First sales apprentices to start work after landmark ruling

Graham Davis, group sales director at Royal Mail with new apprentice, Lucie Davies

October 9, 2017: The UK’s first ever degree-level Apprenticeship in Sales has been given the green light.

It was a proud moment for everyone at the Association of Professional Sales, who have worked hard for this moment.

The news was announced at Consalia’s 13th Global Sales Transformation conference, sponsored by the APS. Delegates cheered as Jonathan Mitchell, the Institute For Apprenticeships’ deputy director (apprenticeship standards), said: “The very good news is… that [this apprenticeship] was approved at yesterday’s approvals and funding committee, so it’s good to go.

“Each one of these apprenticeships that we approve represents a gigantic investment in skills for the nation.”

The first cohort of undergraduate sales apprentices, recruited by Royal Mail, will begin their training within days.

Early in 2016, it was APS general manager Ben Turner who first made the case that sales needed an apprenticeship qualification, to unlock access for sales organisations to the estimated £240m they pay each year in the apprenticeship levy.

The APS moved swiftly, obtaining initial approval from the government to begin the process. It recruited a Trailblazer group of independent employers, including Royal Mail, WorldPay and BAE Systems, to draw up the two page blueprint, known as a “standard”, for the degree apprenticeship; and it appointed Louise Sutton to support the Trailblazer group and help to steer the process.

The final stage was to get approval from the IFA for the way courses will be assessed. That approval has now been given, according to Mr Mitchell.

Graham Davis, group sales director at Royal Mail, said he was proud to have led the Trailblazer group on B2B sales apprenticeships.

“The APS has galvanised people on the road to sales professionalism, and this is an important stepping stone as we campaign for chartered status for the sales profession.”

Jonathan Mitchell, Institute For Apprenticeships’ deputy director (apprenticeship standards)

Mr Davis told the conference that Royal Mail had been surprised by the huge response when it advertised for sales apprentices. They received 500 applications for 14 positions – an unprecedented number of people actively seeking to choose sales as a career. More than 80% of salespeople start their career by chance, not choice.

“We’ve got people who want a career in sales,” said Mr Davis, introducing Lucie Davies, the first sales apprentice that Royal Mail recruited.

“Our first intake of sales apprentices is starting with Royal Mail this month, and it means so much to them, and us. People on our apprenticeship programme will come out at the end of it with a degree and a professional qualification, with no debt, with a job and a really bright future.”

The 14 successful candidates will be working at Royal Mail and studying through Middlesex University and Consalia. The course, jointly devised by the university and Consalia, brings together the insights of sales best practice and high-quality professional, work-based learning.

Will Matthews, Head of Sales Capability Development at BAE Systems and a member of the trailblazer group, called the news “a watershed moment for the profession” and one he was proud to have been involved with.

“For the first time a job in Sales can now be seen as a career choice, not an accident of circumstance,” he said.

“With this standard, employers and customers alike can be confident of the capability, ethics and behaviours of the sales teams they interact with.”

“Apprentices are doing two things in tandem: studying for a degree and progressing through their professional body. It’s an integrated degree apprenticeship,” said Ian Helps, the Director of Sales Professionalism for the APS.

“At the end of it, they come out assessed as being simultaneously worthy of both receiving their degree and for admission to full membership of their professional body, the APS. That places the APS at the cutting edge of professionalism practices, in line with other forward thinking professional bodies.”

Mr Helps said that he had been emotional at hearing the news: “We have strived long and hard for this. The APS deserves a round of applause for what they have done.”

Ben Turner, general manager of the APS, said that apprenticeships would be a “fundamental game-changer” for the status of sales as a profession, training a generation of salespeople with professionalism and high ethical standards.

“We sat down and created the APS because we wanted to change something, for sales to go in a different direction. This is a monumental step,” said Mr Turner.

The APS is a not-for-profit organisation that advances and promotes excellence in the sales profession. Since the APS was founded in November 2014 it has established itself as the leading global professional body for sales, providing development, standards and leadership.

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