Cranfield University has launched a first-of-its-kind, custom-made executive development programme addressing management and leadership skills shortage at scale, eligible to be funded by the apprenticeship levy.

Designed to develop the talent of companies' whole leadership pipelines, the Senior Leader Executive Programme is an in-work level 7 apprenticeship tailored to the strategic needs and agenda of individual businesses and flexed around their requirements.

The 20-month programme aims to equip 'accidental' leaders and experienced managers alike with the knowledge, skills and capabilities they need to help shape and drive forward their company's strategic agenda.

As well as achieving a Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship, participants can also gain a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice, and be granted Chartered Manager Fellow status (CMgr FCMI).

Leading global professional services firm Aon was the first to sign up to the new programme.

Julie Hyett, UK and Ireland Talent Lead at Aon, said: "As a firm, we are absolutely committed to developing our colleagues across all levels of the business, and we're keen to make use of our apprenticeship levy funds to help us to do that.

"Cranfield's reputation for excellence in executive education is unrivalled, and we are delighted to be able to draw on their expertise through such a wide-ranging development programme. The depth and capacity that Cranfield brings will allow us to access the best of both worlds. We will benefit from Cranfield's world-class leadership development, which is absolutely focused on the real and the tangible – the day-to-day reality of our firm, its operational challenges and our strategic objectives."

The Cranfield Senior Leader Executive Programme is a 15-month apprenticeship, delivered via a combination of live online masterclasses, face-to-face and recorded sessions, that is followed by a five-month end point assessment.

Throughout the programme, learners are expected to role model, reflect and sustain the leadership, coaching and mentoring practices advocated on the programme, and to enhance their commercial acumen by compiling an applied in-work experience portfolio and developing new strategic business propositions that create business value and tangible returns.

Professor David Oglethorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Cranfield School of Management, said: "We are really excited about the potential of this new programme. It has been designed to be lean, yet transformative; to be fast-paced and acutely targeted, giving organisations maximum return on their investment.

"Having worked with Aon before in taking some of its high-potential employees through our Business and Strategic Leadership MSc, I am not surprised the firm was the first to sign up to this new programme. Aon is very future-focused, has bold plans for what it wants to achieve in the coming years, and admirable determination to deliver on those plans through strategic investment in developing the capabilities of its colleagues.

"We are looking forward to working with the Aon team in a broader context over the coming months to enhance the transformation we are already seeing taking place within the firm."

The Senior Leader Executive Programme is led by Cranfield Executive Development and draws on the expertise of faculty from Cranfield School of Management, one of an elite group of triple-accredited business schools and consistently ranked as one of the top 30 business schools in Europe for executive development.