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

Headline news

It was back to reality this week after a couple of months of recovery. In fact, my gloomy prediction two weeks ago was correct after all, it just took a week longer to materialise. Nonetheless, there are still positives to report. The situation remains significantly better than it was back in the summer, when weekly new DA vacancies were sometimes in single figures. And the occupational trends continue to give a loud message about what the emerging professions are in a changing career landscape.  


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. I largely use data extracted every week from the government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ website and I now back this up by also searching the UCAS Career Finder and Rate My Apprenticeship sites, which enables me to pick up vacancies posted by those larger employers who don’t tend to use the government site. However, I exclude any vacancies that I would consider wholly unsuitable for an 18/19-year-old school or college leaver.

I’ve been compiling similar data since autumn 2018, so each week I compare my 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 use an element of editorial licence. Wherever possible, 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 be fully reliable nor will they ever fully compare like with like. However, in my view, the broad trends and occupational and regional breakdowns still provide some powerful LMI that I and others continue to find immensely useful in guidance.    

Headline data

During the latest week, from 9th to 13th November, I recorded:

  • 40 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 43 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 34 weeks prior to lockdown (29th July 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 3,735 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,219 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,954 and an average of 175 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 34 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 13th November 2020) I have recorded 1,957 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 1,907 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 3,864 and an average of 114 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 35.1% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, the same as last week. However, at least the status quo has been maintained and the significant improvement on the situation that prevailed throughout the spring and early-summer has not been reversed. One other observation is that DAs seem to have taken a bigger hit than HAs.  

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 below this I also break it down by region.

When large employers post multiple vacancies across a range of locations, I make strenuous efforts to identify those locations. In some cases however, when big companies post nationwide vacancies with no indication of where in England they’re distributed, I have used either their head office location or, if applicable, the university city that apprentices will go to for some or all of their off-the-job studies. This is another element of my ‘editorial licence’, but I don’t feel that it skews the figures too drastically.     

The 3,864 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (894)
  • Yorkshire (484)
  • Greater Manchester (272)
  • West Midlands (252)
  • Hampshire (164)
  • Gloucestershire (159)
  • Berkshire (109)
  • Tyne & Wear (94)
  • Surrey (94)
  • Nottinghamshire (92)
  • Essex (90)
  • Merseyside (83)
  • Hertfordshire (82)
  • Sussex (81)
  • Dorset (74)
  • Lancashire (69)
  • Wiltshire (66)
  • County Durham (65)
  • Cambridgeshire (58)
  • Cheshire (56)
  • Warwickshire (46)
  • Northamptonshire (45)
  • Suffolk (44)
  • Leicestershire (42)
  • Devon (42)
  • Buckinghamshire (37)
  • Kent (37)
  • Somerset (37)
  • Bedfordshire (34)
  • Norfolk (27)
  • Staffordshire (24)
  • Oxfordshire (22)
  • Derbyshire (21)
  • Cumbria (18)
  • 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.

  • 894 London (8.9)
  • 544 South East (9.1)
  • 498 North West (7.3)
  • 484 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  • 382 South West (5.6)
  • 347 West Midlands (5.9)
  • 335 East of England (6.2)
  • 212 East Midlands (4.8)
  • 162 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 1,957 new vacancies spread across 56 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

357 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for more details

325 Police Constables

290 Accountancy or Tax Specialists

132 Chartered Management (general)

  95 Software Engineers

  67 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors

  57 Design & Development (Mechanical) Engineers

  56 Data Scientists & Analysts

  50 Civil Engineers

  48 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  39 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  36 Cyber Security Analysts

  31 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  31 Retail Management

  29 Financial Services 

  26 Project Management

  25 Construction Management

  20 Aerospace Engineers

  20 Food Technologists/Engineers

  18 Digital Marketing Professionals

  17 Control Engineers

  17 Manufacturing/Production Management        

  16 Manufacturing Engineers

  14 Sales Professionals

  12 Laboratory Scientists

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  10 Adult Nursing 

  10 Economists

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    7 Building Services Design Engineers

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    6 Town Planners

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Clinical Trials Specialists

    5 Environmental Management Practitioners

    5 Human Resources Professionals  

    5 Nuclear Engineers

    5 Packaging Technologists

    4 Automotive Engineers

    4 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Creative Digital Designers   

    3 Marketing Management

    2 Materials Scientists     

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Digital Healthcare Specialist

    1 Geospatial Mapping Surveyor

    1 Midwife

    1 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Specialist

    1 Podiatrist

    1 Radiation Engineer (Healthcare)

    1 Solicitor

    1 Visual Merchandiser

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

Software Engineering, 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).

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 1,907 new vacancies spread across 57 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: 

250 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

223 Software Developers 

147 Project Management Associates

133 Sales Executives

114 Data Analysts

101 Tax Technicians  

  78 Policy Officers

  70 Investment Operations

  69 Nursing Associates

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  56 Software Testers 

  51 Network Engineers

  46 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  42 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  36 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  35 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  30 Quantity Surveying Technicians

  30 Technician Scientists

  29 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  28 Commercial Buyers & Supply Chain Specialists 

  27 Business Analysts 

  23 Public Relations Assistants  

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  15 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  13 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Digital Marketing Executives

  11 Human Resources Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    7 Housing & Property Management

    7 Mineral Products Technicians

    7 Retail Management

    6 Automotive Engineering Technicians

    6 Brewers

    6 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    6 Insurance Professionals

    6 Operations Management   

    5 Construction Design & Build 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   

    3 Marketing Executives

    2 Nuclear Technicians

    2 Paralegals

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Quality Practitioner

    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.

© Alan Bullock, 14/11/2020

Thanks to Christina @ wocintechchat.com for the header photo, courtesy of my friends at unsplash.com

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