47 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England soar in National Apprenticeship Week

Headline news and latest reflections

Over 350 new DA and HA vacancies were posted as the upward trend continued unabated during National Apprenticeship Week. #NAW2021 certainly came up with the goods!

Whilst Greater London continued to be the most prolific hub with 70 new vacancies, the regions that stood out for punching above their weight were Suffolk with 49 new vacancies, all of them in the Ipswich area, and Gloucestershire with 48 new vacancies, mostly in Bristol but also including 6 in rustic Wotton-under-Edge.

One of the mildly reassuring messages I’ve drawn from compiling the data for my weekly blog over the past 11 months is that there’s a wider and more even regional spread of vacancies than I would have expected. Suffolk is a case in point and, specifically, it was BT’s Adastral Park site in Martlesham Heath that was responsible for 48 of the 49 vacancies in the county this week. Consequently, my choice of image, for the second time, is another photo I took last February of the River Deben after giving a talk in nearby Woodbridge.

All 48 vacancies at BT were in Digital, mostly Software or Network Engineering, and this leads me to draw attention to my occupational data, which I think becomes increasingly more interesting as each week passes. On the one hand it clearly shows how fields like Digital are especially prominent, but I also find those occupations with lower numbers quite intriguing, as they help to show us what’s out there in a changing careers landscape.   

Background

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 8th to 12th February, I recorded:

  • 212 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 142 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 47 weeks prior to lockdown (29th April 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,472 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,198 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,670 and an average of 163 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 47 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 12th February 2021) I have recorded 3,693 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 2,888 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,581 and an average of 140 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 14.2% 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 6,581 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,560)
  • Yorkshire (636)
  • West Midlands (437)
  • Greater Manchester (355)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (291)
  • Hampshire (252)
  • Berkshire (228)
  • Surrey (196)
  • Lancashire (174)
  • Hertfordshire (173)
  • Tyne & Wear (157)
  • Suffolk (156)
  • Nottinghamshire (146)
  • Merseyside (137)
  • Cumbria (129)
  • Cheshire (123)
  • Cambridgeshire (106)
  • Sussex (103)
  • Essex (99)
  • Wiltshire (95)
  • County Durham (89)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (87)
  • Devon (86)
  • Dorset (85)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Northamptonshire (65)
  • Kent (63)
  • Staffordshire (58)
  • Buckinghamshire (56)
  • Bedfordshire (55)
  • Leicestershire (53)
  • Derbyshire (52)
  • Oxfordshire (52)
  • Norfolk (41)
  • Lincolnshire (23)
  • Shropshire (22)
  • Worcestershire (22)
  • 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 post-lockdown per 10,000 of total population.  

  • 1,560   London (8,962,000: 1.741)
  •    967   South East (9,180,000: 1.053)
  •    918   North West (7,341,000: 1.251)
  •    652   South West (5,625,000: 1.159)
  •    636   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.156)
  •    630   East of England (6,236,000: 1.010)
  •    623   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.050)
  •    339   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.701)
  •    250   North East (2,670,000: 0.936)
  •        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 3,693 new vacancies spread across 76 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

539 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

462 Digital Technology Solutions (general – *see below for details)

325 Police Constables

294 Software Engineers

212 Project Management

189 Chartered Management (general)

152 Civil Engineers

114 Data Scientists & Analysts

108 Product Design & Development Engineers

100 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  73 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  73 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  72 Network Engineers

  69 Food Technology & Production

  67 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  65 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  48 Financial Services Professionals

  39 Digital Marketing Professionals

  35 Manufacturing Engineers

  34 Control Engineers

  34 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  33 Construction Management

  33 Nuclear Engineers

  31 Retail Management

  31 Laboratory Scientists

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  28 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  17 Building Services Design Engineers

  15 Solicitors

  14 Automotive Engineers

  12 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  12 Environmental Practitioners

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    9 Packaging Professionals

    8 Chemical Engineers

    8 Clinical Trials Specialists

    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 Operations Analysts

    4 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    4 Marketing Management

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Diagnostic Radiographers

    3 Transport Planners

    2 Agricultural Advisers

    2 Electro-Mechanical Engineers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Internal Auditors

    2 Neurophysiologists

    2 Occupational Therapists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Assistant Buyer

    1 Building Information Modelling Specialist (BIM)

    1 Charity Management

    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 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 several of them:  

Software Engineering, Software Development, Software Testing, Network Engineering, Data Science, Data Analytics, Data Architecture & Integration, Network Architecture, 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, Platform Management, 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, Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition, Fixed Telecommunications. (The list keeps on growing.)

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 2,888 new vacancies spread across 70 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: 

349 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

313 Software Developers 

218 Data Analysts

202 Project Management Associates

202 Sales/Business Development Executives

133 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

102 Tax Technicians

  90 Investment Operations/Consulting

  86 Buying, Procurement & Merchandising

  79 Policy Officers

  73 Network Engineers

  72 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  69 Nursing Associates

  68 Software Testers 

  63 Insurance Professionals

  58 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  58 Technician Scientists

  49 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  48 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  46 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  43 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  33 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  33 Business Analysts 

  30 Public Relations Assistants  

  26 Human Resources Practitioners     

  16 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  16 Nuclear Technicians

  14 Digital Marketing Executives

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  13 Actuarial Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 DevOps Engineers

  12 Marketing Assistants

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  10 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    9 Automation & Control Engineers

    9 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 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 Digital Communities 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 further weekly updates, at least up until Week 52.

© Alan Bullock, 14/2/2021

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