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

Headline news

Contrary to the assumption I made after Week 39, when I confidently predicted that new vacancies would surely dry up in Christmas week, to my amazement they didn’t. A further 178 new higher and degree apprenticeships were posted in Week 40, all between last Monday and Wednesday, so once again my prediction was wrong and I will indeed have to eat my hat.

This time Unilever was the most prominent provider, with 71 new DA and HA vacancies in Bedfordshire, Surrey, Somerset, south west and central London and the Wirral. 25 of these were in Data Analytics, as the relentless surge of digital and other STEM-related occupations continues unabated.    

Amongst the other new vacancies were a couple of scientific laboratory apprenticeships with Pfizer near the east Kent town of Sandwich, one of the five medieval Cinque Ports. That explains this week’s mystery image, which is another photo I took myself when I visited the town in 2015. Also, amongst the various ‘emerging’ occupations, there were three more Hygiene Specialist and two more DevOps Engineer HAs, in north west London and Nottingham respectively.

Meanwhile, my occupational and regional analyses continue to evolve in an intriguing way. See below for the latest picture of what’s out there and how vacancies overall have been distributed across England.  


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 21st to 25th December, I recorded:

  • 108 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 70 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 40 weeks prior to lockdown (17th June 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,087 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,659 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,746 and an average of 169 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 40 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March to 19th December 2020) I have recorded 3,048 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,389 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,437 and an average of 136 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 19.4% 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 when the reduction was close to 80%.

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 5,437 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,283)
  • Yorkshire (575)
  • West Midlands (380)
  • Greater Manchester (318)
  • Hampshire (238)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (223)
  • Surrey (193)
  • Berkshire (158)
  • Lancashire (154)
  • Hertfordshire (132)
  • Nottinghamshire (131)
  • Merseyside (126)
  • Cumbria (124)
  • Tyne & Wear (112)
  • Suffolk (101)
  • Essex (94)
  • Sussex (87)
  • Dorset (81)
  • Cambridgeshire (74)
  • Warwickshire (72)
  • Wiltshire (71)
  • County Durham (69)
  • Cheshire (69)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (58)
  • Northamptonshire (55)
  • Devon (52)
  • Kent (51)
  • Bedfordshire (50)
  • Derbyshire (46)
  • Leicestershire (45)
  • Buckinghamshire (45)
  • Staffordshire (37)
  • Norfolk (31)
  • Oxfordshire (27)
  • 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.

  • 1,283 London (8.9)
  •    815 South East (9.1)
  •    791 North West (7.3)
  •    575 Yorkshire & Humber (7.5)  
  •    518 West Midlands (5.9)
  •    490 South West (5.6)
  •    482 East of England (6.2)
  •    293 East Midlands (4.8)
  •    184 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 3,048 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

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

325 Police Constables

211 Software Engineers

182 Project Management

167 Chartered Management (general)

107 Civil Engineers

103 Design, Development & Mechanical Engineers

  91 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  82 Aerospace Engineers

  79 Data Scientists & Analysts

  70 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  59 Food Technology/Engineering/Production

  57 Cyber Security Specialists

  50 Professional Economists

  46 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  44 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  37 Network Engineers

  33 Construction Management

  33 Digital Marketing Professionals

  31 Retail Management

  29 Financial Services Professionals

  29 Manufacturing Engineers

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  27 Sales Professionals

  25 Control Engineers

  20 Nuclear Engineers

  17 Laboratory Scientists

  14 Building Services Design Engineers

  14 Railway Engineers

  11 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  11 Solicitors

  10 Adult Nursing 

  10 Materials Scientists/Technologists

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    9 Packaging Professionals

    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

    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 Management, Technology Operations & Service Delivery, Infrastructure Specialists, Solution Engineering & Development and Junior Product Management.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 2,389 new vacancies spread across 67 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: 

282 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

260 Software Developers 

175 Project Management Associates

174 Sales Executives

169 Data Analysts

109 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

102 Tax Technicians

  78 Policy Officers

  70 Investment Operations

  69 Nursing Associates

  60 Software Testers 

  59 Insurance Professionals

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  55 Network Engineers

  53 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  46 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  45 Commercial Procurement & Supply Specialists

  41 Technician Scientists

  40 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  39 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  34 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  32 Business Analysts 

  25 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  25 Public Relations Assistants  

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  13 Digital Marketing Executives

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Human Resources Practitioners     

  11 Food Technology/Engineering/Production

    9 DevOps Engineers

    9 Investment Consultants

    8 Marketing Executives

    7 Brewers

    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 Hygiene Specialists

    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 Facilities Management

    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

This has been my 32nd blog on the same topic and I’ve got enough historic data to keep it going in the same format for some while longer. For the last few weeks it’s been a fairly consistent good news story, but once again I would think it unlikely that there will be much if any activity in the week between Christmas and New Year. Therefore, I might give it a miss next week and resume after Week 42. On the other hand, nothing surprises me anymore, so we’ll see.

As for 2021, I’m not exactly optimistic about what lies ahead of us. However, higher and degree apprenticeships in England do seem to have been remarkably resilient in the last three or four months and I hope the positive trend will continue. The unremitting prevalence of digital and STEM-related occupations also seems likely to be a permanent one.        

© Alan Bullock, 27/12/2020

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