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

Bad news but also a hint of good news

These are my latest reflections on the impact COVID-19 has had on new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies. It’s my fourth weekly update since the original article I posted on 19th May.

My objective has been to compare the number of new vacancies advertised in England since ‘lockdown’ started (on 23rd March) with the numbers for the corresponding number of weeks pre-lockdown. In doing so, I have also aimed to sketch out the kinds of occupations that are emerging as those into which employers are potentially recruiting 6th form and college leavers.  

The situation itself hasn’t deteriorated in the past week and, if anything, it has stabilised. However, the broader picture is slightly worse than the already gloomy scenario I painted in my earlier articles. This is because, on closer scrutiny of my data, I found a miscalculation in the previous pre-lockdown figures I’ve been quoting. As a result, the reduction of 75% to 77% that I’ve been reporting is actually slightly worse than that and currently stands at a rather devastating 79%.

One glimmer of light however is that Morrisons have posted 16 Retail Management degree apprenticeships today and I hope this might be another sign of a gradual recovery in the days and weeks ahead.

Last week’s figures

The data I collect is generally sourced from vacancies advertised nationally in England on the government ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website. I exclude any vacancies that I perceive as not being appropriate for an 18-year-old school or college leaver.        

During the latest week, 8th to 12th June, I recorded 21 new degree apprenticeship vacancies and 35 new higher apprenticeship vacancies.

The bigger picture  

In the 12 weeks immediately prior to ‘lockdown’ (30th December to 20th March) I recorded:

  • 1,539 new degree apprenticeships and 888 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 2,427 and an average of 202 new vacancies each week.

In the 12 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 12th June) I have recorded:

  • 272 new degree apprenticeships and 232 new higher apprenticeships giving a total of 505 and an average of 42 new vacancies each week.  

Sadly, this represents a whopping 79.2% reduction post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown. However, after adjusting my figures since finding the discrepancy, it does mean that the downward curve has at least flattened out.   

Further reflections

In my degree spprenticeship ‘league table’ (see below), there continues to be a clear top ten and this week Quantity Surveying has crept into it at number 10. Meanwhile, in the higher apprenticeship league table, Nursing Associates (Mental Health) has jumped straight into the top ten, with 11 new vacancies in Lancashire and Cumbria last week.

Together I think the two league tables provide useful insights into the kinds of professional jobs that are emerging. Last week’s new entrants in the degree apprenticeship table were a Cardiac Physiologist in Gloucestershire and a Town Planner in South London, the minimum starting salary for the Town Planner being the highest so far recorded since ‘lockdown’ at £25,833.

The geographical spread of vacancies is generally quite wide, but with the South East region predominating to a certain extent. To give an insight into this, the 133 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England so far in June have been in:

Essex (29); Hertfordshire (25); Greater London (19); Lancashire (12); Bedfordshire (6); West Yorkshire (5); Hampshire (5); Gloucestershire (3); Cambridgeshire (3); Tyne & Wear (2); Cumbria (2); Manchester (2); Nottinghamshire (2); Kent (2); West Sussex (2); Devon (2); Cornwall (2); East Yorkshire (1); Merseyside (1); Cheshire (1); Staffordshire (1); Leicestershire (1); Worcestershire (1); Oxfordshire (1); Buckinghamshire (1); Bristol (1); Dorset (1)  

I have also analysed the minimum entry requirements for degree apprenticeships since the start of lockdown and found that they are generally modest rather than high. In terms of UCAS points, the average across all vacancies is 106 points (close to BBC or DMM), which demonstrates that degree apprenticeships are not just the preserve of academic high-flyers.

As I mentioned last week, I’m more than aware that some higher and degree apprenticeships never reach the government website. Consequently, the information I present gives a sketch of what’s happening rather than providing a fully reliable set of data. A specific example of this was Durham Constabulary’s Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship, which wasn’t advertised nationally and for which the closing date was last Friday. I believe some other police forces are in the process of recruiting too. Had I been able to include this in my data, Police Constables would now be very prominent in the degree apprenticeship league table. This shows that there is more activity taking place than my stats can fully take account of.

To counterbalance this, the RAF posted multiple higher apprenticeship vacancies for Intelligence Analysts in February 2020, but precise numbers are unknown so I didn’t include those in my data either.    

Updated ‘league tables’

Each week I update my league tables as a way of recording the number of new vacancies in England broken down by what I loosely term ‘occupational areas’. I find this more useful in guidance than strictly adhering to the names of different apprenticeship standards.

Since lockdown, the occupational areas represented in each category are now as follows (starting with the highest):

  • Degree & Level 7 apprenticeships:

In total there have been 272 new vacancies spread across 27 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries range from £8,092 to £25,833pa.   

1st Digital Technology Solutions* (current total = 65)

2nd Accountancy & Taxation

3rd Financial Services

4th Electrical/Electronic Engineers

5th Chartered Management

6th= Control Engineers

6th= Data Scientists & Analysts

8th Civil Engineers

9th Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

10th Quantity Surveyors

11th= Building, Property & Valuation Surveyors

11th= Chemical Engineers

13th Food Technologists

14th= Building Services Design Engineers

14th= Mechanical, Product Design & Development Engineers

14th= Packaging Technologists

14th= User Experience (UX) Professionals

18th= Cyber Security Technologist

18th= Materials Scientists

18th= Supply Chain Leadership

21st= Business to Business Sales Executive

21st= Environmental Practitioner

21st= Environmental Health Practitioner

21st= Healthcare Scientist (Cardiac Physiology)

21st= Laboratory Scientist

21st= Marketing Management

21st= Town Planner

*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).

In the longer term, Police Constables might also start to figure prominently for the reasons explained above.  

  • Higher apprenticeships:

In total there have been 232 new vacancies spread across 28 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries still range from £6,474 to £29,000pa.

1st Software Developers (current total = 39)

2nd Manufacturing Engineering Technicians

3rd Buying, Merchandising & Supply Chain

4th= Data Analysts

4th= Project Management

4th= Science Laboratory Technicians

7th Accountancy & Taxation

8th Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

9th= Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

9th= Nursing Associates (Mental Health)

11th Investment Consultants

12th Network Engineers

13th= Information Systems Business Analysts

13th= Sales Executives

13th= Software Testers

16th= Cyber Security Officers

16th= Policy Officers

18th= HR/Learning & Development/Employability Practitioners

18th= Insurance Professionals

18th= Learning & Skills Teachers

18th= Operations Management

18th= Paraplanners

18th= Public Relations 

24th= Children, Young People & Family Practitioner

24th= IT Support Professional  

24th= Quantity Surveying Technician

24th= Regulatory Compliance Officer

24th= Revenue & Benefits Officer

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.

© Alan Bullock, 15/6/2020

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