21 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: latest update on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

Headlines

With all the current anxieties and controversy surrounding A Level results and the notorious algorithm or ‘statistical model’, I would love to be able to report positive news on the higher and degree apprenticeships front. In fact, Week 21 did see a slight improvement on the week before, so my latest update has a positive edge to it. At the same time, however, a pattern has emerged over the last four weeks in which the number of new higher apprenticeships (HAs) has continued to pick up, but simultaneously the number of new degree apprenticeship postings (DAs) seems to be collapsing somewhat.

During the four-week period from mid-July to mid-August new higher apprenticeship vacancies have averaged 55 per week. But, if we exclude the bulk posting of 150 Police Constable DAs in West Yorkshire, new degree apprenticeship vacancies have otherwise averaged just under 10 per week across the whole of England. September will probably tell us whether this is a temporary blip or a sure sign of the recession starting to bite hard.   

As the data builds up week on week, I do think the detailed regional and occupational breakdowns are becoming increasingly more interesting, at least to those of us who enjoy this kind of LMI. Please read on to see what the emerging occupational areas are and how the regional spread is continuing to shape up.  

Background

Since ‘lockdown’ started on Monday 23rd March 2020, I’ve been keeping a record of all new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies posted in England on the government ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website, excluding any that I would perceive as inappropriate for any 18/19-year-old school or college leaver. Each week I compare the data with the corresponding number of weeks pre-lockdown, whilst also building up an occupational and regional analysis. It’s not exactly comparing like with like, neither are all vacancies posted on the government site, so my reports will never be fully representative. However, I find that the overall picture it provides continues to act as an increasingly helpful guidance tool.

Headline stats

During the latest week, from 10th to 14th August, I recorded:

  • 20 new degree apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 67 new higher apprenticeship vacancies

The overall comparison pre- and post-lockdown now looks like this:

  • In the 21 weeks prior to lockdown (28th October to 20th March) I recorded: 2,496 new degree apprenticeships and 1,481 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 3,977 and an average of 189 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 21 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 14th August) I have recorded: 596 new degree apprenticeships and 550 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 1,146 and an average of 55 new vacancies each week.

This represents a 71.2% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown. In other words, the number of new DAs and HAs has been cut by almost three quarters. However, given that the reduction figure was hovering consistently around 77% a couple of months ago, the overall trend is consistently improving, albeit very gradually.

That said, there is an increasingly noticeable difference between HAs (down by 63%) and DAs (down by 76%), so DAs are actually down by more than three quarters. 

Updated regional analysis

The 1,146 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows, with every county in England now represented:

  • Yorkshire (220)
  • Greater London (197)
  • Greater Manchester (55)
  • Hertfordshire (52)
  • Surrey (50)
  • Essex (48)
  • Hampshire (45)
  • West Midlands (44)
  • Gloucestershire (41)
  • Cheshire (33)
  • Berkshire (29)
  • Nottinghamshire (26)
  • Suffolk (26)
  • Merseyside (22)
  • Tyne & Wear (21)
  • Devon (20)
  • Sussex (19)
  • Lancashire (17)
  • Kent (16)
  • Cambridgeshire (14)
  • Warwickshire (13)
  • Derbyshire (12)
  • Bedfordshire (12)
  • Staffordshire (11)
  • Oxfordshire (11)
  • Somerset (11)
  • Durham (9)
  • Norfolk (9)
  • Leicestershire (9)
  • Buckinghamshire (9)
  • Northamptonshire (7)
  • Cumbria (6)
  • Shropshire (6)
  • Worcestershire (6)
  • Lincolnshire (5)
  • Cornwall (4)
  • Northumberland (3)
  • Herefordshire (2)
  • Wiltshire (2)
  • Dorset (2)
  • Not specified (2)

This is how those stats add up regionally. In brackets I’ve added the total population of each region in millions, which gives a sense of proportion to the apprenticeship figures. For example, in population terms the North East is by far the smallest region, so the divergence in apprenticeship numbers isn’t as stark as it first appears.

  • 220 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 197 London (8.9)
  • 179 South East (9.1)
  • 161 East of England (6.2)
  • 133 North West (7.3)
  •   82 West Midlands (5.9)
  •   80 South West (5.6)
  •   59 East Midlands (4.8)
  •   33 North East (2.7)

Updated occupational analysis

Each week I update my occupational analysis by breaking down the new vacancies into what I loosely term ‘occupational areas’, which in some cases differ slightly from the official apprenticeship standards terminology. Since lockdown, the complete lists of occupational areas represented in each category are now as follows:

Degree & Level 7 apprenticeships:

In total there have been 596 new vacancies spread across 37 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £7,830 to £27,665pa.  

150 Police Constables

107 Digital Technology Solutions*

  42 Accountants or Tax Specialists

  29 Civil Engineers

  29 Financial Services

  28 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  25 Chartered Management (general)

  22 Data Scientists & Analysts

  16 Retail Management

  15 Control Engineers

  14 Healthcare Science Practitioners*

  12 Sales Professionals

  11 Chartered Quantity Surveyors

  10 Adult Nursing      

  10 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    6 Building Services Design Engineers

    6 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

    6 Laboratory Scientists

    6 Town Planners

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Food Technologists

    5 Packaging Technologists

    3 Cyber Security Technologists

    3 Digital Marketing

    3 Environmental Health Officers

    3 Environmental Practitioners

    3 Mechanical, Product Design & Development Engineers

    2 Building Control Surveyors

    2 Manufacturing Engineers

    2 Materials Scientists

    2 Supply Chain Leadership

    1 Geospatial Mapping Surveyor

    1 Marketing Management

    1 Podiatrist

    1 Solicitor

    1 Visual Merchandiser

*Digital Technology Solutions has encompassed Software Engineers, Software Developers, Network Engineers, Data Analysts, Cyber Security, IT Business Analysts, Business Intelligence, Infrastructure Specialists, IT Technical Support Professionals and BIM (Building Information Modelling).

*Healthcare Science Practitioners has encompassed Cardiac Physiology, Neurophysiology, Biomedical Science, Radiation Engineering, and Digital Healthcare.

Higher apprenticeships:

In total there have been 550 new vacancies spread across 47 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £29,000pa.

100 Software Developers

  41 Data Analysts

  36 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  30 Sales Executives

  28 Accounting Technicians

  25 Project Management

  24 Network Engineers

  24 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  19 Policy Officers

  19 Science Laboratory Technicians

  17 Cyber Security Technologists

  15 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  15 Commercial Procurement & Supply Chain

  14 Software Testers 

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technician

  12 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  11 Mental Health Nursing Associates

  10 Adult Nursing Associates

  10 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  10 Information Systems Business Analysts

    9 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    7 Public Relations & Communications

    5 Insurance Professionals

    4 Construction Site Supervisors

    4 Junior Management Consultants

    3 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    3 Food Technologists/Food Engineers

    3 Hospitality Management

    3 Housing/Property Management

    3 Human Resources Practitioners

    3 Quantity Surveying Technicians

    3 Tax Technicians

    2 Brewers

    2 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    2 Learning & Skills Teachers

    2 Marketing Executives

    1 Civil Engineering Technician

    1 DevOps Engineer

    1 Internal Auditor

    1 IT Support Professional

    1 Learning & Development Practitioner

    1 Operations Management

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Revenue & Benefits Officer

    1 Retail Management

    1 Social Care Leader

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

I’ve got enough historic data to keep this blog going for a few more weeks, so all being well there will be a further update next Sunday or Monday.

© Alan Bullock, 17/8/2020

Update: Yesterday 40 new degree apprenticeships in Chartered Surveying were posted by the Valuation Office Agency, so next week’s report will reflect this and any further developments.

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