In our latest update we take a look at how you can make degree apprenticeships work for you.

1.Use your levy pot to train existing employees

Contrary to popular belief, apprenticeships aren’t just for new recruits at entry level. Older staff looking to upskill and progress are increasingly becoming interested in degree apprenticeships – and this is where the levy can help employers unlock the talent within their existing workforce.

The apprenticeship levy can be used to train existing employees as long as the training meets an approved apprenticeship standard or framework and the proposed employee meets the eligibility criteria for apprentices.

2.Use apprenticeships as a retention tool

An independent Government study found that 56% of employers said that apprentices stayed in the business longer than other recruits, creating lower overall recruitment costs as a result.

The same research also showed employers think apprenticeships build a higher level of commitment and loyalty than other employees. It’s believed that the positive impact apprenticeships have on employee retention results from a combination of the quality of the training provided and the ability apprentices have to learn and grow in the business from within.

3. Use degree apprenticeships to develop staff for higher roles

When the UK Government introduced degree apprenticeships in 2015, it created new routes to obtaining Level 6 and 7 qualifications – the same level as a full bachelor’s or master’s degree. This has enabled employers, for the first time, to be able to provide apprenticeship training at a higher level, progressing staff from junior roles to senior roles while in work.

By giving older staff the opportunity to be developed through degree apprenticeships, employers are able to re-train them for career progression or upskill them to meet the needs of evolving job roles. This is especially important with the need for older staff members to develop digital technology skills This helps employers unlock the hidden talents of their staff to create a higher performing workforce.

4. Use degree apprenticeships to address current and future skills gaps

Higher and degree apprenticeship standards (designed to raise and standardise the skill level and competency of a range of occupations) are helping businesses build a skills pipeline to fulfil future roles. Currently, there are 147 new standards approved for delivery but employers can look forward to as many as 1,600 by 2020.

As degree apprenticeships enable employers to gain valuable skills by developing staff via work-based training programmes, skills can be developed in highly-sought-after areas such as leadership and management and digital technology, and people can apply those skills to their role immediately. Building this pipeline of skills from within is a solid way to future-proof your organisation and ‘win’ the war on talent.

5. Helps to enhance your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes

Having a robust corporate social responsibility strategy not only provides an increased competitive advantage for businesses but is often now a necessity. Degree apprenticeships offer a prime opportunity to strengthen a business’s commitment to this agenda as they are an opportunity to improve social mobility with the potential to break down barriers and increase access to higher education for disadvantaged students, whilst also contributing to local growth and development.

Interesting afternoon spent listening to some excellent speakers at the Westminster Employment Forum Apprenticeship SeriesFunding apprenticeships in England – supporting employers, meeting demand and the future of the apprenticeship levy.

Along with the recent AELP conference and many other events, it is evident that there is a perceived gap between Government Policy on apprenticeship levy and its implementation by training providers and employers. This is not a new phenomenon in that there is a wide history of government skills policy being perceived as out of line with the needs of employers and training providers. It is fair to say that there will always be a gap between the commercial drivers of employers and training providers and the societal needs that government must address in terms of social mobility and upskilling the nation’s workforce.

We have heard about the perceived barriers to the reduction in starts ranging from the failure of employers to understand apprenticeships, the 10% joint contribution, 20% of the job training, lack of standards, lack of EPA organisations and the lack of assessors to undertake the EPA. The response by Government to these issues undoubtedly will not be rapid. Almost everybody in the sector accepts that the levy can only be a positive policy for to enable the increased investment in skills, so why would any provider wish to deliver apprenticeships with all these barriers in place. We are working with many clients who despite these barriers are achieving great things for the apprentice, the employer and themselves. So, what is that they do that has enabled their success? Our observations through working with them would suggest that:

  1. Their mental mindset is that they see the new apprenticeship reforms as an opportunity rather than a barrier.
  2. Their prime focus is on giving the apprentice the best learning opportunity they can give and creating attractive progression routes.
  3. Their business development activities are based on not just being a supplier to the employer but becoming a critical partner in delivering the employer’s business objectives.
  4. They create an apprenticeship programme in close collaboration with the employer ensuring the employers are as supportive to the apprentice as possibly they can

One of the delegates asked the panel at the conference what needs to be done to move the levy from being a transactional policy to transformational policy. We truly believe that many of our clients are acting through the levy in a transformational manner. If you need any support in making your apprenticeship delivery transformational please get in touch with us  at grow@leadershipteam.info.

Although launched in 2015, it is only in the last 18 months or so that degree apprenticeships have begun to gain some traction with employers and students alike. It has long been a complaint of employees that current graduates and/or degree programmes don’t provide the necessary skills that are required in the workplace and that many graduate entrants simply lack basic commercial awareness and soft skills.

In addition since their foundation, the types of degree apprenticeships on offer have evolved away from mainly STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and towards legal, consultancy and risk-analysis courses and this has began to increase their popularity.

So is this a fundamental shift in the higher education model?

Well although the more traditional universities are beginning to understand the changing dynamic away from the academic student learner to the student consumer, and therefore the need to change with the times, there is still a long way to go, especially in how such degree apprenticeship programmes will be structured.

Also the need for universities to meaningfully engage with employers will provide a real challenge for those institutions that havent been used to having to be “commercially facing”, and although a lot of them have developed good links with businesses in recent years there is more that will need to be done, especially in the development of courses with employer involvement.

It is also worth noting that in the UK we have often viewed apprenticeships as something inferior, the poor relation if you will to a university education but there is evidence now that that is changing. Major employers such as JCB, Ernst & Young and IBM are increasing their intake of apprenticeships. The JCB Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship for example has been designed for candidates who are passionate about studying Business Management at degree level whilst working within a highly successful global business and with a view to become a skilled JCB business professional.

If we think about this shift in the relationship between higher education and the workplace is not surprising. The old world of free education, the 11 plus, grammar school or comprehensive, technical college/polytechnic or university, old 5-7 year apprenticeship or Red Brick University degree is now a far cry away from what is required to succeed in a world of tuition fees, artificial intelligence, skills shortages, global competition and greater economic uncertainty.

However, it is exactly the reason that degree apprenticeships should develop and grow as a response to changing and more complex business world

For more information on how we can help in developing your training & development programmes contact the Leadership Team at grow@leadershipteam.info.

Launched in April 2015 to provide students with a university-level qualification and employment experience, while allowing them to share the cost of their education with employers.

They move beyond the old-style “higher apprenticeships” by making a university degree a core part of the apprenticeship experience.

What subjects can you get a Degree Apprenticeship in?

The subjects available are a lot more limited than standard degrees, as they focus on vocational subjects which also require a high level of academia. Perhaps unsurprisingly most of the subjects are science and technology based and include:

  • Chartered Surveying
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Nuclear
  • Electronic Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Software Development
  • Defence Systems Engineering
  • Laboratory Science
  • Power Systems
  • Public Relations
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Construction

How long do they take to complete?

Like a normal degree, a degree apprenticeship will last a minimum of three years, though some will be longer depending on the course. For example, some courses are “sandwich courses” which include a year working as an employee in the middle of the course and so can take 4 years to complete.

What qualifications are needed to embark on a Degree Apprenticeship?

The qualifications you need will vary from course to course. However, students should expect to need GCSEs and/or A Levels (or equivalent) which are related to the subject matter – such as science, IT or maths for example.

What are the costs?

For the student it is free and the cost of studying for this qualification is split between the employer who takes the student on, and the government. A real win for students.

From the employers point of view there is no set cost for a degree apprenticeship, although the maximum amount an employer can use from their levy account is dependent on the Government funding bands for apprenticeships.

With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017, employers are now able to use this funding to purchase training for apprenticeships. The Government will top up employers digital apprenticeship accounts by 10% meaning that for every £1 that enters the account, employers will have £1.10 to spend on apprenticeship training. Employers who do not pay the levy will have 90% of their apprenticeship training costs subsidised by the Government.

What are the benefits of a Degree Apprenticeship to the student?

Well apart from no cost – a fairly big incentive I’m sure you would agree – degree level apprenticeships allow people to develop their skills and knowledge to a high level whilst gaining on-the-job training. Other benefits for apprentices also include:

  • The potential to achieve a full BA / BSc (Hons) degree whilst in work
  • The opportunity to progress their career within the business
  • Flexible delivery models that support work life balance
  • Support from both their employer and the University