, it’s money and time wasted.

Learning doesn’t stop when people leave the classroom. In fact, the real learning begins once they get back to their desks and start to explore how their new knowledge and skills enable them to do a better job. And their line manager is the key to this learning transfer – they’re the ones who can encourage them to either take risks and make mistakes, and learn from them, or just fall back into old, comfortable routines as though the learning opportunity never even happened.


Nowhere is this role clearer than with apprenticeships. An apprentice’s line manager ensures that they’re learning what they need to learn, that they’re free to do off-the-job learning, and that their learning stays on track throughout the programme. In short, the line manager is instrumental, along with HR and the apprentice themselves, in setting the right tone and making sure the apprenticeship runs smoothly.

To do this successfully – and to encourage apprentices to squeeze every drop of value from their programme – line managers must commit to the principle of learning at work and want to support employees as they learn new skills and develop their careers. There’s no point in organisations talking about the importance of learning if they don’t have line managers who believe in it too.

They have to be ambassadors for apprenticeship programmes and believe in them wholeheartedly, ensuring learners are engaged, motivated and supported in completing their programmes. 

They may need some support themselves to be strong, effective advocates for apprenticeships. Some may want extra coaching, and they will all need to have strong performance management, leadership and time management skills, to be able to support their apprentices effectively. Some may even want to undertake a management or leadership apprenticeship programme themselves, so it’s good practice to offer line managers all the training they need before an apprenticeship programme starts so that they can help to turn a good apprenticeship experience into a great one.


Apprenticeships are all about learning on the job, learning from and with others, and discovering different approaches to achieving goals. This is one of the reasons why they’re growing in popularity and why more than half (54%) of the L&D leaders we’ve talked to expect to see their numbers increase further.

In fact, according to the L&D leaders who took part in our research, apprenticeships are one of the top four activities that are most likely to have a significant impact on learning culture and learnability over the next five years.

This is important because learning culture and learnability are going to be at the very heart of success in a workplace where people work alongside AI and automation in a tech-enabled environment. In this hybrid future, people will be free to focus on high value, creative work while artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and machine learning take care of the low-value, repetitive tasks. The way we learn will change as quickly and as deeply as the way we work: people will have to be prepared to regularly learn, unlearn and relearn skills to stay employable, and organisations will have to be able to support them in doing that.


Our Human to Hybrid research examines how workplaces are changing amid growing digitisation and the impact of this on employees and how – and what – they learn.

We interviewed 350 L&D leaders, 500 business leaders and over 2,000 employees about how they perceive the future of work. One of the key messages to emerge from this research is the increasing importance of learnability. Employees must be able and willing to learn, learn and learn some more, so that they have the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to be successful in the future workplace.

But they can’t do it on their own. For learnability to thrive and take root in organisations, business leaders and L&D have to foster a learning culture that supports it. Organisations must adapt to and embrace change to recruit, retain and train key talent and maintain their competitive advantage.

Download Knowledgepool’s insight on the roles of line managers in achieving apprenticeship success.

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