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

Headline news and latest reflections

To help launch National Apprenticeship Week, it’s great to be able to post yet another positive update about the number of new DAs and HAs.  

I’ve been publishing these weekly blogs almost continuously since mid-May 2020 (this is the 37th in the series) and it was back on 1st June 2020, 10 weeks after England first locked down, that the downturn in new DA and HA vacancies hit a devastating 80%. The situation continued to wobble until the end of July, but since then I’ve recorded a gradual but almost continuous improvement, from -77.1% then to -17.4% now. The only blip, unsurprisingly, was Christmas week. I’m the first to emphasise that my data and methods are not official, nor even reliable, but on the other hand I do try to present an honest picture. And that picture is a lot rosier now than I would ever have predicted six months ago.

Week 46 saw some prominent activity amongst employers like Santander, Amazon and Aviva and minimum starting salaries ranged from £7,986 to a somewhat staggering £30,000. Greater London had a very good week with 60 new vacancies, while it was the turn of Devon, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk to punch above their weight with 18 new vacancies in Plymouth (all with Babcock), 10 in Cambridge (with Amazon, AstraZeneca and Bridge Partners) and 9 in Norwich (all with Aviva). This explains my obscure choice of image, which this week is a photo I took in Devon a couple of years ago.

Out of interest, the 37 vacancies in Plymouth, Cambridge and Norwich comprised 10 Electrical Engineers, 8 Naval Architects (one of this week’s ‘new entries’), 6 Software Engineers, 4 Technician Scientists, 3 Software Developers. 2 Digital Technology Solutions, 1 Software Tester and 1 DevOps Engineer. These occupations tell a story of their own, which I touch on in a new series of remote talks that I’ve started giving for schools and colleges.


Since the first ‘lockdown’ started on Monday 23rd March 2020, I’ve 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 1st to 5th February, I recorded:

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

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

  • In the 46 weeks prior to lockdown (6th May 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,417 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,121 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,538 and an average of 164 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 46 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 5th February 2021) I have recorded 3,481 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,746 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,227 and an average of 135 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 17.4% 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 reached 80%.

Updated regional analysis

My evolving regional data is broken down by county and region and every county in England is represented. The 6,227 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,490)
  • Yorkshire (608)
  • West Midlands (427)
  • Greater Manchester (343)
  • Hampshire (249)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (243)
  • Berkshire (219)
  • Surrey (196)
  • Lancashire (171)
  • Hertfordshire (157)
  • Tyne & Wear (155)
  • Nottinghamshire (141)
  • Merseyside (133)
  • Cumbria (126)
  • Cheshire (115)
  • Suffolk (107)
  • Sussex (99)
  • Cambridgeshire (98)
  • Essex (98)
  • Dorset (84)
  • County Durham (82)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Wiltshire (80)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (79)
  • Devon (75)
  • Northamptonshire (60)
  • Staffordshire (58)
  • Kent (58)
  • Bedfordshire (55)
  • Buckinghamshire (53)
  • Derbyshire (49)
  • Oxfordshire (49)
  • Leicestershire (48)
  • Norfolk (41)
  • Lincolnshire (23)
  • Shropshire (20)
  • Worcestershire (19)
  • Isle of Wight (17)
  • Cornwall (8)
  • Northumberland (4)
  • Herefordshire (4)
  • Not specified (6) 

The following list shows how those stats add up regionally. In brackets I’ve included 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.  

  • 1,490   London (8,962,000: 1.663)
  •    940   South East (9,180,000: 1.024)
  •    888   North West (7,341,000: 1.210)
  •    608   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.105)
  •    608   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.025)
  •    569   South West (5,625,000: 1.012)
  •    556   East of England (6,236,000: 0.892)
  •    321   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.664)
  •    241   North East (2,670,000: 0.903)
  •        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 in March 2020, 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 3,481 new vacancies spread across 75 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

521 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

266 Software Engineers

196 Project Management

189 Chartered Management (general)

145 Civil Engineers

110 Data Scientists & Analysts

108 Product Design & Development Engineers

  94 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  82 Aerospace Engineers

  72 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  65 Cyber Security Specialists

  59 Food Technology & Production

  55 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  53 Professional Economists 

  51 Logistics & Supply Chain Professionals

  51 Network Engineers

  48 Financial Services Professionals

  39 Digital Marketing Professionals

  34 Manufacturing Engineers

  33 Construction Management

  33 Sales & Business Development Professionals

  31 Retail Management

  30 Control Engineers

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  24 Laboratory Scientists

  23 Nuclear Engineers

  21 Railway Engineers

  15 Building Services Design Engineers

  15 Solicitors

  14 Automotive Engineers

  12 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  12 Environmental Practitioners

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    9 Packaging Professionals

    8 Clinical Trials Specialists

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Gas Turbine Propulsion Engineers

    8 Town Planners

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Chemical Engineers

    6 Creative Digital Designers   

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    6 Human Resources Professionals  

    6 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    5 Operations Analysts

    4 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    4 Marketing Management

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Diagnostic Radiographers

    3 Transport Planners

    2 Electro-Mechanical Engineers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Occupational Therapists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Agricultural Adviser

    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:  

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 Development, Project Management, Technology Management, Technology Operations & Service Delivery, Technology Architecture, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, 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 Engineering. (The list just keeps on growing.)

Many DTS vacancies allow apprentices to sample multiple areas while others don’t clearly specify an area. In each of those cases I record it as DTS. However, if a DTS vacancy does clearly specify which area (such as Software Engineering), then I record it as such.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 2,746 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: 

341 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

294 Software Developers 

206 Data Analysts

197 Sales/Business Development Executives

193 Project Management Associates

115 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

102 Tax Technicians

  90 Investment Operations/Consulting

  85 Buying, Procurement & Merchandising

  78 Policy Officers

  69 Nursing Associates

  68 Software Testers 

  66 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  63 Insurance Professionals

  62 Network Engineers

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  54 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  49 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  48 Technician Scientists

  47 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  44 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  42 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  33 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  33 Business Analysts 

  29 Public Relations Assistants  

  20 Human Resources Practitioners     

  16 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  16 Nuclear Technicians

  14 Digital Marketing Executives

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 DevOps Engineers

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  11 Marketing Assistants

  10 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    8 Automation & Control Engineers

    8 Housing & Property Management

    8 Naval Architects

    7 Brewers

    7 Internal Auditors

    7 Logistics & Supply Chain Specialists

    7 Mineral Products Technicians

    7 Retail Management

    6 Operations Management   

    5 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    5 Hospitality Management

    5 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    4 Actuarial Technicians

    4 Hygiene Specialists

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    4 Quality Practitioners

    4 Social Care Leaders

    3 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    2 Paralegals

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Facilities Management

    1 Improvement Practitioner

    1 Intelligence Analyst

    1 Lighting Designer

    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 weekend and have already noted 30 new Engineering DA vacancies in Bristol – and it’s not even Monday yet! So hopefully there will be another positive news story to brighten the gloom next week too.   

© Alan Bullock, 7/2/2021

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