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


A distinct trend has been noticeable over the last six weeks. It’s not a very encouraging trend, but it would be interesting to debate whether there’s a rationale that explains it or if it’s just a blip.

Excluding recent bulk postings of degree apprenticeships (DAs) by West Yorkshire Police (150) and the Valuation Office Agency (40), new DAs are otherwise averaging a meagre 12 per week across the whole of England. Over the same six-week period higher apprenticeships (HAs) have averaged out at a much healthier 49 per week.

If we rewind to a similar six-week period centred around October 2019 (five months before lockdown started), DA’s were then averaging 93 per week and HAs 68 per week. So, it’s DAs that have taken the big hit. However, as we enter September, might we start to see a recovery in new DAs as larger employers begin to advertise their annual schemes? Or will the downturn and fragmentation continue? Watch this space to find out.

There have also been a few small changes in the occupational and regional trends and, as each week passes, it’s especially intriguing to see which occupations are actively seeking young talent at Level 4 and above in a harsh coronavirus climate. Many of them, the majority I would say, are occupations that are rarely mentioned by clients in careers guidance settings.

My pick of the week is the emergence of Environmental Health Practitioners, for which there have been five new DA vacancies since lockdown (in Sheffield, Redhill, Epsom and Barnstaple). Prior to that, in contrast, not one had been posted anywhere in England in the previous 18 months.

Meanwhile, Software Developers and Data Analysts increasingly reign supreme in the HA occupational list.


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/college leaver. I also exclude any new vacancies that I recognise as being just a re-posting of existing opportunities (such as 14 HAs with TJX last week).

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 24th to 28th August, I recorded:

  • 11 new degree apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 41 new higher apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 23 weeks prior to lockdown (14th October to 20th March) I recorded: 2,683 new degree apprenticeships and 1,549 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 4,206 and an average of 183 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 23 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 28th August) I have recorded: 658 new degree apprenticeships and 629 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 1,287 and an average of 56 new vacancies each week.

This represents a 69.4% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown. However, given that this figure was hovering consistently around 77% up to a couple of months ago, the overall trend is continuing to show a gradual improvement and this is the first time it has gone below 70%.

Updated regional analysis

The 1,287 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows, with every county being represented:

  • Greater London (233)
  • Yorkshire (230)
  • Greater Manchester (62)
  • Essex (54)
  • Hertfordshire (53)
  • West Midlands (51)
  • Surrey (51)
  • Hampshire (49)
  • Gloucestershire (45)
  • Cheshire (34)
  • Nottinghamshire (32)
  • Berkshire (31)
  • Devon (29)
  • Suffolk (27)
  • Merseyside (25)
  • Tyne & Wear (24)
  • Sussex (21)
  • Cambridgeshire (18)
  • Lancashire (17)
  • Kent (17)
  • Somerset (16)
  • Durham (14)
  • Oxfordshire (14)
  • Derbyshire (13)
  • Norfolk (13)
  • Warwickshire (13)
  • Staffordshire (12)
  • Leicestershire (12)
  • Bedfordshire (12)
  • Buckinghamshire (10)
  • Worcestershire (8)
  • Northamptonshire (8)
  • Cumbria (6)
  • Shropshire (6)
  • Lincolnshire (5)
  • Dorset (5)
  • Cornwall (4)
  • Northumberland (3)
  • Herefordshire (2)
  • Wiltshire (2)
  • Not specified (6)

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 is reasonably proportionate.

  • 233 London (8.9)
  • 230 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 193 South East (9.1)
  • 177 East of England (6.2)
  • 144 North West (7.3)
  • 101 South West (5.6)
  •   92 West Midlands (5.9)
  •   70 East Midlands (4.8)
  •   41 North East (2.7)
  •     6 Not specified

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 658 new vacancies spread across 38 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £7,830 to £27,665pa.  

150 Police Constables

110 Digital Technology Solutions*

  51 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  43 Accountants or Tax Specialists

  29 Civil Engineers

  29 Financial Services

  28 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  27 Chartered Management (general)

  22 Data Scientists & Analysts

  16 Retail Management

  15 Control Engineers

  14 Healthcare Science Practitioners*

  12 Chartered Quantity Surveyors

  12 Sales Professionals

  10 Adult Nursing      

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    8 Laboratory Scientists

    7 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

    6 Building Services Design Engineers

    6 Food Technologists/Engineers

    6 Town Planners

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Digital Marketing

    5 Environmental Health Officers

    5 Manufacturing Engineers

    5 Packaging Technologists

    4 Cyber Security Technologists

    3 Environmental Practitioners

    3 Mechanical, Product Design & Development Engineers

    2 Aerospace Engineers

    2 Building Control Surveyors

    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, 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 629 new vacancies spread across 47 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £29,000pa.

115 Software Developers

  56 Data Analysts

  38 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  34 Accounting Technicians

  34 Project Management

  34 Sales Executives

  28 Network Engineers

  24 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  22 Science Laboratory Technicians

  20 Cyber Security Technologists

  19 Policy Officers

  18 Commercial Procurement & Supply Chain

  16 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  16 Software Testers 

  14 Business Analysts

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technician

  12 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  11 Mental Health Nursing Associates

  10 Adult Nursing Associates

  10 Building Services Engineering Technicians

    9 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    9 Public Relations & Communications

    6 Insurance Professionals

    5 Human Resources Practitioners

    4 Construction Site Supervisors

    4 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    4 Junior Management Consultants

    4 Quantity Surveying Technicians

    3 Food Technologists/Engineers

    3 Hospitality Management

    3 Housing/Property Management

    3 Tax Technicians

    2 Brewers

    2 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Learning & Skills Teachers

    2 Marketing Executives

    1 Civil Engineering Technician

    1 DevOps Engineer

    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

Look out for another update next week as the mystery tour continues.

© Alan Bullock, 30/8/2020

2 thoughts on “23 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: latest update on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

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