54 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England soar again

Headline news and latest reflections

I was going to take the whole Easter weekend off, but Week 54 was so eventful that I couldn’t sit back and not record it. The headlines are:

  • 200+ Adult Nursing DAs with Spire Healthcare across 35 hospitals in England
  • 20 Creative Digital Design DAs at IBM’s Services Centre in Leicester
  • 15 Data Analyst HAs at Microsoft in Reading
  • 10 Chartered Management DAs at Microsoft in Reading
  • 10 Chartered Management DAs at Nielsen in Oxford
  • 10 Chartered Management DAs at JC Bamford Excavators (JCB) in Staffordshire
  • Multiple new DA and HA vacancies with the BBC in Journalism, Media Production, Digital UX Design, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, Project Management and Broadcast Engineering   
  • 34 Data Analytics DAs and HAs across England in one week

If I was to pick out two of these highlights, the first would plainly be the Nursing vacancies with Spire. The person spec for these clearly shows that the company encourages applications from a wide cross-section of people, but with school and college-leavers very much included in the mix. This has also sent Adult Nursing soaring into the top five in my DA ‘league table’.

The second highlight would be the rise and rise of Data Analytics. There have now been well over 400 DA and HA vacancies in the Data field since March last year and it’s emphatically one of the top five broad occupational areas open to Level 3 school and college leavers. I just wonder to what extent this message is getting across to the people who need to know?  

Remarkably there were 32 vacancies in Reading and 28 in Leicester this week. However, I’ve decided to save my Reading pics for another occasion and to use my editorial licence to post one of my Rutland Water photos as this week’s image, on account of it not being too far from Leicester.


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 29th March to 2nd April, I recorded:

  • 340 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 114 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 54 weeks prior to lockdown (11th March 2019 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 4,857 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,737 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,594 and an average of 159 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 54 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 2nd April 2021) I’ve recorded 4,522 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 3,508 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 8,030 and an average of 149 new vacancies each week.  

This represents a 6.6% reduction in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, which is now close to becoming negligible and is a massive improvement on the dire situation that prevailed during the spring and early-summer of 2020 when the reduction reached 80%.

Updated regional analysis

The 8,030 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (1,777)
  • Yorkshire (780)
  • West Midlands (519)
  • Greater Manchester (437)
  • Gloucestershire & North Bristol (339)
  • Berkshire (318)
  • Hampshire (292)
  • Surrey (229)
  • Hertfordshire (212)
  • Lancashire (189)
  • Tyne & Wear (185)
  • Cheshire (172)
  • Nottinghamshire (170)
  • Cambridgeshire (169)
  • Suffolk (163)
  • Merseyside (161)
  • Essex (148)
  • Sussex (139)
  • Cumbria (134)
  • Wiltshire (110)
  • County Durham (102)
  • Leicestershire (101)
  • Kent (99)
  • Devon (99)
  • Dorset (98)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (93)
  • Staffordshire (91)
  • Northamptonshire (89)
  • Oxfordshire (88)
  • Buckinghamshire (87)
  • Warwickshire (81)
  • Derbyshire (74)
  • Bedfordshire (68)
  • Norfolk (53)
  • Lincolnshire (45)
  • Worcestershire (43)
  • Shropshire (29)
  • 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.   

  • 1,777   London (8,962,000: 1.98)
  • 1,271   South East (9,180,000: 1.38)
  • 1,093   North West (7,341,000: 1.49)
  •    813   East of England (6,236,000: 1.30)
  •    780   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.42)
  •    770   West Midlands (5,934,000: 1.30)
  •    748   South West (5,625,000: 1.33)
  •    479   East Midlands (4,836,000: 0.99)
  •    293   North East (2,670,000: 1.10)
  •        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 4,522 new vacancies spread across 84 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

619 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

325 Police Constables

313 Software Engineers

255 Adult Nurses

231 Chartered Management (general)

219 Project Management

182 Civil Engineers

134 Data Scientists & Analysts

115 Product Design & Development Engineers

112 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

107 Food Technology, Production & Manufacturing

103 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  92 Aerospace Engineers

  85 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  80 Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership

  75 Retail Leadership

  72 Network Engineers

  66 Cyber Security Specialists

  55 Financial Services Professionals

  54 Professional Economists 

  46 Digital Marketing Professionals

  45 Manufacturing Engineers

  45 Sales/Business Development Professionals

  41 Construction Management

  40 Control Engineers

  40 Laboratory Scientists

  34 Nuclear Engineers

  29 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  28 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  27 Creative Digital Designers   

  26 Solicitors

  24 Automotive Engineers

  22 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  21 Building Services Design Engineers

  21 Operating Department Theatre Practitioners

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  20 Mental Health Nurses

  14 Environmental Practitioners

  14 Packaging Professionals

  12 Materials Scientists/Engineers/Technologists

  11 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

  10 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

  10 Internal Audit Professionals    

    8 Chemical Engineers

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Gas Turbine Propulsion Engineers

    8 Human Resources Professionals  

    8 Town Planners

    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 Neurophysiologists

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Diagnostic Radiographers

    3 Occupational Therapists

    2 Agricultural Advisers

    2 Architectural Assistants

    2 Electro-Mechanical Engineers

    2 Geospatial Mapping/Planning/Surveying

    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 Engineer, Software Developer, Software Tester, Network Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Data Architecture & Integration, Network Architecture, Cyber & Information Security, IT Consultant, Software Consultant, Software Implementation Consultant, Business Intelligence, Business Systems Engineer, Business Systems Developer, 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.

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 3,508 new vacancies spread across 76 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

392 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

381 Software Developers 

290 Project Management Associates

281 Data Analysts

269 Sales/Business Development Executives

162 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

103 Tax Technicians

100 Investment Operations Specialists

  89 Network Engineers

  89 Nursing Associates

  85 Construction Technicians/Site Supervisors

  80 Policy Officers

  80 Software Testers 

  74 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  70 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

  48 Business Analysts 

  46 Quantity Surveying Technicians 

  43 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  39 Junior Management Consultants

  39 Public Relations Assistants

  34 Marketing / Digital Marketing Executives

  31 Human Resources Partners     

  30 Food Technology, Engineering & Production  

  28 Buying and Merchandising Specialists

  19 Actuarial Technicians

  17 Nuclear Technicians

  15 Media Production Co-ordinators

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  14 Journalists

  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 Adult Social Care Leaders

    7 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    7 Internal Auditors

    7 Logistics & Supply Chain Specialists

    7 Retail Management

    6 Operations Management   

    6 Quality Practitioners

    5 Improvement Practitioners

    3 Digital Communities Management

    3 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    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 Textile Technician

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

All being well there will be another update next week. However, after all the activity of the last few days, I can’t imagine that the week after Easter will be anything other than a quiet one. That said, I’ve been wrong before!

© Alan Bullock, 5/4/2021

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