One of the great benefits of being a member of SUMS is the information and insights that we share with our members. Here, SUMS Consulting's Managing Consultant, Claire Taylor MBE, shares how one University took a SUMS-developed model, adapted it to their needs and used it in a project to transform their approach to apprenticeships.

University of West England’s Apprenticeship Approach

In 2021 and 2022, SUMS worked with the University of the West of England (UWE) to review its approach to Apprentices and Apprenticeships – you can find out more about this project in our case study here! As part of that project, SUMS drew up an Apprentice Lifecycle model, interweaving ESFA and Ofsted requirements into the standard learner lifecycle. This model was invaluable within the original assignment, allowing stakeholders to understand the differences between standard learners and apprentices.

The model sets out the key milestones in the apprentice’s journey from application to completion. SUMS added to the lifecycle the ability to identify the risks and opportunities for UWE, evaluating these against the institution’s strategic and tactical objectives and identifying mitigating actions, where possible. Extending the model in this way was a key part of building the business case for change.

David Barrett, UWE’s Director of Apprenticeships said:

“SUMS’ support was invaluable in helping us better understand the regulatory complexities of the apprenticeship lifecycle in relation to our operating model and set the groundwork to take our apprenticeship offer to the next level across the University. The holistic approach that SUMS was able to provide by then supporting the procurement process meant we had continuity and HE-specific expertise throughout the project.”

Fast forward three months and on completion of the assignment for UWE, SUMS made a generic version of the model available to members for their use with instructions on how to populate the risk and opportunities matrices.

University of Wolverhampton’s Apprenticeship Approach

The University of Wolverhampton got in touch soon after to find out more about how they could use the model for their unique context. We talked about the various stages in the lifecycle and how they could adapt the tool for their use internally.

It’s always good to hear how members use the tools and papers we share, so it was great when Annette Fitzpatrick, Continuous Improvement and Special Projects Lead at Wolverhampton, got back in touch in July this year.

Wolverhampton had embraced our model and created their own tailored version of it by:

  • Altering the language to match internal terminology
  • Front loading the lifecycle to add components relating to programme development
  • Adding to the post-graduation aspect to reflect additional outcome monitoring for apprentices

Wolverhampton added an additional illustration to the model, setting out the cyclical nature embedded within the continuous improvement approach mandated by Ofsted.

The model helped stakeholders across the University understand the whole cycle and importantly, their roles and responsibilities within it. It helped to dissolve some of the silos that had built up. It also helped the University see where there were gaps, either in ownership, processes or data and to take action to close those gaps.

The SUMS model provided Wolverhampton with an intuitive foundation which allowed them to adopt, adapt and quickly build a sophisticated visual model which has been transformational in the way it has helped stakeholders engage with the project.

“The Wolves Apprenticeship Lifecycle framework is the foundation of a programme of work to enhance the University’s apprentice experience and provision. Working from the SUMS model as a base enabled us to visually present the complexities of apprenticeships to all levels of staff enabling us to move collectively forward with a common understanding. We were able to build quickly and easily from the original model provided by SUMS.”

– Annette Fitzpatrick, Continuous Improvement and Special Projects Lead at the University of Wolverhampton.

More support

Free access to the SUMS model was a core member benefit and advice on the use of the model over the course of a few meetings was delivered as a member benefit at no extra cost. If you’d like to find out more about the Apprentice Lifecycle model or discuss how SUMS could support your institution with apprentices or any other aspect of university life, please contact me at

Claire translates multifaceted problems into achievable work plans and brings expertise in stakeholder engagement, participative process review, quantitative and qualitative benchmarking and activity analysis to SUMS Members and clients.

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