Degree apprenticeships have potential to fill skills gaps

‘Degree apprenticeships’ have been lauded by Universities UK (UUK) and Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, as ‘life-changing opportunities’ with the potential to plug more specific skills gaps. 

Last year, the Coalition Government announced nine new industry-designed degree apprenticeships, a scheme whereby apprentices have full-time employment status – rather  than student status – and do not pay for training costs or tuition fees. Still a fledgling scheme, numbers are growing at a positive rate, with an estimated 1,500-2,000 starts for 2016 across 40 universities.

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Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Degree apprenticeships give young people the opportunity to succeed like never before.

“We launched them to help employers find the talent they need to grow and innovate their workforces. As part of our offer of high quality apprenticeships at all levels, meeting employers’ needs and driving up productivity, I want young people across the country to benefit from the life-changing opportunities that a degree apprenticeship can unlock.”

In time for National Apprenticeships Week, UUK has published a report titled The future growth of degree apprenticeships which identifies the factors that will impact on the potential growth and success of degree apprenticeships. The report finds that degree apprenticeships are particularly attractive to non-traditional students, supporting a wider range of goals while helping universities to diversify their offers. Notwithstanding the need to raise awareness among potential apprentices, their parents and those who support them (such as careers advisers).

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities have been actively involved in the development and delivery of these new, industry-designed degree apprenticeships.

“Combining a full degree, with the real, practical skills gained in work, make degree apprentices highly employable. They benefit from several years of workplace experience, alongside studying a course tailored specifically to employers’ needs.

“They have the potential to help fill specific skills gaps and meet employers’ needs. Universities have the facilities and the innovative links with employers that help give UK companies a genuine competitive edge and create high value jobs for employees.”

The report also urges businesses to work with universities to help them develop courses directed at filling industry specific skills gaps and ensuring degree apprentices are sufficiently employable on completion.

Tom Banham, Head of Academy Talent Acquisition at Nestlé, who has collaborated in this way with Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We have found that the combination of practical, commercial experience at Nestlé and academic excellence at Sheffield Hallam is giving young people the skills that they need to become successful. It’s a great way for us to grow and develop our future business leaders. 

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