The launch of the Apprenticeship Levy has necessitated a restructuring of training provision for many employers that fall under its scope and there’s been a corresponding upsurge of interest in higher and degree Apprenticeships.
In this guide, we’ll explore these higher level qualifications and set out why they could offer the best of both worlds for employers looking to replace or offset the cost of existing graduate programmes in advance of the Levy.
What are degree Apprenticeships?
One key aim of the government’s ongoing Apprenticeship reforms is to put Apprenticeship-based qualifications on a par with traditional academic ones.
To this end, degree-level Apprenticeships were launched in 2015, with the goal of bringing together the best bits of academic and vocational qualifications.
“They will bring the world of business and the world of education closer together, and let us build the high-level technical skills needed for the jobs of the future. I want to see many more businesses and universities begin to offer them,” said then-Prime Minister David Cameron of their launch.
As the name suggests, degree Apprenticeships combine hands-on work experience with academic study, allowing participants to gain a full bachelors, masters and even PHD-level degrees, while gaining invaluable practical experience in the workplace.
Higher Apprenticeships already offered equivalent, degree-level qualifications, however, degree Apprenticeships are structured around the qualification and have been developed in conjunction with employers to provide the most relevant skills possible for their industries.
Research from Universities UK (UUK) earlier in the month forecast a significant rise in the amount of enrolments on degree Apprenticeships in 2017-18, predicting 5,000 new starts over the course of the year.
“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,” said Dame Julia Goodfellow, UUK president.
The researchers went on to claim that funding reforms would fuel demand from
both Levy-paying employers and SMEs taking advantage of co-investment. It was also claimed that growth was being driven in areas suffering from acute skills shortages, including management, digital skills and engineering.
The benefits for business
Final details on the Apprenticeship Levy came fairly late in the day, leaving many employers on the back foot in terms of restructuring their training provision to recoup the funds they’d be paying into the initiative.
With many scrambling to develop a strategic, long-term plan that offers both value for money and a tangible talent boost - degree Apprenticeships could offer the ideal balance between strong theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical experience.
Degree Apprenticeships are part of a slew of training reforms that aim to offer employers a greater degree of flexibility in terms of how they can use Apprenticeship-based training. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to training provision, just some of the key benefits of degree Apprenticeships for business include:
Offsetting costs: Degree Apprenticeships could offer the ideal way to restructure graduate recruitment programmes in advance of the Levy. Instead of recruiting out of university, employers can build up their own cohort of graduates in-house, while gaining instant value from the hands-on work they do and fully immersing them in the company culture.
Degree-level apprentices will also typically start off at lower-level salaries than those of graduate recruits, enabling employers to scale their recruitment costs a lot more effectively.
Plugging emerging skills gaps: When considered as part of a concerted workforce development plan, degree Apprenticeships can help companies identify and tackle emerging skills gaps - ensuring a robust talent pipeline is in place for years to come.
Increasing retention and reducing turnover: The removal of eligibility criteria
means it’s easier than ever to use Apprenticeship-based training for existing employees. Investing in a degree Apprenticeship will certainly require greater commitment than a one-off commercial training course, but will stoke the fires of employee engagement - providing your staff with a valuable qualification and give your staff the impetus to improve processes and take on further responsibility.
Attracting new talent: With tuition fees nearing £30,000, offering the opportunity to gain the double whammy of a fee-free degree and practical work experience could be a valuable way to attract fresh new talent to your organisation.
While there’s no such thing as silver bullets when it comes to workforce development, degree Apprenticeships offer an attractive avenue for both Levy-paying employers and co-investing SMEs seeking to develop their talent pipelines in the coming years.
And if you’re looking for hands-on advice on setting up your own degree apprenticeship programme, get in touch with our expert Apprenticeship Levy team today: