32 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: are Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England at a pivotal point?

Headline news

Week 32 saw a continuation of the recent upsurge in new DA and HA vacancies in England. However, I’m going to stick my neck out on this occasion and predict what I think might happen between now and the end of 2020.

My honest reading of it is that, especially with a second national lockdown now announced, the upsurge will level off from this week onwards. On the other hand, at least the original downturn which was in excess of 75% in the Spring and early-Summer has since been reduced to just 40%, but I can’t see it going any lower than that in the immediate future. I hope I’m wrong though.

The Week 32 figures were boosted by the addition of some recent Accountancy/Tax vacancies with EY that I hadn’t previously included and 79 HAs in Construction, Civil Engineering and Quantity Surveying with BAM. I also recorded the first example I’ve ever seen of a DA in Midwifery, with Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent.   

Background (updated)

Since the first ‘lockdown’ started on Monday 23rd March 2020 I have kept a record of all new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies posted in England, largely using data I extract every week from the government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website, but also using the UCAS Career Finder pages to pick up a few of the larger employers who don’t use the government site.  

I exclude any vacancies that I would consider wholly unsuitable for an 18/19-year-old school or college leaver. I take a liberal approach to doing this, because in my experience some 18/19 year-olds have levels of confidence, gained for example from significant part-time or voluntary work experience, that would enable them to compete for those apprenticeship that are ideally seeking slightly older applicants. However, I draw the line at any vacancies for which a school or college leaver is likely to be disqualified.

I’ve been compiling 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 occupational and regional analyses. When recording multiple vacancies posted by some of the larger employers, I do now use an element of editorial licence. In most cases I record precise information on numbers and locations, but in some cases I have to make educated estimates based on data and patterns I have noted in previous years. Therefore, the figures I present each week will never accurately compare like with like. However, the broad trends and occupational and regional breakdowns still provide some powerful LMI that I find immensely useful in guidance. And I know some colleagues do too.   

Headline data

During the latest week, from 26th to 30th October, I recorded:

  • 105 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 131 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 32 weeks prior to lockdown (12th August 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 3,603 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,087 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,690 and an average of 178 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 32 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 30th October 2020) I have recorded 1,725 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 1,691 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 3,416 and an average of 107 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 40.0% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown. This is drastic in one sense but, as my regular readers will know, it reflects a continuous improvement compared with the situation that prevailed throughout the summer and the recent upswing has once again been sustained.

Updated regional analysis

I find the evolving regional breakdown both useful and fascinating. The data is broken down by county, with every county in England represented, and also by region. The figures for the different segments of Yorkshire and also for East/West Sussex are combined together and Gloucestershire includes all Bristol vacancies north of the River Avon, which is why it might appear to be punching slightly above its weight.

The 3,416 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (814)
  • Yorkshire (461)
  • Greater Manchester (195)
  • West Midlands (179)
  • Hampshire (152)
  • Gloucestershire (143)
  • Surrey (94)
  • Essex (86)
  • Berkshire (85)
  • Merseyside (82)
  • Sussex (79)
  • Hertfordshire (72)
  • Dorset (71)
  • Lancashire (69)
  • Wiltshire (66)
  • County Durham (64)
  • Tyne & Wear (62)
  • Nottinghamshire (57)
  • Cheshire (52)
  • Cambridgeshire (52)
  • Warwickshire (45)
  • Northamptonshire (44)
  • Devon (41)
  • Suffolk (39)
  • Kent (36)
  • Leicestershire (35)
  • Buckinghamshire (30)
  • Somerset (30)
  • Norfolk (25)
  • Bedfordshire (25)
  • Staffordshire (24)
  • Derbyshire (20)
  • Oxfordshire (20)
  • Cumbria (17)
  • Lincolnshire (12)
  • Worcestershire (12)
  • Shropshire (11)
  • Cornwall (4)
  • Northumberland (3)
  • Herefordshire (2)
  • Isle of Wight (0)
  • 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 differences in apprenticeship numbers are not as disproportionate as they might appear.

  • 814 London (8.9)
  • 496 South East (9.1)
  • 461 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 415 North West (7.3)
  • 355 South West (5.6)
  • 299 East of England (6.2)
  • 273 West Midlands (5.9)
  • 168 East Midlands (4.8)
  • 129 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 from the official apprenticeship standards terminology. Since lockdown, the complete lists of occupational areas represented in each category are given below. In my view, this provides a fascinating insight into what the emerging occupations are in a changing landscape.

Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 1,725 new vacancies spread across 50 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

396 Digital Technology Solutions (*see below for occupations covered)

325 Police Constables

215 Accountancy or Tax Specialists

  97 Chartered Management (general)

  65 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  55 Design & Development Engineers

  47 Civil Engineers

  41 Data Scientists & Analysts

  40 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  39 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  34 Cyber Security Analysts

  31 Retail Management

  29 Financial Services 

  25 Construction Management

  24 Project Management

  22 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  20 Food Technologists/Engineers

  18 Digital Marketing Professionals

  17 Manufacturing Management        

  15 Control Engineers

  14 Healthcare Science Practitioners (*see below for details)

  14 Sales Professionals

  13 Aerospace Engineers

  12 Laboratory Scientists

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  10 Adult Nursing 

  10 Economists

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    9 Manufacturing Engineers

    6 Building Services Design Engineers

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    6 Town Planners

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Clinical Trials Specialists

    5 Environmental Management Practitioners

    5 Human Resources Professionals  

    5 Packaging Technologists

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Creative Digital Designers   

    3 Marketing Management

    3 Nuclear Engineers

    2 Automotive Engineers

    2 Materials Scientists

    1 Geospatial Mapping Surveyor

    1 Midwife

    1 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Specialist

    1 Podiatrist

    1 Solicitor

    1 Visual Merchandiser

*Digital Technology Solutions has encompassed the following specialisms and in many cases apprentices are able to sample multiple areas:

  • Software Engineering (which is by far the most prominent), Software Development, Network Engineering, Data Science, Data Analytics, Data Architecture & Integration, Cyber & Information Security, Software Consultancy, Solution Engineering & Development, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Technology Operations & Service Delivery, Infrastructure Specialists, IT Technical Support, Software Testing, Junior Product Management, Digital Transformation Engineering, and Building Information Modelling (BIM).

*Healthcare Science Practitioners has encompassed the following specialisms:

  • Cardiac Physiology, Neurophysiology, Biomedical Science, Radiation Engineering, and Digital Healthcare.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 1,691 new vacancies spread across 55 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa (the same salary range as DAs). The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

210 Software Developers 

179 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

128 Sales Executives

127 Project Management Associates

100 Data Analysts

  78 Policy Officers

  70 Investment Operations

  68 Nursing Associates

  65 Tax Technicians  

  58 Civil Engineering Technician

  56 Software Testers 

  47 Network Engineers

  46 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  37 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  34 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Regulatory Compliance / Trading Standards Officers

  31 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  29 Technician Scientists

  28 Commercial Buyers & Supply Chain Specialists

  24 Business Analysts 

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  21 Public Relations Assistants  

  20 Quantity Surveying Technicians

  17 Construction Site Technicians/Supervisors

  15 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Building Services Engineering Technicians

    9 Digital Marketing Executives

    9 Investment Consultants

    7 Housing & Property Management

    7 Human Resources Practitioners

    7 Mineral Products Technicians

    7 Retail Management

    6 Brewers

    6 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    6 Insurance Professionals

    6 Operations Managers   

    5 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    5 Formula One Automotive Engineering Technicians

    5 Hospitality Management

    5 Internal Auditors

    4 DevOps Engineers

    4 Food Technologists

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    4 Social Care Leaders

    3 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    3 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    2 Marketing Executives

    2 Nuclear Technicians

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Revenue & Benefits Officer    

    1 School Business Professional

    1 Sports Development Officer   

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

All being well, there will be a further update next week. I’m sorry to say that I’m putting my money on the upward trajectory being reversed, but I hope to be proven wrong.   

© Alan Bullock, 1/11/2020

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