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Call for more support for degree apprenticeships

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Offering the ideal combination of paid work and learning practical skills, degree apprenticeships give students the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’. Under the current system, however, growth is being held back due to issues like complex regulation and a lack of awareness.

During the conference, Universities UK (UUK), which represents 140 universities across the UK, also revealed its 10-point plan for degree apprenticeships, which aims to lay the foundation for future growth.

One area for improvement is the number of institutions involved in the scheme. Initially set up in 2015 under the government’s plans to bring together the best of higher and vocational education, degree apprenticeships have been well received by universities however the overall numbers of students taking them remains small compared to the potential opportunities that could be available to learners.

With around 100 institutions now offering degree apprenticeships there is growing interest, but many higher education providers from across England are yet to get involved. UCAS data found that there has been a 22% increase in the number of apprenticeship views on Career Finder, proving more young people are looking for apprenticeship opportunities than ever before.

Through its 10-point plan, UUK is calling for more to be done to support universities delivering degree apprenticeships and to encourage more universities to take the programme onboard, by re-opening the register of degree apprenticeship providers and encouraging all universities to take this first step to delivering degree apprenticeships.

Currently, sectors offering degree apprenticeships, include business and administration, health, digital, engineering and manufacturing. With a stronger partnership between the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IfATE), government, universities, and employers,  degree apprenticeships can be developed in sectors that have yet to recruit them. A recent survey by IfATE exploring the experience of apprentices at SMEs found that 64% of apprentices working in an SME were positive about how successfully their employers and training providers worked together.

There are major skills shortages in England especially in fast changing sectors such as tech and finance, and with the advancement of AI, there is a greater demand for these specialised skills from employers. Degree apprenticeships are already playing a pivotal role in filling the skills shortage, building on this success by getting more universities and SMEs involved could be a major boost to the government’s levelling up agenda. 

Vivienne Stern MBE, CEO of Universities UK said: “Degree apprenticeships have proven to be successful due to their joint development between employers and universities and the fact they enable students to learn while they earn. With further collaboration between the government, the higher education sector and employers, degree apprenticeships could be developed further and can play a key role in plugging the skills gap in the UK. Through our 10-point plan we hope to highlight ways in which this already successful programme can be improved upon, ensuring future success and growth.”

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.