35 weeks after the start of ‘lockdown’: very good news about the impact of COVID-19 on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

Headline news

This was by far the best week since the country first locked down in March, especially for Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships which were more than 500% up on the previous post-lockdown weekly average. EY, Jaguar Land Rover, Ove Arup & Partners and Mott MacDonald led the way by posting multiple vacancies in various parts of England for their 2021 intakes. It was an especially good week for the West Midlands.

There have also been a few minor adjustments to my previous statistics, as a result of obtaining precise data to replace estimates I had made in recent weeks. However, I’m pleased to say that my estimates had been remarkably accurate, albeit erring slightly on the side of caution.   


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 keeping an eye on the UCAS Career Finder and Rate My Apprenticeship sites, which enables me to pick up vacancies posted by those larger employers who don’t necessarily 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. Usually I record precise information on numbers and locations, but in a few cases I have made 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, as the picture develops week on week, the broad trends and occupational and regional breakdowns provide some powerful LMI that I and others continue to find immensely useful in guidance.

Headline data

During the latest week, from 16th to 20th November, I recorded:

  • 310 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 69 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 35 weeks prior to lockdown (22nd July 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 3,790 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,296 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,086 and an average of 174 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 35 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 20th November 2020) I have recorded 2,267 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 1,976 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 4,243 and an average of 121 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 30.3% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown. Whilst still not good news overall, it’s a huge improvement on the situation in the summer and for the first time the overall drop in vacancies is now less than one third.   

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 a small number of cases however, when big companies have posted 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 it only marginally skews the overall figures.     

The 4,243 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,065)
  • Yorkshire (505)
  • West Midlands (341)
  • Greater Manchester (282)
  • Gloucestershire (182)
  • Hampshire (170)
  • Berkshire (124)
  • Tyne & Wear (99)
  • Surrey (96)
  • Nottinghamshire (94)
  • Essex (90)
  • Hertfordshire (85)
  • Merseyside (84)
  • Sussex (81)
  • Dorset (75)
  • Lancashire (70)
  • Wiltshire (66)
  • County Durham (65)
  • Cambridgeshire (65)
  • Cheshire (59)
  • Warwickshire (46)
  • Northamptonshire (46)
  • Suffolk (44)
  • Devon (44)
  • Leicestershire (43)
  • Bedfordshire (42)
  • Kent (39)
  • Buckinghamshire (37)
  • Somerset (37)
  • Norfolk (30)
  • Staffordshire (24)
  • Oxfordshire (23)
  • Derbyshire (21)
  • Cumbria (18)
  • Lincolnshire (12)
  • Shropshire (12)
  • Worcestershire (12)
  • 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.

  • 1,065 London (8.9)
  •    570 South East (9.1)
  •    513 North West (7.3)
  •    505 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  •    437 West Midlands (5.9)
  •    408 South West (5.6)
  •    356 East of England (6.2)
  •    216 East Midlands (4.8)
  •    167 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 2,267 new vacancies spread across 59 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

475 Accountancy or Tax Specialists

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

325 Police Constables

132 Chartered Management (general)

114 Software Engineers

  73 Design, Development & Mechanical Engineers

  72 Civil Engineers

  68 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  66 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  63 Data Scientists & Analysts

  40 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  39 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  36 Cyber Security Analysts

  33 Construction Management

  31 Retail Management

  29 Financial Services 

  26 Project Management

  25 Control Engineers

  25 Manufacturing/Production Management        

  20 Aerospace Engineers

  20 Food Technologists/Engineers

  18 Digital Marketing Professionals

  16 Manufacturing Engineers

  16 Sales Professionals

  12 Building Services Design Engineers

  12 Economists

  12 Laboratory Scientists

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  10 Adult Nursing 

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    8 Environmental Practitioners

    8 Town Planners

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Clinical Trials Specialists

    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 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Materials Scientists     

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Building Information Modelling Specialist (BIM)

    1 Chartered Legal Executive   

    1 Digital Healthcare Specialist

    1 Digital Transformation Engineer

    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 and Junior Product Management.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 1,976 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: 

255 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

230 Software Developers 

150 Project Management Associates

134 Sales Executives

118 Data Analysts

101 Tax Technicians  

  78 Policy Officers

  71 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  70 Investment Operations

  69 Nursing Associates

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  57 Software Testers 

  51 Network Engineers

  47 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  36 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  36 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  30 Business Analysts 

  30 Quantity Surveying Technicians

  30 Technician Scientists

  29 Commercial Buyers & Supply Chain Specialists 

  29 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  24 Public Relations Assistants  

  23 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  15 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Digital Marketing Executives

  11 Human Resources Practitioners

    9 Investment Consultants

    7 Brewers

    7 Housing & Property Management

    7 Mineral Products Technicians

    7 Retail Management

    6 Automotive Engineering Technicians

    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 Marketing Executives

    4 Social Care Leaders

    3 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    3 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    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, 22/11/2020

With degree apprenticeships in Civil Engineering featuring prominently this week, thanks go to @lucaonniboni and unsplash.com for the header photo of one of my favourite viaducts, the Viaduc de Millau in France. Its design team was co-led by British architect Norman Foster and French engineer Michel Virlogeux. Be inspired!

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