One year after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England have recovered quite well

Headline news and latest reflections

The first anniversary of lockdown is hardly a cause for celebration. However, I’m always grateful for small mercies and researching and posting this weekly blog for the past ten months has helped to keep me motivated and inspired.

In those gloomy early weeks of the pandemic, the number of new Degree Apprenticeships in particular seemed to have taken quite a big hit and there were as many as 12 separate weeks between late-March and September 2020 in which I recorded less than 20 DAs across the whole of England. However, although I always emphasise that my data is collected in an informal way that will never be fully reliable, there have been strong signs since then of a fairly continuous recovery.

From an occupational perspective, random highlights this week included:

  • DAs: 4 Operating Department Theatre Practitioners, 2 Architectural Assistants, 1 Podiatrist and 1 Bioinformatician  
  • HAs: 28 Software Developers, 10 Building Services Engineering Technicians, 6 Actuarial Technicians and 4 Hygiene Specialists  

Meanwhile, as has become customary, the choice of photographic image is from my own collection and features a town, city or region that has been prominent this week. On this occasion, excluding Central London, the top three were Cambridge (15 new vacancies), Sheffield (14) and Solihull (10), so Cambridge gets the nod by a narrow margin. I also want to mention Northumberland which has only registered four vacancies all year but there was a fifth this week, a Laboratory Science DA in Blyth.


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 15th to 20th March, I recorded:

  • 51 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 100 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 52 weeks prior to lockdown (25th March 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,747 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,583 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,330 and an average of 160 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 52 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 20th March 2021) I have recorded 4,086 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,330 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,416 and an average of 143 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 11.0% 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

The 7,416 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,707)
  • Yorkshire (719)
  • West Midlands (489)
  • Greater Manchester (408)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (321)
  • Hampshire (274)
  • Berkshire (270)
  • Surrey (213)
  • Hertfordshire (190)
  • Lancashire (180)
  • Tyne & Wear (174)
  • Suffolk (160)
  • Nottinghamshire (158)
  • Cheshire (151)
  • Cambridgeshire (150)
  • Merseyside (145)
  • Essex (132)
  • Cumbria (131)
  • Sussex (120)
  • Wiltshire (109)
  • County Durham (100)
  • Dorset (95)
  • Devon (95)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (90)
  • Northamptonshire (83)
  • Warwickshire (80)
  • Kent (80)
  • Buckinghamshire (77)
  • Oxfordshire (75)
  • Leicestershire (66)
  • Bedfordshire (66)
  • Derbyshire (65)
  • Staffordshire (61)
  • Norfolk (44)
  • Lincolnshire (37)
  • Worcestershire (31)
  • Shropshire (27)
  • Isle of Wight (18)
  • Cornwall (8)
  • Herefordshire (6)
  • Northumberland (5)
  • 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.  

  • 1,707   London (8,962,000: 1.90)
  • 1,127   South East (9,180,000: 1.23)
  • 1,015   North West (7,341,000: 1.38)
  •    742   East of England (6,236,000: 1.19)
  •    719   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.31)
  •    718   South West (5,625,000: 1.28)
  •    694   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.17)
  •    409   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.85)
  •    279   North East (2,670,000: 1.04)
  •        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 4,086 new vacancies spread across 82 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

618 Accountancy/Tax Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

313 Software Engineers

217 Project Management

197 Chartered Management (general)

171 Civil Engineers

130 Data Scientists & Analysts

115 Product Design & Development Engineers

111 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  95 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  93 Food Technology & Production

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  81 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  76 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  72 Network Engineers

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  51 Financial Services Professionals

  44 Manufacturing Engineers

  44 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  41 Construction Management

  41 Digital Marketing Professionals

  40 Laboratory Scientists

  38 Control Engineers

  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

  21 Building Services Design Engineers

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  18 Operating Department Theatre Practitioners

  15 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  14 Environmental Practitioners

  14 Packaging Professionals

  11 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

  10 Internal Audit Professionals    

    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 Architectural Assistants

    2 Electro-Mechanical Engineers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    2 Occupational Therapists

    2 Podiatrists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Assistant Buyer

    1 Bioinformatician

    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 Radiation Engineer (Healthcare)

    1 Rehabilitation 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.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 3,330 new vacancies spread across 72 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: 

376 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

372 Software Developers 

280 Project Management Associates

264 Sales/Business Development Executives

246 Data Analysts

138 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

100 Investment Operations Specialists

  87 Nursing Associates

  83 Network Engineers

  81 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  80 Policy Officers

  75 Software Testers 

  74 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  69 Technician Scientists

  64 Insurance Professionals

  62 Children, Young People & Family Practitioners

  59 Cyber Security Technologists/Analysts

  58 Civil Engineering Technicians

  50 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  48 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  46 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  45 Business Analysts 

  43 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  39 Junior Management Consultants

  35 Public Relations Assistants

  32 Marketing / Digital Marketing Executives

  30 Human Resources Partners     

  28 Buying and Merchandising Specialists

  23 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  19 Actuarial Technicians

  17 Nuclear Technicians

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  13 Mineral Products Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 DevOps Engineers

  12 Learning, Skills & Development Practitioners/Assessors   

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  10 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers

    9 Automation & Control Engineers

    9 Housing & Property Management

    8 Hygiene Specialists

    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 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 Medical Engineering Technician

    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

Having published 41 of these blogs covering an entire calendar year, the question for me now is whether to continue them on a weekly or occasional basis or to call it a day.

I think the best way to find out is to see if anyone is still reading this and asks me to carry on. So, I’ll wait and see if anybody does!

© Alan Bullock, 21/3/2021

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