44 weeks after the start of ‘Lockdown 1’: good news about the impact of COVID-19 on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

Headline news and latest reflections

I’m happy to say that the positive upward trend has resumed and the post-coronavirus reduction in vacancies has narrowed even more to a record 19.3%. It’s cheering news and, with this being the 34th in my series of blogs on the same topic, it has got to a stage where good news makes a difference to my morale. I sense that a few of my readers feel like that too, given the challenges everyone is faced with and how much we care about opportunities for school and college leavers.  

In total I recorded 213 new vacancies in Week 44, with the biggest beneficiaries being Greater London, Berkshire, West Midlands and Tyne & Wear. The latter included opportunities in Gateshead and Sunderland as well as Newcastle, which is the tenuous reason for selecting this week’s image which is a photo I took looking across the Tyne from the Gateshead side.


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, whilst 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; 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 occasionally 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 18th to 22nd January, I recorded:

  • 134 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 79 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 44 weeks prior to lockdown (20th May 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,307 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,967 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,274 and an average of 165 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 44 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 22nd January 2021) I have recorded 3,282 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,588 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 5,870 and an average of 133 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 19.3% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, which continues to be a dramatic improvement on the dire situation that prevailed during the spring and early-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. After a small adjustment this week, the 5,870 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,382)
  • Yorkshire (593)
  • West Midlands (408)
  • Greater Manchester (307)
  • Hampshire (245)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (231)
  • Berkshire (207)
  • Surrey (195)
  • Lancashire (165)
  • Hertfordshire (153)
  • Tyne & Wear (134)
  • Nottinghamshire (133)
  • Merseyside (130)
  • Cumbria (125)
  • Cheshire (104)
  • Suffolk (104)
  • Essex (96)
  • Sussex (92)
  • Cambridgeshire (88)
  • Dorset (84)
  • Warwickshire (78)
  • County Durham (76)
  • Wiltshire (76)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (68)
  • Northamptonshire (60)
  • Staffordshire (58)
  • Devon (57)
  • Kent (55)
  • Bedfordshire (53)
  • Buckinghamshire (52)
  • Derbyshire (47)
  • Leicestershire (46)
  • Oxfordshire (43)
  • Norfolk (32)
  • Lincolnshire (20)
  • Shropshire (18)
  • Worcestershire (17)
  • Isle of Wight (17)
  • Cornwall (8)
  • Northumberland (4)
  • Herefordshire (3)
  • Not specified (6) 

The following list shows how those stats add up regionally. In brackets I’ve added the total population of each region using the latest ONS data rounded to the nearest 1,000, 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. As a way of quantifying this a little further, I’ve added an extra stat in bold which indexes the apprenticeship figures against the total population of each region. In effect, the index equals the number of DAs and HAs so far this year per 10,000 of total population.  

  • 1,382   London (8,962,000: 1.542)
  •    906   South East (9,180,000: 0.987)
  •    831   North West (7,341,000: 1.132)
  •    593   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.078)
  •    582   West Midlands (5,934,000: 0.981)
  •    526   East of England (6,236,000: 0.843)
  •    524   South West (5,625,000: 0.932)
  •    306   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.633)
  •    214   North East (2,670,000: 0.801)
  •        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 the start of ‘Lockdown 1’ 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 3,282 new vacancies spread across 73 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

517 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

227 Software Engineers

187 Chartered Management (general)

187 Project Management

129 Civil Engineers

107 Product Design & Development Engineers

  99 Data Scientists & Analysts

  94 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  82 Aerospace Engineers

  70 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  59 Food Technology & Production

  55 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists

  51 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  51 Network Engineers

  44 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  38 Digital Marketing Professionals

  33 Construction Management

  31 Retail Management

  30 Control Engineers

  30 Manufacturing Engineers

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  29 Financial Services Professionals

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  27 Sales Professionals

  22 Laboratory Scientists

  20 Nuclear Engineers

  17 Railway Engineers

  15 Building Services Design Engineers

  14 Automotive Engineers

  12 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Solicitors

    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 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    4 Marketing Management

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Diagnostic Radiographers

    2 Electro-Mechanical Engineers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Occupational Therapists

    2 Tax Technologists

    2 Transport Planners

    1 Assistant Buyer

    1 Building Information Modelling Specialist (BIM)

    1 Chartered Legal Executive   

    1 Digital Healthcare Specialist

    1 Digital Transformation Engineer

    1 Human Performance Engineer 

    1 Learning Technologies 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. They are either not specified in the vacancy posting, or 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 Engineering, Business Systems Developer, Project Management, Technology Management, Technology Operations & Service Delivery, Technology Architecture, Innovation Technologist, Infrastructure Specialist, Solution Engineering & Development, Junior Product Management, User Experience Researcher, Innovation Design Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Agile Analyst, Content Analyst, Scientific Computing Specialist, Amazon Web Services, Client Delivery, DevOps and Cloud. (The list just keeps on growing!)

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 2,588 new vacancies spread across 68 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: 

332 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

277 Software Developers 

193 Data Analysts

187 Sales Executives

185 Project Management Associates

110 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

102 Tax Technicians

  87 Investment Operations/Consulting

  78 Policy Officers

  69 Nursing Associates

  67 Software Testers 

  63 Insurance Professionals

  61 Network Engineers

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  54 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  54 Commercial Procurement & Supply Specialists

  46 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  45 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  44 Technician Scientists

  40 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  34 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  33 Business Analysts 

  29 Public Relations Assistants  

  25 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  22 Buying & Merchandising (Fashion/Homewares)

  16 Nuclear Technicians

  15 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  14 Digital Marketing Executives

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Human Resources Practitioners     

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  11 DevOps Engineers

  11 Food Technology/Engineering/Production

    9 Marketing Assistants

    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 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    6 Operations Management   

    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 Counter Fraud Investigators

    2 Paralegals

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Facilities Management

    1 Intelligence Analyst

    1 Lettings Negotiator

    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

I intend to post another update next week.    

© Alan Bullock, 23/1/2021

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