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

Headline news

Yet again I’ve got a positive news story to report, with another interesting spread of new vacancies from both a regional and occupational perspective. The gap between the pre-lockdown and post-lockdown figures has closed even more, although one aspect that might be worth future analysis is the proportion of new vacancies that are STEM-related.

It’s intriguing to scan the job titles in my two occupational lists and this week’s new entries include a Visual Impairment Rehabilitation Officer, Lighting Designer, Intelligence Analyst, three Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians and a Human Performance Engineer.  

Meanwhile, this week’s regional hotspot was Warwick Technology Park, with 19 new vacancies posted by the National Grid. That’s the obscure reason behind this week’s image, which I took myself in Warwick after a speaking engagement in 2015.

Updated background

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, while also keeping an eye on other national vacancy sources. The audience I write for is the school/college-leaver market and those who advise them and I therefore exclude any vacancies that I consider wholly unsuitable for 18/19-year-olds seeking their first permanent role.

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. I usually record precise information on numbers and locations, but in a few cases I’ve made educated, conservative estimates based on data and patterns I’ve noted in previous years. I also adjust these retrospectively if updated data comes to light.

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 can be immensely useful in guidance.

Headline data

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

  • 128 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 96 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 39 weeks prior to lockdown (24th June 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,032 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,582 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,614 and an average of 170 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 39 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 19th December 2020) I have recorded 2,940 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,319 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,259 and an average of 135 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 20.5% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, but that figure continues to show a dramatic and ongoing improvement on the dire situation that prevailed during the spring and summer.    

Updated regional analysis

My evolving regional data is broken down by county and region and every county in England is represented. 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 5,259 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,243)
  • Yorkshire (566)
  • West Midlands (377)
  • Greater Manchester (317)
  • Hampshire (232)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (223)
  • Berkshire (157)
  • Lancashire (150)
  • Surrey (145)
  • Hertfordshire (131)
  • Nottinghamshire (127)
  • Cumbria (124)
  • Tyne & Wear (109)
  • Merseyside (106)
  • Suffolk (101)
  • Essex (94)
  • Sussex (85)
  • Dorset (81)
  • Cambridgeshire (74)
  • Wiltshire (70)
  • County Durham (69)
  • Cheshire (67)
  • Warwickshire (66)
  • Northamptonshire (55)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (54)
  • Devon (51)
  • Kent (49)
  • Derbyshire (46)
  • Leicestershire (45)
  • Bedfordshire (43)
  • Buckinghamshire (43)
  • Norfolk (31)
  • Oxfordshire (27)
  • Staffordshire (26)
  • Lincolnshire (16)
  • Isle of Wight (16)
  • Shropshire (14)
  • Worcestershire (13)
  • Cornwall (5)
  • 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 differences in apprenticeship numbers are not as disproportionate as they might appear.

  • 1,243 London (8.9)
  •    764 North West (7.3)
  •    754 South East (9.1)
  •    566 Yorkshire & Humber (5.4)
  •    498 West Midlands (5.9)
  •    484 South West (5.6)
  •    474 East of England (6.2)
  •    289 East Midlands (4.8)
  •    181 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 2,940 new vacancies spread across 70 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

505 Accountancy or Tax Specialists

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

325 Police Constables

203 Software Engineers

166 Project Management

149 Chartered Management (general)

103 Design, Development & Mechanical Engineers

100 Civil Engineers

  84 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  82 Aerospace Engineers

  69 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  69 Data Scientists & Analysts

  55 Food Technology/Food Manufacturing

  50 Cyber Security Specialists

  49 Professional Economists

  45 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  44 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  33 Construction Management

  33 Network Engineers

  31 Retail Management

  29 Financial Services Professionals

  29 Manufacturing Engineers

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (general)        

  27 Sales Professionals

  25 Control Engineers

  25 Digital Marketing Professionals

  20 Nuclear Engineers

  14 Building Services Design Engineers

  14 Laboratory Scientists

  14 Railway Engineers

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  11 Solicitors

  10 Adult Nursing 

  10 Materials Scientists/Technologists

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    8 Clinical Trials Specialists

    8 Environmental Practitioners

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Gas Turbine Propulsion Engineers

    8 Town Planners

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Creative Digital Designers   

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    6 Human Resources Professionals  

    6 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    5 Chemical Engineers

    5 Packaging Technologists

    4 Automotive Engineers

    4 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    4 Marketing Management

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    2 Diagnostic Radiographers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Tax Technologists

    2 Transport Planners

    1 Building Information Modelling Specialist (BIM)

    1 Chartered Legal Executive   

    1 Digital Healthcare Specialist

    1 Digital Transformation Engineer

    1 Human Performance Engineer 

    1 Learning Technology Support Teacher

    1 Marine Engineer

    1 Midwife

    1 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Specialist

    1 Podiatrist

    1 Radiation Engineer (Healthcare)

    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, Software Testing, Network Engineering, Data Science, Data Analytics, Data Architecture & Integration, Cyber & Information Security, IT Consultancy, Software Consultancy, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Systems Engineer, Technology Operations & Service Delivery, Infrastructure Specialists, Solution Engineering & Development and Junior Product Management.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 2,319 new vacancies spread across 66 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: 

277 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

260 Software Developers 

174 Sales Executives

161 Project Management Associates

144 Data Analysts

107 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

101 Tax Technicians  

  78 Policy Officers

  70 Investment Operations

  69 Nursing Associates

  59 Insurance Professionals

  59 Software Testers 

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  55 Network Engineers

  53 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  44 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  42 Commercial Procurement & Supply Specialists

  41 Technician Scientists

  39 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  39 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  32 Business Analysts 

  28 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  25 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  25 Public Relations Assistants  

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Digital Marketing Executives

  12 Human Resources Practitioners     

    9 Investment Consultants

    8 Food Technology/Manufacturing

    8 Marketing Executives

    7 Brewers

    7 DevOps Engineers

    7 Housing & Property Management

    7 Internal Auditors

    7 Logistics & Supply Chain Specialists

    7 Mineral Products Technicians

    7 Retail Management

    6 Automation & Control Engineers

    6 Automotive Engineering Technicians

    6 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    6 Operations Management   

    6 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    5 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    5 Hospitality Management

    4 Actuarial Technicians

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    4 Social Care Leaders

    3 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    3 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    2 Nuclear Technicians

    2 Paralegals

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Hygiene Specialist

    1 Intelligence Analyst

    1 Lighting Designer

    1 Quality Practitioner

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Recruitment Consultant

    1 Rehabilitation Officer (Visual Impairment) 

    1 Revenue & Benefits Officer    

    1 School Business Professional

    1 Sports Development Officer   

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

All being well, I hope to post Week 40 and 41 updates over the Christmas and New Year period for the benefit of those of us who need our data fix. However, I think it’s almost a cast iron certainty that there will be a drop in numbers over the festive period. If not, I will eat my bah humbug hat!

© Alan Bullock, 19/12/2020

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