Degree apprenticeships continue to rise in demand
Released to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, a report from Universities UK predicts a dramatic rise in the uptake of degree apprenticeships.
Degree apprenticeships: realising opportunities predicts that by the academic year 2017-18 the number of degree apprentice entrants will have risen by 658 per cent since the qualifications were launched in 2015-16, to more than 7,600. The report also notes that 91 per cent of universities questioned are involved in degree apprenticeships in some form.
STEM sectors, such as engineering, the digital industry and IT, are some of those expected to gain most from the growth and a wide variety of engineering and technology companies including IBM, Airbus, Mercedes-Benz and Transport for London are already working closely with universities on courses.
In the report, Universities UK, an organisation that represents the UK’s universities, highlights that degree apprenticeships are helping to address key skills shortages and – with the costs split between industry and government – provide opportunities for people who might not have considered university before. This includes part-time and mature students whose numbers have dropped drastically in recent years.
“Universities are constantly striving to be flexible in the kind of qualifications they offer to meet the needs of students and employers. Degree apprenticeships go a long way to addressing this,” says Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent. “Many people feel they have been left behind in the drive to increase higher-level skills in recent years. Degree apprenticeships are an excellent way to get to these harder-to-reach groups while, at the same time, ensuring that what we deliver on campus meets the needs of students, the local area and its employers.”
John Perkins, Chair of the IET Education and Skills Panel, also highlights the fact that degree apprenticeships are helping change the perception of the vocational study route.
“In the past apprenticeships have been regarded as a second class option and I think the government and the industry have put a lot of effort into reversing that perception. Degree apprenticeships have the potential to enhance the status of apprenticeships significantly,” he notes.
Both Dame Goodfellow and Perkins believe that more needs to be done to educate both business and the general public about the benefits, however.
“I think there’s still a fair way to go before we can say there are parallel routes into the profession that are considered the same status,” Perkins says. “But if you look at the senior management of companies like Rolls-Royce or BAE Systems more have come up from the apprenticeship route than the classical university route,” he highlights. “I think we need to ‘beef up’ the image of apprenticeships and perhaps promote it more aggressively than we have in the past.”