70 weeks after the start of lockdown: final comparative reflections on Higher and Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England post-COVID

Headline news and latest reflections

This will be my last report in this precise format, as I’ve reached the limits of my pre-COVID data that I use for comparison purposes. I’ll carry on publishing some data reports and commentaries, but probably in a slightly different way.

This report also covers two weeks rather than one and it has been a strange couple of weeks, with HAs performing well (203 new vacancies) but DAs running out of steam (only 56 new vacancies).

The top-performing HA occupational areas followed a typical pattern:

  • 26 Software Developers
  • 23 Data Analysts
  • 19 Sales Executives
  • 14 Project Management Associates
  • 14 Construction Site Supervisors
  • 11 Business Analysts

The 56 new DAs also followed a typical pattern and broadly comprised:

  • 16 Digital
  • 10 Surveying
  • 10 Accountancy & Finance
  •   7 Health
  •   7 Management, Sales & Digital Marketing
  •   6 Engineering

The latest new kid on the block in DA terms is Public Health Practitioner, which seems to be gaining some momentum, with 4 new vacancies.

And for punching above its weight in Weeks 69/70, North Gloucestershire gets a special mention with 10 new vacancies in Cheltenham and one in Tewkesbury. For that reason, my choice of photographic image from my personal collection this week is a Gloucestershire sunset taken from Crickley Hill, not far from Cheltenham.

Broad reflections on post-18 apprenticeships

For the last few months my weekly posts have taken on an increasingly upbeat tone because the number of new vacancies has recovered surprisingly well following the initial negative impact of the pandemic.

That said, my rough estimate would be that at best there’s one vacancy for every 50 students who leave 6th form or college at 18, and that’s not taking account of the fact that in many cases they’ll also be competing with slightly older applicants with experience and others completing Level 3 apprenticeships. On the other hand, I’m seeing more 18-year-old school and college leavers 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 university course. The same can’t necessarily be said about apprenticeships, although on the plus side 18-year-olds can also increase their chances by applying for lower-level apprenticeships if they wish.

In conclusion 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 and to promote and explain the availability of apprenticeships. At the same time, we should also strive to present a realistic picture of how the numbers stack up and also how students can source apprenticeship vacancies and prepare themselves to make competitive applications.


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 do they 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 two-week period, from 12th to 23rd July 2021, I recorded:

  • 56 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 203 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

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

  • In the 70 weeks prior to lockdown (19th November 2018 to 20th March 2020) I recorded 5,737 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 4,969 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 10,706 and an average of 153 new vacancies each week.
  • In the 70 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 23rd July 2021) I’ve recorded 5,859 new Degree & Level 7 Apprenticeships and 5,251 new Higher Apprenticeships, giving a total of 11,110 and an average of 159 new vacancies each week.  

This represents an increase in vacancies post-lockdown compared with pre-lockdown of 3.8%, which 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 11,110 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (2,401)
  • Yorkshire (1,055)
  • West Midlands (707)
  • Greater Manchester (573)
  • Hampshire (475)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (472)
  • Berkshire (366)
  • Hertfordshire (324)
  • Surrey (296)
  • Nottinghamshire (249)
  • Lancashire (238)
  • Tyne & Wear (235)
  • Cheshire (229)
  • Cambridgeshire (225)
  • Essex (219)
  • Warwickshire (208)
  • Merseyside (189)
  • Sussex (187)
  • Suffolk (185)
  • Leicestershire (160)
  • Cumbria (158)
  • Devon (157)
  • County Durham (138)
  • Kent (137)
  • Wiltshire (135)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (135)
  • Staffordshire (133)
  • Oxfordshire (133)
  • Northamptonshire (131)
  • Buckinghamshire (119)
  • Dorset (118)
  • Derbyshire (110)
  • Worcestershire (102)
  • Norfolk (95)
  • Bedfordshire (91)
  • Lincolnshire (70)
  • Shropshire (54)
  • Isle of Wight (32)
  • Herefordshire (21)
  • Cornwall (18)
  • Northumberland (7)
  • 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.

  • 2,401   London (8,962,000: 2.68)
  • 1,745   South East (9,180,000: 1.90)
  • 1,387   North West (7,341,000: 1.89)
  • 1,225   West Midlands (5,934,000: 2.06)
  • 1,139   East of England (6,236,000: 1.83)
  • 1,055   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 1.92)
  • 1,035   South West (5,625,000: 1.84)
  •    721   East Midlands (4,836,000: 1.49)
  •    380   North East (2,670,000: 1.42)
  •      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 5,859 new vacancies spread across 87 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,708 to £30,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

674 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

660 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)

366 Software Engineers

298 Chartered Management (General)

258 Civil Engineers

230 Project Management

183 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

169 Data Scientists/Analysts

163 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

127 Product Design & Development Engineers

124 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

114 Food Technology/Production /Manufacturing

104 Supply Chain Leadership

  93 Aerospace Engineers

  81 Digital Marketing Professionals

  79 Cyber Security Professionals

  79 Financial Services Professionals

  75 Retail Leadership

  73 Network Engineers

  71 Sales Professionals

  61 Manufacturing Engineers

  57 Laboratory Scientists

  55 Professional Economists 

  53 Construction Management

  44 Building Services Design Engineers 

  40 Control Engineers

  37 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 Podiatrists

    8 Propulsion Engineers

    7 Biomedical Healthcare Scientists

    7 Geospatial Mapping/Surveying Professionals

    7 Public Health Practitioners

    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

    2 Agricultural Advisers

    2 Assistant Teachers

    2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

    2 Chartered Legal Executives   

    2 Digital Transformation Engineers

    2 Journalists

    2 Physiotherapists

    2 Radiotherapists

    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 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, IT Support Analyst, WordPress Developer, 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 5,251 new vacancies spread across 98 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,474 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

507 Software Developers 

459 Sales Executives

455 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

428 Data Analysts

419 Project Management Associates

223 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

176 Construction Site Supervisors

128 Network Engineers

127 Tax Technicians

123 Nursing Associates

119 Policy Officers

106 Investment Operations Specialists

104 Software Testers 

102 Commercial Procurement & Supply

  99 Civil/Construction Engineering Technicians

  97 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  94 Cyber Security Technologists

  92 Technician Scientists

  87 Business Analysts  

  82 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  79 Children/Young People/Families Practitioners

  74 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  68 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  67 Regulatory Compliance Professionals

  66 Insurance Professionals  

  62 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  56 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  54 Marketing Executives

  48 Sports Coaches   

  44 Retail Management

  41 Food Technology/Engineering/Production  

  40 Junior Management Consultants

  34 Human Resources Partners     

  25 Learning, Skills & Development Teachers/Coaches  

  23 DevOps Engineers

  22 Nuclear Technicians

  21 Actuarial Technicians

  21 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians 

  21 Paraplanners / Financial Advisers

  18 Automation & Control Engineers

  17 Mineral Products Technicians

  16 Estate Agency Negotiators

  16 Hospitality Management

  16 Media Production Co-ordinators

  16 Quality Practitioners

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  14 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (General)

  14 Journalists

  13 Audiology Associates/Hearing Aid Dispensers

  13 Housing & Property Management

  13 Internal Audit Practitioners

  13 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

  12 Adult Social Care Leaders

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  11 Improvement Specialists

  10 Brewers

  10 Dairy Technologists

  10 Operations Management   

    9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

    8 Hygiene Specialists

    7 Logistics/Supply Chain Specialists

    5 Architectural Technicians

    4 Conveyancing Technicians

    4 Digital Communities Management

    4 Employability Practitioners

    4 Recruitment Consultants/Resourcers   

    4 Revenue & Benefits Officers    

    4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

    3 Railway Engineering Technicians

    3 School Business Professionals

    2 BEMS Controls Engineers

    2 Clinical/Medical Engineering Technicians

    2 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners

    2 Counter Fraud Investigators

    2 Healthcare Science Associates (Respiratory/Sleep Physiology)

    2 Information Managers

    2 Medical Physics Technicans

    2 MRI Radiography Assistant Practitioners

    2 Paralegals

    2 Phlebotomists

    2 Railway Operations Management

    2 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    1 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technician

    1 Chemical Process Technician

    1 Community Energy Specialist

    1 Facilities Management

    1 Fitness Club Manager

    1 Healthcare Science Associate (Speech Therapy)   

    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

Having now run out of comparative pre-COVID data, I will look into providing further post-COVID updates in a slimmed down format as a way of continuing to put some useful LMI out there in future weeks.

© Alan Bullock, 25/7/2021

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