51 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England remain steady-ish

Headline news and latest reflections

With one more week to go before we can observe a whole year-on-year comparison, Week 51 was one of mixed fortunes. Higher Apprenticeships were relatively buoyant with 107 new vacancies, but it wasn’t so good for Degree Apprenticeships with only 21 new vacancies that had not been advertised previously.  

I thought it might be interesting to take a snapshot of this week’s most prominent occupations, employers and specific locations (outside of Central London), which were as follows:

  • Top 5 occupations: Sales Executive (47), Software Developer (10), Technician Scientist (8), Operating Department Theatre Practitioner (7), Accounting Technician / Data Analyst / Project Management Associate (all 6)
  • Top 5 employers: CCS Media (45), BMI Healthcare (12), Oxford Biomedica (8), RWE Supply & Trading (6), Zenopa (5)
  • Top 10 towns/cities: Slough (30), Bradford (15), Oxford (8), Swindon (6), High Wycombe (5), Manchester (5), Birmingham (4), Northampton (4), Coventry (3), Hounslow (3)   

BMI Healthcare, who are the largest independent provider of private health care in the UK, have been especially prominent this month with a steady supply of Operating Department Theatre Practitioner DAs and Nursing Associate HAs across a wide range of locations from Darlington and Blackburn in the north to Worthing and Canterbury in the south. Every vacancy has a starting salary of £17,004 with Teesside University as the universal training provider.

By a strange quirk of LMI, BMI’s nationwide recruitment is managed by another of this week’s prominent employers, Zenopa in High Wycombe. They posted 5 Chartered Management DAs for young people to train in Specialist Recruitment, with the ultimate aim of becoming Account Managers placing sales, marketing and executive personnel in the commercial side of the healthcare industry. For me, making connections like this is partly what LMI is all about.

Meanwhile, star billing went to CCS Media, who have been recognised in the Sunday Times FastTrack 250 as one of the UK’s fastest growing companies. They posted 45 HA vacancies for IT Sales Executives, 30 of them in Slough and 15 in Bradford.

Although I’ve passed through Slough on my business travels, I’ve never stopped for long enough to take a photo. However, this week’s featured image is a photo I took somewhat randomly in Slough Road, Eton – less than two miles away. I reckon that’s near enough!          


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 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 8th to 12th March, I recorded:

  • 21 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 107 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 51 weeks prior to lockdown (1st April 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,692 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,506 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,198 and an average of 161 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 51 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 12th March 2021) I have recorded 4,035 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,230 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,265 and an average of 142 new vacancies each week.  

This represents an 11.4% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, which at least 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 7,265 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,691)
  • Yorkshire (697)
  • West Midlands (473)
  • Greater Manchester (402)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (319)
  • Hampshire (269)
  • Berkshire (266)
  • Surrey (206)
  • Hertfordshire (188)
  • Lancashire (180)
  • Tyne & Wear (173)
  • Suffolk (159)
  • Nottinghamshire (153)
  • Cheshire (148)
  • Merseyside (142)
  • Cumbria (131)
  • Cambridgeshire (130)
  • Essex (130)
  • Sussex (119)
  • Wiltshire (108)
  • County Durham (98)
  • Dorset (94)
  • Devon (94)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (90)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Northamptonshire (79)
  • Kent (77)
  • Buckinghamshire (76)
  • Oxfordshire (72)
  • Bedfordshire (66)
  • Derbyshire (63)
  • Staffordshire (61)
  • Leicestershire (59)
  • Norfolk (44)
  • Lincolnshire (31)
  • 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.  

  • 1,691   London (8,962,000: 1.89)
  • 1,102   South East (9,180,000: 1.20)
  • 1,003   North West (7,341,000: 1.37)
  •    717   East of England (6,236,000: 1.15)
  •    713   South West (5,625,000: 1.27)
  •    697   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.27)
  •    676   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.14)
  •    385   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.80)
  •    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 4,035 new vacancies spread across 79 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

489 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

  93 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  92 Food Technology & Production

  79 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  76 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  72 Network Engineers

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  48 Financial Services Professionals

  43 Manufacturing Engineers

  43 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 Operating Department Theatre 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

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Creative Digital Designers   

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    6 Human Resources Professionals  

    6 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    5 Operations Analysts

    5 Recruitment Professionals

    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 Chartered Rural Surveyor

    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 3,230 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: 

370 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

344 Software Developers 

271 Project Management Associates

258 Sales/Business Development Executives

241 Data Analysts

137 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

  96 Investment Operations Specialists

  84 Nursing Associates

  81 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  81 Network Engineers

  80 Policy Officers

  75 Software Testers 

  73 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  69 Technician Scientists

  64 Insurance Professionals

  60 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  57 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  50 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

  31 Marketing / Digital Marketing Executives

  30 Human Resources Partners     

  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

  11 Learning, Skills & Development Practitioners/Assessors   

  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 Quality Practitioners

    5 Hospitality Management

    4 Hygiene Specialists

    3 Improvement Practitioners

    3 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    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 Propulsion Technician

    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 intend to publish an update next weekend on the first anniversary of the imposition of ‘lockdown 1’. Hardly a cause for celebration, but a significant moment to review how things have taken shape.

On the whole, I think it will be fair to say that the situation has been much less disastrous than it was starting to look in Spring 2020.

© Alan Bullock, 14/3/2021

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