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


I’m pleased to report very positive news at last. It does incorporate some editorial licence on my part, but that’s because Week 27 is when we’ve started to see clear evidence of the bigger providers starting to open their 2021 recruitment.

Some large recruiters seem to be deserting the government’s apprenticeship site and others never actually used it in the first place. Because of that, I have also delved into the Rate My Apprenticeship and UCAS websites this week, where the likes of EY, BDO, RSM and Grant Thornton have posted details of their 2021 schemes. It skews my data, but I did also check out other sources of vacancies this time last year, so broadly speaking I’m still comparing like with like. However, from now onwards the data in my weekly blog will be a little more arbitrary than it has been up to now and will include some educated estimates that will always err heavily on the side of caution. That said, I still think the regional, occupational and overall analyses tell a fascinating story, at least for those of us who like this kind of LMI.

Background to my weekly blogs

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, largely but not exclusively using the government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website. I exclude any vacancies that I would consider to be wholly unsuitable for an 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 has never exactly compared like with like, so my reports will never be fully representative. However, I find that the overall picture it provides continues to be immensely helpful in guidance.  

Headline stats

During the latest week, from 21st to 25th September, I recorded:

  • 178 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 154 new Higher & Level 4/5 Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 27 weeks prior to lockdown (16th September 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 3,239 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 1,787 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,026 and an average of 186 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 27 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 25th September 2020) I have recorded 889 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 1,062 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 1,951 and an average of 72 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 61.2% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, but that’s a significant improvement on the 77% figure around which it was hovering back in Spring and early-Summer.

Updated regional analysis

The 1,951 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows, with every county being represented:

  • Greater London (448)
  • Yorkshire (311)
  • Greater Manchester (103)
  • West Midlands (90)
  • Essex (75)
  • Hampshire (73)
  • Berkshire (72)
  • Gloucestershire (64)
  • Surrey (59)
  • Hertfordshire (54)
  • Tyne & Wear (45)
  • Nottinghamshire (43)
  • County Durham (42)
  • Merseyside (38)
  • Cheshire (36)
  • Suffolk (36)
  • Devon (31)
  • Sussex (28)
  • Cambridgeshire (27)
  • Lancashire (23)
  • Buckinghamshire (22)
  • Leicestershire (20)
  • Staffordshire (18)
  • Northamptonshire (18)
  • Somerset (18)
  • Norfolk (17)
  • Kent (17)
  • Derbyshire (16)
  • Oxfordshire (16)
  • Bedfordshire (15)
  • Warwickshire (14)
  • Shropshire (10)
  • Worcestershire (9)
  • Dorset (9)
  • Cumbria (7)
  • Lincolnshire (6)
  • Wiltshire (6)
  • Cornwall (4)
  • Northumberland (3)
  • Herefordshire (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.

  • 448 London (8.9)
  • 311 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 287 South East (9.1)
  • 224 East of England (6.2)
  • 207 North West (7.3)
  • 143 West Midlands (5.9)
  • 132 South West (5.6)
  • 103 East Midlands (4.8)
  •   90 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 889 new vacancies spread across 42 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £7,830 to £30,000pa.  

210 Police Constables

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

131 Accountancy or Tax Specialists

  60 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  31 Civil Engineers

  29 Chartered Management (general)

  29 Financial Services

  28 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  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

    4 Environmental Practitioners

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Clinical Trials Specialists

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Creative Digital Designers   

    3 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, Software Consultants, Fintech, 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 1,062 new vacancies spread across 52 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa.

137 Software Developers

133 Accounting Technicians

  96 Sales Executives

  78 Policy Officers

  76 Project Management Associates

  67 Data Analysts

  39 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  39 Tax Technicians  

  37 Network Engineers

  26 Nursing Associates (Mental Health)

  25 Cyber Security Technologists

  25 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  25 Technician Scientists

  24 Software Testers 

  23 Business Analysts 

  20 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  17 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  15 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  13 Public Relations & Communications  

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  11 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  11 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  10 Nursing Associates (Adult)

    9 Investment Consultants

    8 Digital Marketing Executives

    7 Housing & Property Management

    6 Insurance Professionals

    6 Human Resources Practitioners

    6 Quantity Surveying Technicians

    5 Formula 1 Automotive Engineering Specialists

    5 Internal Auditors

    4 Brewers

    4 Construction Site Supervisors

    4 DevOps Engineers

    4 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    4 Junior Management Consultants

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    3 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    3 Food Technologists/Engineers

    3 Hospitality Management

    3 Operations Management

    2 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    2 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    2 Social Care Leaders

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Civil Engineering Technician

    1 IT Support Professional

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Revenue & Benefits Officer

    1 Retail Management

    1 Supply Chain Specialist

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

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

© Alan Bullock, 28/9/2020

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