A new company-tailored business course has been designed to help business leaders improve on their professional skills in times when the industry needs them most - and demand for such places is rising.
The Postgraduate certificate in leadership and management development at Birmingham City University was launched to help organisations improve on skills specifically chosen to suit the company’s own visions and objectives.
The course was created by business professionals at the university’s business school and is a flexible syllabus made-to-measure to each company’s needs and requirements.
The first to take up the programme was the West Midlands-based AF Blakemore & Son, which signed up 12 senior managers on a one-day course to learn about additional leadership skills and who will continue to take part in one-off learning days as part of a two-year programme.
A key player in the world-wide Spar supermarket group, AFB supplies more than 700 stores across Britain, employs around 5,000 people and has a turnover of more than £600million.
Managing director Peter Blakemore said: “Our senior managers are looking forward to starting this course. It will be of great benefit professionally and in terms of personal development, too.
“Both of these aspects are very important to Blakemore & Sons Ltd; as a family firm, we are committed to progression in our staff.”
Professor Christopher Prince, dean of Birmingham City Business School, said: “This is a new course for the university and is a good example of the way we want to work with companies in the future.
“We want to create modules that address the specific business needs of a company, as we think that businesses will reap the rewards of a bespoke service like this.”
Paul Forrester, director of the full-time Masters degree course in management and business administration at the University of Birmingham, said now was the time to enrol on such courses and noted that he had seen the number of Birmingham-based applicants treble in the last intake.
He said: “We have seen a rise in the number of United Kingdom applicants because managers are thinking ahead.
“When economic circumstances are bad, people want to enhance their prospects and want to be able to demonstrate skills which they realise are important. People realise that now is the time to take time out and do it.”
He said a high proportion of applications come from people in their early-30s already working for businesses and wishing to gain further skills and experience, as well as overseas students.
“The MBA is designed for people who are experienced but not necessarily from a business academic background,” he said. “The majority of students are people who have studied in other disciplines but, over a number of years, found themselves in management positions.”
Students on the course also learn about dealing with pressure and working as a team, as well as work-related assignments which many part-time students do at their workplace. “We reflect the issues people are facing in business and management and the course is a chance to discuss current, appropriate and meaningful topics,” he said.
Mr Forrester said companies were likely to send employees on courses in business management in a recession partly because the drop in value in the pound means course fees are cheaper. He reported some big Birmingham-based companies had enrolled employees on the course because this ties the student into coming back to the company with better skills.
“Organisations feel as if they are in a tight situation but do not want to lose the skilled and talented people they already have,” he said. “It is also a chance to network with people from other sectors and help them remain in business with potential business links.”
Although the structure and length of the course at BCU is not fixed, students will have to complete modules totalling 60 credits to gain the qualification. The course can be delivered partly through workshops and via the internet.