Week 79: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England post COVID – it’s not just about grades

Latest reflections

It’s been a relatively quiet week and DAs especially are yet to pick up any momentum following their customary summer lull. There are signs of forthcoming activity on that front, but I’m still waiting to see firm details of the latest tranche of vacancies from a couple of the bigger players.

Meanwhile, at the top of the DA leader-board, Digital Technology Solutions has drawn dead level with Accountancy/Tax/Audit and coincidentally there’s a similar battle between Software Developers and Sales Executives at the top of the HA ‘league table’. I know it’s trite to speak of league tables in this context, but it’s quite a beneficial way to keep tabs on what’s actually out there.

The most prominent HA occupations in Week 79 make interesting reading too:

  • 13 School Sports Coaches
  • 10 Vehicle Damage Assessors
  • 7 Sales Executives
  • 5 Construction Design & Build Technicians
  • 5 Dairy Technologists
  • 4 Cyber Security Technologists

The rise and rise of Sports Coaches, working mainly in primary schools, continues to be something of a recent phenomenon and it’s factors like this that prompt me to carry on producing my weekly reports. I find it intriguing to observe the way that the cumulative data keeps evolving.

Another factor that has impacted on me whilst observing DA and HA vacancies closely is the extent to which many of them are seeking applicants who can hit the ground running, or at least add value. It’s certainly not just about qualifications and grades these days, but more about skills, qualities and demonstrated potential. Decent grades will open many of the doors, with 112 UCAS points being the most frequent minimum requirement as far as DAs are concerned, but the person spec is usually the critical element.

In regional terms it was the East of England that came out best this week, with Hertfordshire in particular punching slightly above its weight. Hence my photographic image, for the second time, is one I took in that county. As to precisely where, I invite your guesses.   

Background and methodology

Since the first ‘lockdown’ started on Monday 23rd March 2020, I’ve kept a record of new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies posted in England and in doing so have built up an evolving occupational and regional analysis. 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, Not Going to Uni and Rate My Apprenticeship.

I only include vacancies at Levels 4 to 7 that ‘work-ready’ 18/19-year-olds 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 figures.

I also collated similar data for a period of 70 weeks prior to the March 2020 lockdown. My weekly headline data therefore compares the pre-lockdown and post-lockdown figures and I now use the two 70-week periods either side of lockdown as a benchmark.

My data will never be fully reliable because not all vacancies are advertised nationally in a way that also gives an indication of actual numbers and locations. However, the analyses that I’ve built up paint an intriguing picture of what’s out there in a changing post-18 career landscape. The figures also suggests that supply is never likely to match demand and that there may be a significant mismatch between the occupations to which young people often aspire and the reality of what’s available.  

Headline data

During the latest period, from 20th to 26th September 2021, I recorded:

  • 16 new Degree Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 75 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

In the 79 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 26th September 2021) I’ve now recorded:

  • 6,103 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and 6,254 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5), giving a total of 12,357

Using the 70 weeks either side of the initial COVID-19 lockdown (on 23/3/20) as a benchmark, my latest comparative figures are as follows:

  • Weekly average in the 70 weeks before lockdown: 82 DAs + 71 HAs = 153 total
  • Weekly average in the 70 weeks after lockdown: 84 DAs + 75 HAs = 159 total
  • Weekly average in the 79 weeks since lockdown: 77 DAs + 79 HAs = 156 total 

This shows that there’s been a gradual rise in HAs over the past three years, but a sharp drop in DAs during summer 2021. I still expect this to just be the normal seasonal blip, but one would hope to start seeing more DA activity soon.       

Updated regional analysis

The 12,357 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (2,733)
  • Yorkshire (1,171)
  • West Midlands (771)
  • Greater Manchester (643)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (513)
  • Hampshire (492)
  • Berkshire (406)
  • Hertfordshire (368)
  • Surrey (325)
  • Nottinghamshire (274)
  • Tyne & Wear (271)
  • Lancashire (261)
  • Cheshire (251)
  • Cambridgeshire (247)
  • Essex (246)
  • Warwickshire (222)
  • Sussex (220)
  • Merseyside (203)
  • Suffolk (195)
  • Leicestershire (174)
  • Devon (169)
  • Cumbria (160)
  • Kent (160)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (155)
  • Staffordshire (152)
  • Oxfordshire (150)
  • Northamptonshire (148)
  • Wiltshire (148)
  • County Durham (146)
  • Buckinghamshire (140)
  • Dorset (126)
  • Derbyshire (124)
  • Worcestershire (120)
  • Norfolk (109)
  • Bedfordshire (109)
  • Lincolnshire (84)
  • Shropshire (60)
  • Isle of Wight (32)
  • Cornwall (23)
  • Herefordshire (21)
  • Northumberland (12)
  • 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.

  • 2,733   London (8,962,000: 3.05)
  • 1,925   South East (9,180,000: 2.10)
  • 1,518   North West (7,341,000: 2.07)
  • 1,346   West Midlands (5,934,000: 2.27)
  • 1,274   East of England (6,236,000: 2.04)
  • 1,171   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 2.13)
  • 1,134   South West (5,625,000: 2.02)
  •    802   East Midlands (4,836,000: 1.66)
  •    432   North East (2,670,000: 1.62)
  •      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 Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7):

In total there have been 6,103 new vacancies spread across 87 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £6,708 to £30,629pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

685 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

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

495 Police Constables

455 Nurses (418 Adult, 24 Mental Health, 5 Learning Disability, 5 Older People, 3 Children)

381 Software Engineers

319 Chartered Managers (General)

270 Civil Engineers

237 Project Managers

201 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

174 Data Scientists/Analysts

170 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

132 Product Design & Development Engineers

125 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

114 Food Technology/Production /Manufacturing Professionals

111 Supply Chain Leaders

103 Digital Marketing Professionals

  93 Aerospace Engineers

  82 Cyber Security Professionals

  82 Financial Services Professionals

  75 Retail Leaders

  75 Sales Professionals

  73 Network Engineers

  65 Manufacturing Engineers

  63 Laboratory Scientists

  55 Professional Economists 

  53 Construction Managers

  47 Building Services Design Engineers 

  40 Control Engineers

  37 Environmental Practitioners

  37 Nuclear Engineers

  36 Operating Department Practitioners

  36 User Experience (UX) Design Professionals

  33 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  33 Solicitors

  29 Manufacturing & Production Managers (non-food)        

  25 Automotive Engineers

  24 Town Planners

  20 Clinical Trials Specialists

  19 Creative Digital Design Professionals   

  19 Diagnostic Radiographers

  19 Materials Science Technologists

  17 Packaging Professionals

  16 Environmental Health Officers

  15 Human Resources / People Professionals  

  12 Chemical Engineers

  12 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

  10 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

  10 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Physiology (7 Cardiovascular, 3 Respiratory/Sleep)

  10 Internal Audit Professionals    

  10 Recruitment Professionals

    9 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Neurosensory (8 Neurophysiology, 1 Audiology)

    9 Transport Planners    

    8 Gas Transmission Engineers

    8 Occupational Therapists

    8 Podiatrists

    8 Propulsion Engineers

    7 Architectural Assistants

    7 Geospatial Mapping/Surveying Professionals

    7 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Biomedical Science

    7 Public Health Practitioners

    6 Actuarial Professionals

    6 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Clinical Engineering (3 Medical, 1 Radiation, 1 Renal, 1 Rehabilitation)

    6 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Medical Physics (4 Nuclear Medicine, 2 Radiation Physics)

    6 Marketing Managers

    6 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    6 Social Workers 

    5 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    5 Operations Analysts

    4 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

    4 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Digital Healthcare Science

    3 Compliance & Risk Specialists

    3 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Bioinformatics

    2 Assistant Teachers

    2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

    2 Buying & Procurement Professionals

    2 Chartered Legal Executives   

    2 Digital Transformation Engineers

    2 Education Technology Specialists

    2 Journalists

    2 Midwives

    2 Physiotherapists

    2 Radiotherapists

    2 Tax Technologists

    1 Charity Manager

    1 Human Performance Engineer 

    1 Marine Engineer

    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, Sales Engineer, Scientific Computing Specialist, Platform Manager, Amazon Web Services Specialist, Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition Specialist, Fixed Telecoms Specialist, IT Service Desk Analyst, Support Desk 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 (Levels 4/5):

In total there have been 6,254 new vacancies spread across 112 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

589 Software Developers 

586 Sales Executives

508 Data Analysts

485 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

477 Project Management Associates

242 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

200 Construction Site Supervisors

156 Network Engineers

138 Tax Technicians

128 Policy Officers

127 Nursing Associates

125 Software Testers 

123 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

120 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

120 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

115 Cyber Security Technologists

113 Business Analysts  

111 Investment Operations Specialists

109 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

105 Technician Scientists

  93 School Sports Coaches    

  91 Children/Young People/Families Practitioners

  88 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  86 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  80 Insurance Professionals  

  73 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  67 Marketing Executives

  65 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  58 Retail Managers

  56 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  54 Food Technology/Engineering/Production Technicians 

  50 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  40 Junior Management Consultants

  39 Human Resources Consultants/Partners     

  32 DevOps Engineers

  26 Learning, Skills & Development Practitioners  

  25 Healthcare Assistant Practitioners

  24 Paraplanners / Financial Advisers

  23 Adult Social Care Leaders

  23 Quality Practitioners

  22 Nuclear Technicians

  21 Actuarial Technicians

  21 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians 

  21 Hospitality Managers

  18 Automation & Control Engineers

  18 Brewers 

  17 Internal Audit Practitioners

  17 Mineral Products Technicians

  16 Estate Agency Negotiators

  16 Media Production Co-ordinators

  15 Dairy Technologists

  14 Fibre Cable Engineers

  14 Housing & Property Managers

  14 Journalists

  14 Police Community Support Officers

  13 Improvement Specialists

  13 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

  12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

  12 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

  11 Operations Managers   

  10 Recruitment Consultants/Resourcers

  10 Vehicle Damage Assessors  

    9 Hearing Aid Dispensers

    9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

    9 Railway Engineering Technicians

    8 Hygiene Specialists

    7 Logistics/Supply Chain Specialists

    6 Early Years Lead Practitioners

    6 Employability Practitioners

    5 Architectural Technicians

    5 Digital Community Managers

    5 Healthcare Science Associates: Audiology    

    5 Healthcare Science Associates: Cardiorespiratory/Sleep Physiology

    4 Conveyancing Technicians

    4 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners

    4 Counter Fraud Investigators

    4 Fire Safety Inspectors

    4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

    3 Information Managers

    3 Post-Production Technical Operators (Film/TV)

    3 School Business Professionals

    2 Healthcare Science Associates: Medical Engineering

    2 Healthcare Science Associates: Medical Physics

    2 Healthcare Science Associates: MRI Radiography

    2 Healthcare Science Associates: Phlebotomy

    2 Historic Site Advisers

    2 Paralegals

    2 Port Marine Operations Officers

    2 Railway Operations Managers

    2 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

    2 Tax Technology Technicians

    2 VFX Artists

    1 Acoustics Technician

    1 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technician

    1 Chemical Process Technician

    1 Community Energy Specialist

    1 Dental Technician

    1 Early Intervention Practitioner

    1 Facilities Manager

    1 Fitness Club Manager

    1 Gymnastics & Trampolining Coach

    1 Healthcare Science Associate: Biochemistry

    1 Healthcare Science Associate: Speech Therapy

    1 Intelligence Analyst

    1 Lighting Designer

    1 Metrology Technician

    1 Passenger Transport Manager

    1 Sports Development Officer   

    1 Tennis Coach

    1 Textiles Technician

    1 Wedding Accessories Designer

    1 Wedding Venue Co-ordinator

Going forward

All being well, I intend to publish a Week 80 review next weekend.

© Alan Bullock, 26/9/2021

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