Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship

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Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship

The Open University (OU) Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship provides the knowledge, skills and behaviours relevant to becoming a professional Systems Thinking Practitioner.

Graduates from the programme will be able to apply systems thinking in practice, creating leaders and managers capable of making strategy, managing change and co-designing systems interventions in your organisation.

The knowledge, skills and behaviours acquired during the apprenticeship are useful in complex, wicked or messy situations requiring cross-boundary collaboration within and between organisations.

The Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship is a work-based learning programme that integrates academic study and work-based learning in a way that can be delivered flexibly around the demands of your workplace.


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Why choose The Open University’s Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship?

The Open University’s (OU) innovative delivery model offers significant benefits to employers:

  • The apprenticeship is delivered flexibly around the demands of your organisation and requires minimal time away from the workplace, using our tutor-supported, rich-media online learning methods.
  • A scalable programme which provides a consistent experience for staff across multiple locations.
  • Since 2016, the OU has offered apprenticeships to help organisations grow their own talent. Apprentices can apply what they learn immediately into practice, for the positive benefit of the organisation.
  • The OU has over 50 years’ experience of delivering flexible learning to fit around the lives of busy working adults and have a proven history of delivering work-based learning and apprenticeship programmes to organisations.

In the following video Dr. Natalie Foster, one of the academics on this programme, answers some frequently asked questions about the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship explaining how it is delivered by the OU and how apprentices are supported.

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The apprenticeship is suitable for new and existing employees who are responsible for, or looking to progress into, managing projects, tasks or people and who will be gaining new skills as part of their apprenticeship.

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Below is a summary of the eligibility criteria as set by the government for apprentices. For further information, see the Government funding rules.

To be eligible for government funding, at the start of the apprenticeship, apprentices must:

  • Be over 16 years old
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Not currently on another apprenticeship
  • Have the right to live and work in England
  • Spend at least 50% of their working hours in England

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In addition to meeting the eligibility criteria of the Apprenticeship funding rules and the Apprenticeship Standard requirements, applicants should hold a Bachelor’s degree conferred by a UK university, or equivalent qualification or other relevant experience for postgraduate study. Such experience might comprise previous work towards making transformational change, drawing on conventional leadership and management capabilities, and/or systems thinking in practice capabilities.

Spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not the Apprentice's first language, we recommend a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

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The programme content and assessment strategy are mapped to the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship standard.

Key areas covered are:

  • Core systems thinking concepts
  • Modelling practice with systems thinking
  • Intervention guided by systems practice
  • Information gathering, analysis and evaluation
  • Ethics and power in managing change
  • Creativity and learning
  • Teamwork in making transformational change
  • Leading, communicating and influencing
  • Stakeholder engagement and collaboration

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Stage 1

Stage 2



Making strategy with systems thinking in practice.

Co-designing interventions with systems thinking in practice.

Learning outcome assessment.

Knowledge, skills and behaviour assessment.

English and maths assessment*.

End-point assessment (EPA).

Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice (Professional), awarded.

Apprenticeship programme completed.

Managing change with systems thinking in practice.

Evidencing Systems thinking in practice.

English and maths (functional skills) development*
   Work-based modules
   Portfolio module


* If required. The OU strongly recommends that these qualifications are achieved within the first 12 months of the apprenticeship in order to have maximum benefit on academic study and workplace development.

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The apprenticeship is made up of the following seven components:

1 - The initial assessment

Carried out by an Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager. This includes the skills scan, a mandatory systematic review of an apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours against the standard. This will be completed jointly by the apprentice and the line manager to establish the apprentice’s baseline against the standard and how much new learning is needed.

2 - Tutor-supported study modules

Apprentices build an understanding of the knowledge, skills and behaviours to take their leadership and management capabilities to a higher level. Associate Lecturers (academic tutors) will facilitate study, support learning and feedback, and mark module assessments. English and Maths Functional Skills tutors support the successful completion of these qualifications where an applicant is not able to provide evidence of prior attainment.

3 - The portfolio module

Provides the framework for apprentices to gather, collate and present a portfolio of evidence that meets the Apprenticeship standard. It provides the stimulating link between academic study and practice, often involving apprentices critically reflecting on their learning and working practices. This module is facilitated by Practice Tutors, who support learning and feedback, as well as mark the module assessments.

4 - The summative portfolio

A record of evidence of apprentice’s application of knowledge, skills and behaviours in the workplace. The portfolio provides the means for demonstrating how apprentices have practically applied their newly acquired knowledge and skills in the workplace.

5 - The project report

A substantive piece of work undertaken as part of the apprenticeship. It is an organisationally focused piece of work with real business benefits. The proposal will bring together elements of learning from different parts of the programme and enables apprentices to demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills learnt during their apprenticeship.

6 - The Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice (Professional)

Awarded by The Open University.

7 - The End-point assessment (EPA)

Carried out by an Institute for Apprenticeships approved independent assessment organisation chosen by the employer. The EPA determines whether apprentices have successfully met the learning requirements of the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship Standard.

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An apprentice who has successfully completed the apprenticeship is eligible for recognition at Advanced Practitioner level of the professional body: Systems and Complexity in Organisations (SCiO).

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The Open University has the experience and support in place to help apprentices succeed and make a positive impact on practice.

In addition to designated account management support, the OU will deploy expert staff to support your organisation and your apprentices. They will work collaboratively with the relevant roles in your organisation:

Practice Tutor (PT)

The PT is a key role and provides individual support to apprentices to progress and complete all the requirements of the apprenticeship or professional programme they have enrolled in. The support is tailored to the context of each learner’s professional duties and their workplace environment. Regular engagement with each learner’s line manager or work-based supervisor is a critical component of this role. In addition, the PT coaches the apprentice to integrate their academic learning with their professional work, guide them in the development of their portfolio and prepares them for their end-point assessment.

There are further roles and teams that support both apprentices and employers, and that work very closely with the PTs.

Academic Tutors

The role of the Academic Tutor is to support success by using, interpreting and building on the teaching resources produced by the OU and provided to apprentices. They monitor progression, mark assignments, provide personalised feedback and work in partnership to support the apprentices’ academic, personal and professional development. In addition, Academic Tutors provide pastoral support to apprentices. They are sometimes also referred to as Associate Lecturers or Module Tutors.

Apprenticeship Enrolment and Support Team (AEST)

The AEST supports apprentices throughout their Apprenticeship journey. This team of friendly Senior Advisors can offer advice and support for a range of queries apprentices may have whilst studying their modules, whether that be for advice on an upcoming assignment or exam, navigation around the OU online learning platforms or when they are experiencing difficult circumstances that are having an impact on their studies. This support team is able to reach out to a wide range of relevant teams within the University to help apprentices get back on track again.

English and Maths Support Team

This team is made up of English and/or maths specialist tutors and support staff. They work with apprentices who are required to achieve English and/or maths qualifications during their apprenticeship. These specialist tutors are able to provide one-to-one support in areas of challenge and to help prepare the apprentice for the formal qualification tests.

Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Managers (APDM)

This role supports employers to recruit and onboard applicants on to the chosen apprenticeship programme. APDMs provide information, advice and guidance and carry out an initial assessment to ensure the apprenticeship is the right one at the right level for the individual. APDMs provide quarterly management information reports to employers detailing learners progress and put interventions in place where an apprentice is in need of support. Employers will have a named APDM to be the primary contact for apprenticeship delivery throughout the programme.

Line Manager

This is a person in the workplace who supports the choice of apprenticeship programme for their employee or applicant and is involved in the onboarding process with their applicant. Line managers facilitate the apprentice to take planned training time and they fully engage in quarterly review meetings with the Practice Tutor and apprentice. Line managers have regular one to one meetings with their apprentices to integrate the apprenticeship into performance and development. They are key to enabling a successful work-based project and completion of the apprentice’s end-point assessment.

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Using The Open University’s tried-and-trusted educational technology, our programmes are delivered flexibly around apprentices’ personal lives and the demands of your organisation.

The tutor-supported online learning is both varied and interactive, with multiple rich media formats that engage and enthuse apprentices on their journey. Learning can be accessed 24/7 on computers, tablets and mobile devices, so apprentices can study at home, work and on the move. Online tutorials, forums and discussion groups allow apprentices to learn from different industries and backgrounds.

An apprenticeship is a job with a formal programme of training which meets the requirements of the Apprenticeship Standard (in England), Framework (in Wales). The time that employers must allocate to this training can vary between programmes. The planned training hours will be detailed in the Training Plan. Note that in England and Wales, this time is called 'off-the-job training' in England and in Scotland, it is called 'protected time'. This is time for the apprentice to engage in the learning with the OU during their contracted working hours.

For full guidance visit:

The Open University’s flexible, blended learning approach makes it a lot easier for employers to effectively manage off-the-job training, while minimising the impact on productivity in the workplace.

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Are you an employee interested in applying for an apprenticeship?

To apply you first need to gain approval from your employer. Please contact your organisation with an expression of interest. If your employer is happy to support your application, they will then contact us.

The process for employers to follow is:

  • The employer contacts the OU.
  • An account manager will contact the employer to discuss the requirements of the programme.
  • The employer chooses the OU as the training provider, confirms how they wish to procure the apprenticeship and signs the written agreement if applicable.
  • The employer selects prospective apprentices and sends their details to the OU.
  • The OU contacts the prospective apprentices and invites them to formally apply via the OU’s secure applicant portal.
  • Prospective apprentices gather evidence to demonstrate their eligibility and submit their application.
  • Apprentices take part in the on-boarding process where they are introduced to the apprenticeship and supported by an Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager (APDM).
  • Following successful registration, apprentices are recommended to engage with the pre-study material.

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Develop the relevant skills for your organisation, improve productivity and achieve higher staff morale.

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Earn while you learn and develop the skills you need to gain access to sectors you want to work in.


We’re an Approved/Appointed Supplier on a large number of national frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems. See which frameworks are available to procure this programme through.

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Programme Summary

Location: England


  • 2 years + end-point assessment

Qualifications achieved at the end of the programme

  • Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice (Professional), awarded by The Open University
  • Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship, awarded by Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)
  • English and maths functional skills qualifications at Level 2, if not previously achieved

Level and standards

Specific entry requirements

End-point assessment (EPA)

  • Non-integrated

Additional information

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Disability support

Further information

For a more detailed look at our Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship, download our brochure.

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