50 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England are still holding up

Headline news and latest reflections

It’s been another quite positive week, boosted by the inclusion of vacancies across a range of locations posted by Big Four professional services giant KPMG, with whom I had the pleasure of working back in the days when they were first launching their apprenticeship programmes.

Other highlights included 8 new Clinical Trial Specialist DAs with biopharmaceutical firm Syneos Health in North East Hampshire, 6 Operating Department Practitioner DAs and a further 8 Nursing Associate HAs with BMI Healthcare, and 3 Digital Healthcare Scientist DAs with ORCHA Health in Cheshire.

Personally, I was also pleased to see 6 new Manufacturing Engineering DAs with Superior Seals at their state-of-the art facility on the Ferndown Industrial Estate near Wimborne in Dorset. They make high integrity o-rings and seals, which is not something that would have captured my imagination until I had the good fortune to give a keynote at a 2018 conference jointly run by Dorset LEP, NCS and SUN at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy. One of the workshops that day was run by Tom Vincent, a degree apprentice in Quality Engineering at Superior Seals, who gave a brilliant presentation about his passion for manufacturing o-rings. It was as good an advertisement for Engineering careers as I’ve ever heard and I’ll never forget it. This was Tom in full flow that day, describing an o-ring:  

Meanwhile, the random image accompanying my blog this week is not quite as random as it looks, as it’s a photo I took later that evening as the sun set over nearby Chesil Beach. One of the best things about my career in Careers is all the places it has taken me to and it was my Dorset-based colleague Laura Collins who inspired me to spend the rest of that beautiful day exploring the local area. For that Laura, you get a special mention too.


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 (such as KPMG this week) I’ve made educated, conservative estimates which I adjust retrospectively if more precise 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 March, I recorded:

  • 146 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 56 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 50 weeks prior to lockdown (8th April 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,637 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,429 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,066 and an average of 161 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 50 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 5th March 2021) I have recorded 4,014 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,123 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,137 and an average of 143 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 11.5% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, but it 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%. In reality, the situation has been steadily and almost continuously improving since August 2020, if my data is anything to go by.

Updated regional analysis

My evolving regional data is broken down by county and region and every county in England is represented. The 7,137 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,674)
  • Yorkshire (679)
  • West Midlands (466)
  • Greater Manchester (394)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (317)
  • Hampshire (268)
  • Berkshire (234)
  • Surrey (206)
  • Hertfordshire (188)
  • Lancashire (180)
  • Tyne & Wear (173)
  • Suffolk (158)
  • Nottinghamshire (152)
  • Cheshire (146)
  • Merseyside (142)
  • Cumbria (131)
  • Cambridgeshire (129)
  • Essex (129)
  • Sussex (118)
  • Wiltshire (102)
  • County Durham (98)
  • Dorset (93)
  • Devon (92)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (89)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Kent (76)
  • Northamptonshire (75)
  • Buckinghamshire (70)
  • Bedfordshire (66)
  • Derbyshire (63)
  • Oxfordshire (63)
  • Staffordshire (59)
  • Leicestershire (58)
  • Norfolk (43)
  • Lincolnshire (29)
  • Worcestershire (29)
  • Shropshire (27)
  • 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 I think.  

  • 1,674   London (8,962,000: 1.87)
  • 1,052   South East (9,180,000: 1.15)
  •    993   North West (7,341,000: 1.35)
  •    713   East of England (6,236,000: 1.14)
  •    701   South West (5,625,000: 1.25)
  •    679   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.21)
  •    667   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.12)
  •    373   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.77)
  •    275   North East (2,670,000: 1.03)
  •        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 4,014 new vacancies spread across 77 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

609 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

310 Software Engineers

217 Project Management

197 Chartered Management (general)

171 Civil Engineers

129 Data Scientists & Analysts

115 Product Design & Development Engineers

111 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  92 Food Technology & Production

  91 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  76 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  75 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  72 Network Engineers

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  48 Financial Services Professionals

  43 Manufacturing Engineers

  42 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  41 Digital Marketing Professionals

  39 Laboratory Scientists

  37 Control Engineers

  35 Construction Management

  34 Nuclear Engineers

  31 Retail Management

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  28 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  27 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  26 Solicitors

  24 Automotive Engineers

  20 Building Services Design Engineers

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  15 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  14 Environmental Practitioners

  14 Packaging Professionals

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    9 Broadcast & Media Systems Engineers

    8 Chemical Engineers

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Gas Turbine Propulsion Engineers

    8 Town Planners

    7 Operating Department Practitioners

    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 Digital Healthcare Scientists

    4 Marketing Management

    4 Transport Planners

    3 Building Control Surveyors

    3 Clinical Physiologists (Neurophysiology)

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Diagnostic Radiographers

    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 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 3,123 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: 

364 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

334 Software Developers 

265 Project Management Associates

235 Data Analysts

211 Sales/Business Development Executives

137 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

  96 Investment Operations Specialists

  80 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  80 Policy Officers

  79 Network Engineers

  79 Nursing Associates

  72 Software Testers 

  71 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  64 Insurance Professionals

  61 Technician Scientists

  60 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  53 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  49 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  48 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  45 Business Analysts 

  45 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  39 Junior Management Consultants

  35 Public Relations Assistants

  33 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  30 Human Resources Partners     

  30 Marketing / Digital Marketing Executives

  28 Buying and Merchandising Specialists

  17 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  17 Nuclear Technicians

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  13 Actuarial Technicians

  13 Mineral Products Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 DevOps Engineers

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  10 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    9 Automation & Control Engineers

    9 Housing & Property Management

    8 Naval Architects

    7 Brewers

    7 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    7 Internal Auditors

    7 Logistics & Supply Chain Specialists

    7 Retail Management

    6 Adult Social Care Leaders

    6 Operations Management   

    6 Learning & Development Practitioners   

    5 Hospitality Management

    4 Hygiene Specialists

    4 Learning & Skills Teachers 

    4 Quality Practitioners

    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 Coach   

    1 Sports Development Officer   

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

All being well, I will publish a Week 51 update next weekend and then a milestone one at the end of Week 52 – one year after lockdown.

© Alan Bullock, 7/3/2021

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