Some reflections on Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and the impact of COVID-19


Since autumn 2018 I’ve been tracking higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England to give me a sense of what’s out there. The data I accumulate has been immensely valuable for my guidance work and the talks I give.  

I collect most of the information from the ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website which is why, reluctantly, I restrict it to England. In the past I have also occasionally added in national vacancies that I find through other websites and there are a few additional quirks in the way I do it, so I don’t claim it to be authoritative nor is it an exact science. And I only collect the data manually not on a spreadsheet, because for me it’s quicker that way.  

In the case of higher apprenticeships, I record the name of the employer, occupational area, location, number of vacancies and starting salary. For degree apprenticeships I also add in the minimum grades required and the degree provider. I exclude vacancies that wouldn’t be appropriate for an 18-year-old school or college leaver, but I include any Level 7 apprenticeships that are targeted at the 18+ age group.  

I also use editorial licence when I record the occupational area, which usually equates to the relevant apprenticeship standard but I sometimes tweak it in order to simplify things or to make it more useful in guidance. For example, I separate Quantity Surveying from other branches of Chartered Surveying because I find it helpful to do it like that.

Findings (since autumn 2018)

Over this period I’ve built up two highly detailed Powerpoint slides, one for higher apprenticeships and one for degree apprenticeships. Together they now represent over 10,000 vacancies, broken down by occupational area. Each slide takes the form of a league table and I try to update them on a weekly basis in between all my other work, so they’re always a moving feast. Right now, the top 10 in each category are as follows (in order):

Degree apprenticeships:

Digital Technology Solutions (current total – 1,436); Police Constables; Chartered Management; Accountancy & Taxation; Civil Engineers; Manufacturing Engineers; Aerospace Engineers; Quantity Surveyors; Economists; Data Scientists & Analysts.

In total 47 occupational areas are represented and starting salaries range from £7,500 to £30,000pa.

Higher apprenticeships:

Software Developers (current total – 675); Accountancy & Taxation; Data Analysts; Project Management; Network Engineers; Sales Executives; Software Testers; Quantity Surveying Technicians; Police Community Support Officers; Construction & Building Services Technicians.

In total 67 occupational areas are represented and starting salaries range from £6,084 to £34,000pa (that’s not a misprint).

Findings (since 23/3/2020)

Fast forward to 23rd March 2020 and suddenly the picture started to change as the country locked down in the face of COVID-19. I knew this was likely to affect things significantly and sure enough it has. But to what extent? Well here’s the answer from the perspective of my ongoing weekly analysis of new vacancies.

In the 8 weeks immediately prior to lockdown I recorded:

  • 695 new degree apprenticeships and 619 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 1,314 and an average of 164 new postings each week.
  • These figures were roughly commensurate with the broad picture I’d observed since autumn 2018.

In the 8 weeks since lockdown I recorded:

  • 181 new degree apprenticeships and 121 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 302 and an average of 38 new postings each week.    

This represents a 77% reduction. I’m not surprised, but it helps to give a sense of proportion and I’ll be observing how it pans out in the weeks ahead.  

What I also decided to do on 23rd March was to start collating two new Powerpoint slides, using exactly the same method as before but starting from ‘lockdown’ date. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions from this, but the current top 10s since 23/3/20 are as follows:

Degree apprenticeships:

Digital Technology Solutions (current total – 43); Accountancy & Taxation; Financial Services; Chartered Management; Control Engineers; Data Scientists & Analysts; Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers; Building, Property & Valuation Surveyors; Chemical, Plant & Process Engineers; Civil Engineers; Electronic Engineers; Materials Scientists; Quantity Surveyors. (The last 4 of these are all equal, with 2 vacancies each).

In total 20 occupational areas are represented so far and starting salaries range from £8,092 to £25,065pa.

Higher apprenticeships:

Software Developers (current total – 27); Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians; Science Laboratory Technicians; Data Analysts; Electrical Power Distribution; Manufacturing Engineering; Accountancy & Taxation; IS Business Analysts; Software Testers; Buying, Procurement & Supply Chain; Network Engineers; Project Management. (The last 3 of these are all equal, with 2 vacancies each).

In total 24 occupational areas are represented so far and starting salaries range from £6,474 to £29,000pa.

Going forward

I intend to continue this tracking exercise into the foreseeable future and will occasionally post updates and other relevant news through my blogs and social media channels. Alongside this, I’m also working on a new case studies project that reflects on how young professionals’ careers are shaped in the modern world and how COVID-19 is impacting on this.

In challenging times these projects at least give me a sense of purpose and they help to reflect on the kind of LMI that I find so valuable in guidance.

© Alan Bullock, 19/5/2020

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