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

Headlines

This week’s report is a medley of highs, lows and signs of an intriguing trend.

The low point was that in Week 25 the number of new Degree Apprenticeship (DA) vacancies advertised in England and suitable for school/college leavers came to a dismal total of nine. This must surely be the lowest figure since they were first introduced in 2015? A minor consolation was that their geographical distribution is often mildly interesting and, on this occasion, while four were in London, two were in Melton Mowbray, two on The Wirral and one in Leek.

However, it was a completely different story with Higher Apprenticeship (HA) vacancies, with a total of 133 boosted by bulk vacancies for Associate Project Management and Policy Officer apprentices with two government departments located in Coventry, Manchester, Sheffield and Darlington as well as London. Last week also saw the highest post-lockdown starting salary, with Bloomberg Global offering four Software Engineering HAs in London at £30,000 per annum. The wide variation in starting salaries continues to be very noticeable though and for every vacancy advertised at over £20,000 there’s another at £7,000 to £8,000.    

In the past four weeks a mere 30 employers have posted DA vacancies, compared with 105 employers posting HA vacancies. This supports the trend I’m noticing that employers offering DAs have become increasingly sparse, whereas the number of employers offering HAs is holding up quite well and is racing ahead of DAs. Is this a temporary blip or a new phenomenon? And if it’s a new phenomenon, what lies behind it? Watch this space in the next few weeks to see if the trend continues.       

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 my occupational and regional analyses. 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, the overall picture it provides continues to act as a very helpful guidance tool.

Headline stats

During the latest week, from 7th to 11th September, I recorded:

  • 9 new degree apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 133 new higher apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 25 weeks prior to lockdown (30th September to 20th March) I recorded 2,870 new degree apprenticeships and 1,686 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 4,556 and an average of 182 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 25 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 11th September) I have recorded 699 new degree apprenticeships and 824 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 1,523 and an average of 61 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 66.6% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, which obviously constitutes a depressing figure overall. However, the overall trend has been one of continuous gradual improvement, given that this figure was hovering consistently at around 77% several weeks ago.

And it’s all the more interesting if we compare DAs (76% down) with HAs (51% down).

Updated regional analysis

The 1,523 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows, with every county being represented:

  • Greater London (348)
  • Yorkshire (252)
  • Greater Manchester (82)
  • West Midlands (70)
  • Hampshire (56)
  • Essex (54)
  • Hertfordshire (53)
  • Surrey (51)
  • Gloucestershire (47)
  • Berkshire (39)
  • Cheshire (34)
  • Nottinghamshire (32)
  • County Durham (31)
  • Merseyside (30)
  • Devon (29)
  • Tyne & Wear (28)
  • Suffolk (27)
  • Sussex (21)
  • Cambridgeshire (20)
  • Lancashire (18)
  • Kent (17)
  • Somerset (16)
  • Norfolk (15)
  • Leicestershire (15)
  • Oxfordshire (14)
  • Derbyshire (13)
  • Staffordshire (13)
  • Warwickshire (13)
  • Bedfordshire (13)
  • Buckinghamshire (11)
  • Northamptonshire (9)
  • Worcestershire (9)
  • Dorset (9)
  • Cumbria (6)
  • Shropshire (6)
  • Lincolnshire (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 not quite as disproportionate as it might appear.

  • 348 London (8.9)
  • 252 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 209 South East (9.1)
  • 182 East of England (6.2)
  • 170 North West (7.3)
  • 113 West Midlands (5.9)
  • 107 South West (5.6)
  •   74 East Midlands (4.8)
  •   62 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 given below. I would add that there is an element of arbitrariness about the precise figures, but nonetheless I think the general pattern gives a fascinating insight into what the emerging occupations are in a rapidly changing world.

Degree & Level 7 apprenticeships:

In total there have been 699 new vacancies spread across 42 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £7,830 to £27,665pa.  

150 Police Constables

120 Digital Technology Solutions (*see below for more details)

  51 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  46 Accountants or Tax Specialists

  31 Civil Engineers

  29 Financial Services

  28 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  27 Chartered Management (general)

  25 Data Scientists & Analysts

  16 Retail Management

  15 Control Engineers

  14 Healthcare Science Practitioners (*see below)

  13 Sales Professionals

  12 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  11 Digital Marketing

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  11 Laboratory Scientists

  10 Adult Nursing         

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    8 Food Technologists/Engineers

    6 Building Services Design Engineers

    6 Town Planners

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Environmental Health Officers

    5 Manufacturing Engineers

    5 Packaging Technologists

    4 Cyber Security Technologists

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Creative Digital Designers   

    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 Project Management

    1 Solicitor

    1 Visual Merchandiser

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

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

Higher apprenticeships:

In total there have been 824 new vacancies spread across 48 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa.

127 Software Developers

  75 Policy Officers

  72 Project Management Associates

  60 Data Analysts

  54 Accounting Technicians

  43 Sales Executives

  39 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  34 Network Engineers

  26 Nursing Associates (Mental Health)

  24 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  24 Technician Scientists

  24 Cyber Security Technologists

  22 Business Analysts

  21 Software Testers 

  18 Commercial Procurement & Supply Chain

  17 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technician

  12 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  10 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  10 Nursing Associates (Adult)

    9 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    9 Public Relations & Communications

    7 Housing & Property Management

    6 Insurance Professionals

    5 Human Resources Practitioners

    5 Quantity Surveying Technicians

    5 Tax Technicians

    4 Construction Site Supervisors

    4 DevOps Engineers

    4 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    4 Junior Management Consultants

    3 Digital Marketing Executives

    3 Food Technologists/Engineers

    3 Hospitality Management

    3 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    2 Brewers

    2 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    2 Social Care Leaders

    1 Civil Engineering Technician

    1 IT Support Professional

    1 Operations Management

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Revenue & Benefits Officer

    1 Retail Management

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

All being well, there will be a further update next week.

© Alan Bullock, 14/9/2020

2 thoughts on “25 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: latest update on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

  1. Thanks for the work on this Alan as one of the contracts I manage is the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge contract for London very relevant and informative, I’ll share with colleagues.

    • Great to hear from you Mark and thanks for your kind words. This week is looking quite interesting too, with HAs once again outstripping DAs by a very wide margin and DAs looking very thin on the ground. So next Monday’s blog should be quite interesting too. There will also be news of another emerging and fast-growing occupation!

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