53 weeks after the start of lockdown: update on Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England

Headline news and latest reflections

Following last week’s ‘anniversary edition’, the positive message has been sustained with a further 160 new vacancies added to my listings this week. I have also corrected an error in last week’s figures and have duly berated myself for it in the Headline data section below.

Morrisons were especially prominent this week with 44 new Retail Leadership DA vacancies across England plus a range of other opportunities in Manufacturing, Food Technology and Finance at various sites.

There were lots of other little highlights too, including two Phlebotomists, a Digital Communities Manager, a Financial Journalist, 15 Manufacturing vacancies with JCB in Rocester (close to Alton Towers in Staffordshire) and 6 in the food industry with Samworth Brothers in Melton Mowbray. I once stopped for an hour in Melton Mowbray en route from a speaking engagement and this week’s featured photographic image was taken there on a cold afternoon.  

One other highlight this week was the highest HA starting salary I’ve ever seen at £35,000. It was for a Hospitality Management DA in Manchester. It’s my policy to exclude any vacancy which would not be appropriate for an 18/19-year old seeking their first permanent post. However, theoretically there was nothing in the job spec or person spec that would disqualify a confident, enterprising recent school or college leaver from applying if they had some relevant and responsible part-time or temporary work experience. I therefore decided to include it on this occasion.

This is an extreme example of a trend I’m becoming increasingly aware of. A proportion of the HAs and even DAs that I include are ones which are not necessarily advertised as entry-level positions, but which could nonetheless be suited to a recent school/college leaver who’s capable of hitting the ground running. What I think this highlights is the extent to which work-readiness is needed to enhance a young person’s chances of competing successfully in the apprenticeship market.   


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. I 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’s immensely useful in guidance.

Headline data

During the latest week, from 22nd to 26th March, I recorded:

  • 96 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 64 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 53 weeks prior to lockdown (18th March 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,802 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,660 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,462 and an average of 160 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 53 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 26th March 2021) I have recorded 4,182 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,394 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 7,576 and an average of 143 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 10.5% 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%.

*However, I’m also eating humble pie after discovering an error in last week’s pre-lockdown data which led to my claim that the reduction figure had fallen below 10%, when in fact it had ‘only’ fallen to 11%. I’ve amended last week’s blog accordingly.  

Updated regional analysis

The 7,576 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,728)
  • Yorkshire (743)
  • West Midlands (494)
  • Greater Manchester (411)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (323)
  • Hampshire (277)
  • Berkshire (276)
  • Surrey (215)
  • Hertfordshire (192)
  • Lancashire (181)
  • Tyne & Wear (176)
  • Suffolk (163)
  • Nottinghamshire (161)
  • Cheshire (155)
  • Cambridgeshire (154)
  • Merseyside (146)
  • Cumbria (134)
  • Essex (133)
  • Sussex (125)
  • Wiltshire (110)
  • County Durham (101)
  • Devon (98)
  • Dorset (96)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (93)
  • Northamptonshire (84)
  • Kent (84)
  • Warwickshire (81)
  • Buckinghamshire (79)
  • Staffordshire (78)
  • Oxfordshire (77)
  • Leicestershire (73)
  • Derbyshire (70)
  • Bedfordshire (67)
  • Norfolk (45)
  • Lincolnshire (42)
  • Worcestershire (36)
  • Shropshire (28)
  • Isle of Wight (19)
  • Cornwall (9)
  • Herefordshire (7)
  • Northumberland (6)
  • 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.   

  • 1,728   London (8,962,000: 1.93)
  • 1,152   South East (9,180,000: 1.25)
  • 1,027   North West (7,341,000: 1.40)
  •    754   East of England (6,236,000: 1.21)
  •    743   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.35)
  •    729   South West (5,625,000: 1.30)
  •    724   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.22)
  •    430   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.89)
  •    283   North East (2,670,000: 1.06)
  •        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 4,182 new vacancies spread across 83 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

619 Accountancy/Tax Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

313 Software Engineers

217 Project Management

199 Chartered Management (general)

176 Civil Engineers

131 Data Scientists & Analysts

115 Product Design & Development Engineers

111 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

107 Food Technology, Production & Manufacturing

  96 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  84 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  80 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  75 Retail Leadership

  72 Network Engineers

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  53 Professional Economists 

  51 Financial Services Professionals

  45 Manufacturing Engineers

  45 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  43 Digital Marketing Professionals

  41 Construction Management

  40 Laboratory Scientists

  39 Control Engineers

  34 Nuclear Engineers

  30 Nursing (20 Mental Health, 10 Adult)  

  29 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  28 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  26 Solicitors

  24 Automotive Engineers

  21 Building Services Design Engineers

  21 Operating Department Theatre Practitioners

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  15 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  14 Environmental Practitioners

  14 Packaging Professionals

  12 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 Human Resources Professionals  

    8 Town Planners

    7 Creative Digital Designers   

    6 Cardiac Physiologists

    6 Environmental Health Officers

    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 Financial Journalist

    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 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, Business Analyst, 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 3,394 new vacancies spread across 73 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

381 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

375 Software Developers 

286 Project Management Associates

267 Sales/Business Development Executives

250 Data Analysts

159 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

100 Investment Operations Specialists

  89 Nursing Associates

  88 Network Engineers

  82 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

  49 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  47 Business Analysts 

  46 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  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 DevOps Engineers

  13 Mineral Products Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Learning, Skills & Development Practitioners/Assessors   

  11 Automotive Engineering Technicians

  10 Financial Paraplanners/Advisers   

  10 Hospitality Management

    9 Automation & Control Engineers

    9 Housing & Property Management

    8 Brewers

    8 Hygiene Specialists

    8 Naval Architects

    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 Improvement Practitioners

    3 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    2 Digital Communities Management

    2 Paralegals

    2 Phlebotomists

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Chemical Process Technician

    1 Facilities 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

I will probably take a weekend off over Easter but hope to resume with a Week 55 report the weekend after.

© Alan Bullock, 28/3/2021

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