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
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