11 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: Higher & Degree Apprenticeships and the impact of COVID-19


These are my latest reflections on the impact COVID-19 has had on new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies. It’s an update to the blogs I posted on 19th May, 26th May and 1st June, with minor tweaks to the way I record and present the information.


During the week of 1st to 5th June I recorded 45 new Degree Apprenticeship vacancies and 32 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies that were advertised nationally in England, generally using the government ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website. Comparatively speaking, this means that the number of new vacancies has been slashed by a huge margin of 77% over the past 11 weeks compared with the 11 weeks prior to lockdown. However, on a positive note, the downward curve has flattened out this week (the margin had been 80% after 10 weeks, 78% after 9 weeks and 77% after 8 weeks) and my hope is that it might be the start of a slow recovery.

In my degree apprenticeships ‘league table’, a clear top ten has now emerged. In fact, together I think the two league tables provide useful insights into the kinds of professional jobs that are becoming prominent and in demand. A good example of this is seeing UX Professionals moving up in the degree apprenticeship league.  I haven’t yet met a young person who said they would like to be one. 

I’m more than aware that some higher and degree apprenticeships never reach the government website, so the data I present gives a sketch of what’s happening rather than providing a fully reliable set of data. A specific example of this arose just over a week ago when Durham Constabulary’s latest Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship recruitment was opened. Unlike some other police forces in the last couple of years, it wasn’t advertised nationally. Also, most successful applicants will already live within its boundaries. However, my understanding is that the number of vacancies is significant to the extent that, had I been able to include it in my data, Police Constables would have leapt straight to the top of the degree apprenticeship league table by a large margin, well ahead of the otherwise dominant Digital Technology Solutions. This shows that there is more activity taking place than my stats can fully take account of. There’s a little more commentary on this below, along with a glimpse of further developments coming up next week in relation to Nursing Associates.

Overall findings

In the 11 weeks immediately prior to ‘lockdown’ (6th January to 20th March) I recorded:

  • 1,090 new degree apprenticeships and 860 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 1,950 and an average of 177 new vacancies each week.

In the 11 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 5th June) I have recorded:

  • 251 new degree apprenticeships and 197 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 448 and an average of 41 new vacancies each week.    

Updated ‘league tables’

I have also updated my league tables in which I record the number of new vacancies in England broken down by what I loosely term ‘occupational areas’, which I find more useful in guidance than strictly adhering to the names of different apprenticeship standards.

Since the ‘lockdown’ date of 23/3/20, the occupational areas represented in each category are now as follows (starting with the highest):

Degree apprenticeships:

In total there have been 251 new vacancies spread across 25 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries still range from £8,092 to £25,065pa.   

1st Digital Technology Solutions* (current total = 58)

2nd Accountancy & Taxation

3rd Financial Services

4th Electrical/Electronic Engineers

5th Chartered Management

6th Control Engineers

7th Data Scientists & Analysts

8th Civil Engineers

9th Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

10th Chemical Engineers

11th= Building Services Design Engineers

11th= Food Technologists

11th= Quantity Surveyors

14th= Building, Property & Valuation Surveyors

14th= Mechanical, Product Design & Development Engineers

14th= Packaging Technologists

14th= User Experience (UX) Professionals

18th= Materials Scientists

18th= Supply Chain Leadership

20th= Business to Business Sales Executive

20th= Cyber Security Technologist

20th= Environmental Practitioner

20th= Environmental Health Practitioner

20th= Laboratory Scientist

20th= Marketing Management

*Digital Technology Solutions has included a range of specific roles such as Software Engineering, Network Engineering, Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Infrastructure Engineering and BIM (Building Information Modelling).

Police Constables might also figure prominently in future. In my longer-term ‘league tables’ covering the period from October 2018 to June 2020, Police Constables (with over 1,200 vacancies) comes second only to Digital Technology Solutions (with over 1,400) in the degree apprenticeship league. 

Higher apprenticeships:

In total there have been 197 new vacancies spread across 27 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries still range from £6,474 to £29,000pa.

1st Software Developers (current total = 36)

2nd Manufacturing Engineering Technicians

3rd Project Management

4th= Data Analysts

4th= Science Laboratory Technicians

6th Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

7th Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

8th Investment Consultants

9th Accountancy & Taxation

10th Network Engineers

11th= Information Systems Business Analysts

11th= Sales Executives

11th= Software Testers

14th Buying, Procurement & Supply Chain

15th= Cyber Security Officers

15th= Policy Officers

17th= HR/Learning & Development/Employability Practitioners

17th= Insurance Professionals

17th= Operations Management

17th= Paraplanners

17th= Public Relations 

22nd= Children, Young People & Family Practitioner

22nd= IT Support Professional  

22nd= Learning & Skills Teacher

22nd= Quantity Surveying Technician

22nd= Regulatory Compliance Officer

22nd= Revenue & Benefits Officer

Looking ahead to next week, Nursing Associates is likely to make a conspicuous entry straight into the top ten in the higher apprenticeship league, as this morning 11 vacancies in the Mental Health field have just been advertised across Lancashire and Cumbria.

Going forward

I will continue to observe how it pans out this week and will post further updates whenever I have time and when there are interesting developments to report. Given this morning’s significant entry into the charts by Nursing Associates, I think I will struggle to resist the temptation to post another update next Monday.

© Alan Bullock, 8/6/2020

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