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

Latest developments

The plot thickens! I would summarise Week 26 developments as follows:

  • The slump in new Degree Apprenticeship (DA) vacancies continued with only 12 new vacancies posted in Week 26, following on from the paltry 9 in Week 25.
  • In contrast the number of Higher Apprenticeship (HA) vacancies continued to hold up well, with 84 new vacancies posted in Week 26, following on from the very healthy 133 in Week 25.
  • Across the past five weeks only 34 employers have posted new DA vacancies, compared with 137 employers posting new HA vacancies.

As we approach the time of year when we might expect some of the bigger name companies to launch their 2021 school-leaver programmes, it will be interesting to see if DAs start to make a comeback in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been discussing the latest trend with my freelance colleagues Polly Wiggins and Andy Gardner, who shared a similar point of view on it. Andy suggested that HAs are perhaps just a bit more manageable, especially from a smaller employer’s perspective. He thinks that contributory factors might be that:

  • the length of commitment is often shorter, such as 18 months or two years;
  • what apprentices learn off the job will be very specific to what’s needed in the role;
  • with many companies planning a year or two ahead, an HA may fit better with their planning;
  • and HAs can also be a good pathway for apprentices who have completed Advanced Level and want to change companies.

With DAs being quite static, what I’m personally finding intriguing is identifying which HA occupations are being actively and quite widely recruited for. This week’s “biggest climber” is Sales Executive, with 50 new vacancies in Bradford (15), Romford (15), Slough (15), Wallsend (3), Fareham (1) and London (1). The top five HAs since lockdown are now Software Developer, Sales Executive, Policy Officer (that’s Policy not Police), Project Management and Data Analysts. How often do these get mentioned by aspirational young people planning their futures? See below for the full list.

Background to my weekly blogs

For any new readers, 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.

I’ve been collating similar data since Autumn 2018, so each week I compare the post-lockdown 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, I find that the overall picture it gives me is immensely helpful in guidance. One of my clients, who has just started in Year 12, actually changed his A-Level choices after reading my blog this month in order to “make himself more future-proof”.  

Headline stats

During the latest week, from 14th to 18th September, I recorded:

  • 12 new degree apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 84 new higher apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 26 weeks prior to lockdown (23rd September 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 2,963 new degree apprenticeships and 1,754 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 4,717 and an average of 181 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 26 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 18th September 2020) I have recorded 711 new degree apprenticeships and 908 new higher apprenticeships, giving a total of 1,619 and an average of 62 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 65.7% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, which continues to be a somewhat depressing figure overall. However, as I’ve been reporting for many weeks now, the overall trend has continuously improved after it hovered consistently at around 77% during the first few weeks of lockdown. And the most interesting factor is the growing disparity between DAs (76% down) with HAs (48% down).

Updated regional analysis

The 1,619 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows, with every county being represented:

  • Greater London (364)
  • Yorkshire (276)
  • Greater Manchester (85)
  • West Midlands (70)
  • Essex (70)
  • Hampshire (60)
  • Berkshire (54)
  • Hertfordshire (53)
  • Surrey (51)
  • Gloucestershire (49)
  • Cheshire (35)
  • Nottinghamshire (33)
  • Tyne & Wear (32)
  • County Durham (32)
  • Merseyside (30)
  • Suffolk (29)
  • Devon (29)
  • Cambridgeshire (21)
  • Sussex (21)
  • Lancashire (18)
  • Kent (17)
  • Leicestershire (16)
  • Somerset (16)
  • Norfolk (15)
  • Derbyshire (14)
  • Warwickshire (14)
  • Oxfordshire (14)
  • Staffordshire (13)
  • Bedfordshire (13)
  • Buckinghamshire (12)
  • Northamptonshire (11)
  • 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.

  • 364 London (8.9)
  • 276 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 229 South East (9.1)
  • 201 East of England (6.2)
  • 174 North West (7.3)
  • 114 West Midlands (5.9)
  • 109 South West (5.6)
  •   79 East Midlands (4.8)
  •   67 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. The general pattern gives a fascinating insight into what the emerging occupations are in a rapidly changing landscape.

Degree & Level 7 apprenticeships:

In total there have been 711 new vacancies spread across 41 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £7,830 to £27,665pa.  

150 Police Constables

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

  58 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  48 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 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Creative Digital Designers   

    3 Environmental Practitioners

    3 Mechanical, Product Design & Development Engineers

    2 Aerospace Engineers

    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, a Junior Product Manager 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 908 new vacancies spread across 49 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa.

134 Software Developers

  93 Sales Executives

  78 Policy Officers

  73 Project Management Associates

  62 Data Analysts

  57 Accounting Technicians

  39 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  36 Network Engineers

  26 Nursing Associates (Mental Health)

  25 Cyber Security Technologists

  24 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  24 Technician Scientists

  23 Software Testers 

  22 Business Analysts

  18 Commercial Procurement & Supply Chain

  17 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  13 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technician

  12 Public Relations & Communications

  10 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  10 Nursing Associates (Adult)

    9 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    7 Housing & Property Management

    6 Digital Marketing Executives

    6 Insurance Professionals

    6 Human Resources Practitioners

    6 Quantity Surveying Technicians

    5 Tax Technicians

    4 Brewers

    4 Construction Site Supervisors

    4 DevOps Engineers

    4 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    4 Junior Management Consultants

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    3 Food Technologists/Engineers

    3 Hospitality Management

    2 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    2 Social Care Leaders

    1 Civil Engineering Technician

    1 Construction Design & Build 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, 21/9/2020

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