68 weeks after the start of lockdown: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England remain strong

Headline news and latest reflections

At the end of another very positive week, the top ten new vacancy postings comprised the following:

  • 22 Sales Executives
  • 20 Financial Services Professionals, all with HSBC at Canary Wharf
  • 14 Civil Engineers
  • 14 Construction Site Supervisors
  • 11 Quantity Surveyors
  • 8 Software Engineers
  • 8 Accounting Technicians
  • 6 Digital Marketing Professionals
  • 6 Quantity Surveying Technicians
  • 5 Investment Operations Specialists

Meanwhile, several towns and cities punched above their weight led by Shipley with 6, Durham and Peterborough with 5 each and Bromsgrove, Chelmsford, Chester, Coventry, Farnborough and Hatfield all with 4. Choosing this week’s image from my photo collection was therefore a tough call. However, with all five Durham vacancies being Civil Engineering DAs with Durham County Council (in partnership with Northumbria University), I’ve selected a pic of Prebends Bridge over the River Wear as a very pleasant example of 18th Century civil engineering.

Speaking of which, two additional Civil Engineering DA vacancies popped up this morning (on a Sunday) with Cormac Solutions in the Cornish town of Wadebridge. The company is responsible for maintaining much of Cornwall’s highways, cycleways and natural environment. I always enjoy these juicy little titbits of LMI.

PS I would add one additional point here in response to an interesting and helpful Twitter conversation I’ve been having with my Careers colleague Lizzie Taylor after publishing this week’s article. For the last few months my weekly posts have taken on an increasingly upbeat tone because the number of new vacancies seems to have recovered surprisingly well following the initial negative impact of the pandemic. That said, my rough estimate would be that at best there’s 1 vacancy for every 50 students who leave 6th form or college at 18 and that’s not taking account of the fact that in some cases they’ll also be competing with slightly older applicants with experience. On the other hand, I’m seeing more 18-year-olds these days who are work-ready and who have that competitive streak about them.

I think the key point is that apprenticeships are not an easy option. If a diligent student makes a well-researched and realistic UCAS application, then there’s a very strong chance that he/she will succeed in gaining a place on a suitable course. I don’t think the same can necessarily be said about apprenticeships, although there’s the added factor that 18-year-olds can also apply for lower level apprenticeships if they wish.

In summary, and as Lizzie suggested, I think it’s important for us as Careers professionals to help students find out what’s out there in a rapidly-changing careers landscape while also presenting a realistic sense of how apprenticeship numbers actually stack up.


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 including NHS Jobs.

I only include vacancies that a ‘work-ready’ 18/19-year-old seeking their first permanent role could reasonably apply for, whether at the point of leaving school/college or after a few months of temporary experience. If a year or more’s permanent experience is clearly required, I don’t include the vacancy in my data.

I’ve been compiling similar data since autumn 2018, so each week I compare my post-lockdown figures 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 I personally find immensely useful in my guidance and school/college presentations.

Headline data

During the latest week, from 5th to 11th July 2021 I recorded:

  • 91 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 105 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 68 weeks prior to lockdown (3rd December 2018 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 5,627 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 4,815 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 10,442 and an average of 154 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 68 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 11th July 2021) I’ve recorded 5,803 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 5,048 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 10,851 and an average of 160 new vacancies each week.  

For the sixth consecutive week, this represents an increase in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown, now amounting to a 3.9% rise. This is in huge contrast to the dire situation that prevailed during the spring and early-summer of 2020 when there was a reduction of 80%.

Updated regional analysis

The 10,851 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (2,364)
  • Yorkshire (1,032)
  • West Midlands (700)
  • Greater Manchester (557)
  • Hampshire (465)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (451)
  • Berkshire (363)
  • Hertfordshire (319)
  • Surrey (284)
  • Nottinghamshire (241)
  • Lancashire (232)
  • Tyne & Wear (231)
  • Cheshire (223)
  • Essex (218)
  • Cambridgeshire (217)
  • Warwickshire (194)
  • Merseyside (188)
  • Sussex (183)
  • Suffolk (182)
  • Cumbria (157)
  • Leicestershire (155)
  • Devon (146)
  • Wiltshire (133)
  • County Durham (132)
  • Kent (131)
  • Staffordshire (129)
  • Northamptonshire (128)
  • Oxfordshire (128)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (126)
  • Dorset (117)
  • Buckinghamshire (114)
  • Derbyshire (107)
  • Worcestershire (100)
  • Norfolk (93)
  • Bedfordshire (90)
  • Lincolnshire (70)
  • Shropshire (52)
  • Isle of Wight (31)
  • Herefordshire (21)
  • Cornwall (18)
  • Northumberland (6)
  • Rutland (1)
  • Not specified (22) 

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.

  • 2,364   London (8,962,000: 2.64)
  • 1,699   South East (9,180,000: 1.85)
  • 1,357   North West (7,341,000: 1.85)
  • 1,196   West Midlands (5,934,000: 2.02)
  • 1,119   East of England (6,236,000: 1.79)
  • 1,032   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.88)
  •    991   South West (5,625,000: 1.76)
  •    702   East Midlands (4,836,000: 1.45)
  •    369   North East (2,670,000: 1.38)
  •      22   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 5,803 new vacancies spread across 86 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

664 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

652 Digital Technology Solutions (General) *see below for details

495 Police Constables

450 Nurses (414 Adult, 23 Mental Health, 5 Learning Disability, 5 Older People, 3 Children)

365 Software Engineers

297 Chartered Management (General)

256 Civil Engineers

230 Project Management

180 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

165 Data Scientists/Analysts

156 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

127 Product Design & Development Engineers

123 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

114 Food Technology/Production /Manufacturing

104 Supply Chain Leadership

  93 Aerospace Engineers

  79 Digital Marketing Professionals

  79 Financial Services Professionals

  76 Cyber Security Professionals

  75 Retail Leadership

  73 Network Engineers

  67 Sales Professionals

  59 Manufacturing Engineers

  57 Laboratory Scientists

  55 Professional Economists 

  53 Construction Management

  44 Building Services Design Engineers 

  40 Control Engineers

  36 Nuclear Engineers

  34 Digital User Experience (UX) Professionals

  33 Environmental Practitioners

  33 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  32 Operating Department Practitioners

  31 Solicitors

  29 Manufacturing & Production Management (non-food)        

  25 Automotive Engineers

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  19 Materials Science Technologists

  19 Town Planners

  17 Packaging Professionals

  16 Clinical Physiologists (8 Neuro, 7 Cardiac, 1 Respiratory & Sleep)

  14 Creative Digital Designers   

  14 Environmental Health Officers

  13 Human Resources Professionals  

  12 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

  10 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

  10 Chemical Engineers

  10 Internal Audit Professionals    

    9 Transport Planners    

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Occupational Therapists

    8 Propulsion Engineers

    7 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    7 Geospatial Mapping/Surveying Professionals

    7 Podiatrists

    6 Actuarial Professionals

    6 Marketing Management

    6 Medical Physics/Nuclear Medicine Technologists

    6 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    5 Architectural Assistants

    5 Clinical/Medical Engineers

    5 Operations Analysts

    5 Recruitment Professionals

    5 Social Workers 

    4 Diagnostic Radiographers

    4 Digital Healthcare Scientists

    4 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    3 Bioinformatics Specialists

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Public Health Practitioners

    2 Agricultural Advisers

    2 Assistant Teachers

    2 Building Information Modelling Specialists (BIM)

    2 Chartered Legal Executives   

    2 Digital Transformation Engineers

    2 Journalists

    2 Physiotherapists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Assistant Buyer

    1 Audiologist

    1 Charity Management

    1 Human Performance Engineer 

    1 Learning Technologies Support Teacher

    1 Marine Engineer

    1 Midwife

    1 Visual Merchandiser

*Digital Technology Solutions (General) has encompassed or led to the following range of specialisms (list updated this week):   

Software Engineer, Software Developer, Software Tester, Network Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Data Architect, Network Architect, Cyber Security Specialist, IT Support Analyst, IT Consultant, Solutions Consultant, Software Implementation Consultant, Software Consultant, Project Manager, Business Intelligence Specialist, Business Systems Engineer/Developer, Automation Developer, Technology Architect, Technology Manager, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, Agile Analyst, Application Support Analyst, Business Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Content Analyst, User Experience Researcher, Junior Product Manager, Infrastructure Specialist, DevOps Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Support Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Scientific Computing Specialist, Platform Manager, Amazon Web Services Specialist, Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition Specialist, Fixed Telecoms Specialist, IT Service Desk Analyst, Technology Operations & Service Delivery Specialist, Functional Consultant, Technical Consultant, Solution Engineering & Development Specialist, Client Delivery Specialist, Operations Resilience & Change Specialist. Some list!

Higher Apprenticeships:

In total there have been 5,048 new vacancies spread across 95 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

481 Software Developers 

450 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

440 Sales Executives

405 Data Analysts

405 Project Management Associates

220 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

162 Construction Site Supervisors

124 Network Engineers

123 Tax Technicians

120 Nursing Associates

119 Policy Officers

106 Investment Operations Specialists

103 Software Testers 

100 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  98 Civil/Construction Engineering Technicians

  95 Public Relations Assistants

  93 Cyber Security Technologists

  83 Technician Scientists

  77 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  76 Business Analysts  

  74 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  72 Children/Young People/Family Practitioners

  66 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  64 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  64 Insurance Professionals  

  62 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  56 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  50 Marketing Executives

  46 Sports Coaches   

  40 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  40 Junior Management Consultants

  39 Retail Management

  33 Human Resources Partners     

  24 Learning, Skills & Development Practitioners/Teachers  

  22 DevOps Engineers

  22 Nuclear Technicians

  21 Actuarial Technicians

  20 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians 

  17 Automation & Control Engineers

  17 Mineral Products Technicians

  17 Paraplanners / Financial Advisers

  16 Estate Agency Negotiators

  16 Media Production Co-ordinators

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  14 Hospitality Management

  14 Journalists

  14 Quality Practitioners

  13 Audiology Associates/Hearing Aid Dispensers

  13 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Housing & Property Management

  11 Adult Social Care Leaders

  11 Healthcare Associate Practitioners

  11 Internal Auditors

  10 Brewers

  10 Dairy Technologists

  10 Operations Management   

    9 Improvement Technicians

    8 Hygiene Specialists

    8 Naval Architects

    7 Logistics/Supply Chain Specialists

    5 Architectural Technicians

    4 Conveyancing Technicians

    4 Digital Communities Management

    4 Recruitment Consultants/Resourcers   

    4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

    3 Employability Practitioners

    3 Railway Engineering Technicians

    3 Revenue & Benefits Officers    

    3 School Business Professionals

    2 BEMS Controls Engineers

    2 Clinical/Medical Engineers

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    2 Information Managers

    2 Medical Physics Technologists

    2 MRI Radiography Assistant Practitioners

    2 Paralegals

    2 Phlebotomists

    2 Railway Operations Management

    2 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Chemical Process Technician

    1 Community Energy Specialist

    1 Facilities Management

    1 Fitness Club Manager

    1 Healthcare Science Associate (Respiratory Physiology)

    1 Historic Environment Adviser

    1 Intelligence Analyst

    1 Lighting Designer

    1 Metrology Technician

    1 Passenger Transport Management

    1 Sports Development Officer   

    1 Textiles Technician

    1 VFX Artist

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

Going forward

I’ve got sufficient data to keep this format going for two more weeks. Thereafter, I’ll probably look at a slightly different approach that will enable me to continue putting some useful LMI out there.

© Alan Bullock,11/7/2021

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