At a time when there is a lot of concern about what is going to happen following Brexit and how the UK’s productivity is lacking behind the majority of the G7 countries. At a time when employers are complaining about the low numbers of graduates and school leavers who are work-ready, yet youth unemployment is high. And at a time when employers are also reporting huge skills shortages, especially in many highly skilled and technical roles, degree apprenticeships could be the answer.
As with all apprenticeships, they focus on blending practical experiences with the necessary theoretical knowledge. Rather than just sitting learning about things in the abstract in a classroom, apprentices are actually putting that knowledge to the test in real work environments. Not only will they learn the skills needed to work in the role, but they will develop their interpersonal skills, their communication skills, and their teamwork skills. They will develop their problem-solving abilities, their initiative and their ability to work under pressure and to deadlines. All of which are important transferrable skills and abilities which will make them more employable and work-ready when their apprenticeship is complete.
Since 71% of apprentices stay and become permanent members of their employer’s workforce when their apprenticeship is complete, it is clear that the apprenticeship scheme is working and is providing industries and organisations with work-ready and well-trained candidates.
How will the degree apprenticeship scheme help?
The degree and higher-level apprenticeship schemes aim to build on the FE and lower-level schemes already in place by offering candidates and employers a more practical and effective way of upskilling or retraining current employees, as well as training new employees to be capable for higher-level roles.
Rather than working with colleges and FE training providers, degree-level apprenticeships are linked with universities and if successful, the apprentices gain a degree in their chosen area, as well as all the practical and work-based experience they gain through applying their knowledge during their placement. This gives graduates and employers the best of both worlds: important qualifications, vital theoretical knowledge learned in the classroom and in on-the-job situations, and real-world, practical and technical skills tested and developed in the workplace.
Why does it need our support?
As the degree apprenticeship scheme is relatively new, it’s not widely known or spoken about. It needs to receive more recognition both in schools and colleges, and in organisations and industry. Like most apprenticeships, funding can be gained through the levy but only if the prospective candidate doesn’t already have an equivalent level qualification. This makes it highly important for schools, college, students and parents to be informed because it might be the answer to many school leavers worries and questions about higher education, career paths and gaining employment. Many school leavers are anxious about the high tuition fees and levels of student debt, as well as the stories of all the graduates who end up unemployed, overqualified or struggling to find suitable and well-paying employment.
A degree apprenticeship could be the answer because, as with the other apprenticeship schemes, they are a great way to ‘earn while you learn’ thus avoiding a lot of student debt and easing some concerns about paying course costs and living expenses. Some of the big-name employers who are investing in their workforce and the future of their organisations through the degree apprenticeship scheme already are offering large salaries as an added incentive, while most apprentices can expect to be offered £15,000-20,000 annual salary, as well as having their tuition fees paid for by their employer.
With the levy to help fund them, and the government’s pledge to increase the apprenticeship offering, degree apprenticeships are opening up and include industry areas such as management, aerospace engineering, construction and dental technician, making them a more viable option than ever before.
Apprenticeships used to be the main way people trained for a career, especially those that were more practical or technical, but somewhere along the line, apprenticeships gained the stigma that they were for those who couldn’t do well at school rather than a valid and valued route into employment. Hopefully, with the degree and higher-level apprenticeships offering we can finally get rid of this stereotype and encourage more school leavers, as well as current employees, to reach for their potential and work towards becoming highly skilled and successful.