Degree apprenticeships in engineering were announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron to allow young people to study fee-free for a full degree while doing paid work.
Under the scheme, launched in November last year, two thirds of the costs and fees are met by the taxpayer and the rest by their sponsoring employer.
Among the new subjects on offer from September are electronic systems engineering, aerospace engineering, aerospace software development, defence systems engineering, laboratory science, nuclear and power engineering.
Apprentices will split their time between normal university study and gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree from a top university.
More than 100 companies and 20-plus universities and colleges have signed up to the programme so far; 70 more universities have expressed an interest in offering degree apprenticeships in the future.
However, Cameron said he wanted to see it expand much further and urged more businesses and universities to join forces. “They will bring the world of business and the world of education closer together,” he said.
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said: “There has been a noticeable gap in higher-level provision that combines both vocational and academic learning, and degree apprenticeships are the opportunity to fill this gap.”
The number of apprenticeship starts has doubled since May 2010 to over 2 million, with more starting in the North West than in any other region – over 350,000.
Encouraging non-academic routes into engineering such as apprenticeships can be valuable for the sector, but parents, teachers and students alike need to understand more about the apprenticeship framework as a whole, a recent survey showed.
Less than one in five parents had been spoken to about apprenticeships by their child's school, while only one in three believed an apprenticeship would be best for their son or daughter, with over half saying university would be a better option.
Although engineering apprenticeships have had a long and illustrious history, Claire Donovan, from the Royal Academy of Engineering, told E&T news, there is the misconception about it being an alternative to higher education.
“We really need to encourage companies to offer these opportunities by helping them with their planning; we need to help young people see how apprenticeships are a well-paid, alternative route to a satisfying career; we need to help parents and teachers see that as well,” said Donovan.
E&T podcast: Engineering apprenticeships
Interview with Scott Bredda, Technical Director at GE Precision Engineering, and Charles Marshall, the company's latest apprentice, talking about the apprenticeship scheme and the benefits it offers both parties.