48 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England continue to do well

Headline news and latest reflections

My positive news story keeps on delivering, with HAs performing especially well this week and DAs holding up very nicely too.

‘Career of the Week’ without a shadow of a doubt was Project Management Associates with 58 new vacancies. 30 of these were spread across the country with Highways England, specifically in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bedford, Guildford, Gravesend and Tilbury, whilst 15 were in the capital with Transport for London. Hence my choice of image this week, which is a photo I took in London with a kind of transport and highways theme.

As ever, a glance through my regional and occupational analyses will give you the latest picture of how the land lies nationally. Vacancies continue to be distributed widely across England and even some of the least prolific counties, namely Herefordshire, Shropshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire, all showed up this week with 10 new vacancies between them. That said, Greater London does predominate somewhat, and my attempt to compare the regional figures by population reflects that.

In terms of occupations, the usual suspects at the top end of my lists tend to be prominent week after week, but it’s always interesting to see others that crop up occasionally but which are rarely if ever asked about. For example, this week’s DAs included 5 Packaging Professionals and 3 Digital UX Designers and amongst others there was also a Clinical Neurophysiologist and an Environmental Practitioner. In addition, Mishcon de Reya LLP posted 6 Solicitor vacancies in London partnering with The University of Law. It’s a 6-year programme on a starting salary of £20,000 plus numerous staff benefits and with an October 2021 start. I doubt that applicants will be in short supply, although they will need to be very driven.


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 15th to 19th February, I recorded:

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

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

  • In the 48 weeks prior to lockdown (22nd April 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,527 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,275 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,802 and an average of 163 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 48 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 19th February 2021) I have recorded 3,772 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,020 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 6,792 and an average of 142 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 13.0% 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 of 2020 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 6,792 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,624)
  • Yorkshire (652)
  • West Midlands (446)
  • Greater Manchester (370)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (301)
  • Hampshire (254)
  • Berkshire (229)
  • Surrey (202)
  • Hertfordshire (180)
  • Lancashire (174)
  • Tyne & Wear (159)
  • Suffolk (157)
  • Nottinghamshire (147)
  • Merseyside (138)
  • Cheshire (132)
  • Cumbria (130)
  • Cambridgeshire (108)
  • Essex (107)
  • Sussex (105)
  • Wiltshire (95)
  • County Durham (94)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (89)
  • Devon (88)
  • Dorset (86)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Kent (71)
  • Northamptonshire (65)
  • Bedfordshire (65)
  • Oxfordshire (61)
  • Buckinghamshire (59)
  • Staffordshire (58)
  • Leicestershire (56)
  • Derbyshire (53)
  • Norfolk (41)
  • Worcestershire (26)
  • Lincolnshire (25)
  • Shropshire (24)
  • Isle of Wight (17)
  • Cornwall (8)
  • Herefordshire (6)
  • Northumberland (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. Crude maybe, but quite useful nonetheless I think.  

  • 1,624   London (8,962,000: 1.812)
  •    998   South East (9,180,000: 1.087)
  •    944   North West (7,341,000: 1.286)
  •    667   South West (5,625,000: 1.186)
  •    658   East of England (6,236,000: 1.042)
  •    652   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.185)
  •    640   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.079)
  •    346   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.715)
  •    257   North East (2,670,000: 0.963)
  •        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 3,772 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: 

542 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

297 Software Engineers

215 Project Management

189 Chartered Management (general)

157 Civil Engineers

119 Data Scientists & Analysts

110 Product Design & Development Engineers

105 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  78 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  75 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  72 Network Engineers

  69 Food Technology & Production

  67 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  48 Financial Services Professionals

  40 Digital Marketing Professionals

  37 Control Engineers

  37 Laboratory Scientists

  37 Manufacturing Engineers

  35 Construction Management

  34 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  33 Nuclear Engineers

  31 Retail Management

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  28 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  21 Solicitors

  20 Building Services Design Engineers

  15 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  14 Automotive Engineers

  14 Packaging Professionals

  13 Environmental Practitioners

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    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 Clinical Physiologists (Neurophysiology)

    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 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, which are either not specified in the vacancy or 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 3,020 new vacancies spread across 71 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: 

358 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

325 Software Developers 

260 Project Management Associates

221 Data Analysts

202 Sales/Business Development Executives

135 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

  96 Investment Operations Specialists

  80 Policy Officers

  75 Network Engineers

  74 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  70 Software Testers 

  69 Nursing Associates

  67 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  63 Insurance Professionals

  59 Technician Scientists

  58 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  49 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  49 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  46 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  45 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  39 Business Analysts 

  38 Junior Management Consultants

  33 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  33 Public Relations Assistants  

  30 Human Resources Partners     

  28 Buying and Merchandising Specialists

  16 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  16 Nuclear Technicians

  14 Digital Marketing Executives

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  13 Actuarial Technicians

  13 Mineral Products 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 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 Improvement Practitioners

    2 Paralegals

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Chemical Process Technician

    1 Facilities Management

    1 Digital Communities Management

    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, 21/2/2021

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