Week 101: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship vacancies in England in the COVID era – latest labour market insights

Latest reflections

Following the substantial surge in new DA and HA vacancies during the three weeks surrounding National Apprenticeships Week that I reported in my Week 98, 99 and 100 updates, ‘normality’ resumed in Week 101 (i.e. 101 weeks since the first COVID lockdown). However, ‘normality’ still shows what I perceive to be a more buoyant landscape than that which prevailed back in pre-COVID times.

That said, after watching Martin Lewis’s ITV report last Thursday on the changes to Student Finance that kick in for those entering higher education in 2023, I would predict further growth in interest in post-18 apprenticeships as we go forward. And frankly the supply of DAs and HAs will, in my opinion, come nowhere near to meeting the potential demand. It was quite telling when Martin asked the studio panel for their reaction during the show and one young student said with conviction that he thinks he’ll do a degree apprenticeship instead. It prompted me to add some reflections on this.

Whilst I’d be the first to admit that my data is not a completely reliable source, nonetheless I think it’s interesting that my records show a total of around 20,000 vacancies in a period of just under two years, i.e. about 10,000 per year. This might sound like a lot, but if we compare it with a rather crude but carefully-weighted estimate that I’ve conjured up using the latest UCAS End of Cycle data, it suggests that for students in England the ratio of university places to DA and HA places is in the region of 240,000:10,000.

Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but as a ballpark figure my rough calculations show exactly what I’ve been thinking all along, which is that in a Year 13 cohort of 100 Level 3 students there are likely to be enough DAs and HAs for about four of them at best. Then on top of that, there are the occupational and regional realities to take account of, which I think (immodestly) my cumulative data showcases in quite a vivid way.

Meanwhile, the main highlights in Week 101 included:

  • Sales Executive HAs reaching 1,000 (I think Jamie M will note this with interest)
  • A big batch of Nursing Associate HAs in Bedfordshire, as well as a bit more DA activity elsewhere in Therapeutic Radiography and Podiatry amongst other healthcare professions
  • 12 Environmental Practitioner DAs with The Environment Agency, taking it into the top 30 DA professions alongside Digital User Experience Designers (I think Susan S will note the former with interest)  
  • Another batch of Mineral Products Technician HAs – there are now 27 current vacancies with Hanson Quarry Products and Aggregate Industries across a wide range of locations stretching from Newton Abbot to the Yorkshire Dales and I suspect that this is another of those occupations that’s rarely asked about
  • 10 Associate Project Management HAs with Highways England at 8 different locations from Yorkshire to Kent
  • 10 Data Scientists/Analysts with NCR Group in Bath and London
  • 9 more Data Analysts with Legal & General, this time in Hove (hence this week’s featured image, taken on a seafront walk there)
  • 2 Transport Planners in Leeds and Manchester, which I mention as it’s another occupation that probably tends to fly under the radar. Our younger son Andy’s a Transport Planner and I’ve learned that there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

All in all, it’s quite an intriguing picture, although maybe right now nobody knows quite what the future holds for any of us.


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, Rate My Apprenticeship, Amazing Apprenticeships, UCAS and Investment 20/20.

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

My target audience is Level 3 school and college leavers and their parents, carers, teachers and advisers. Therefore, 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 more than a year’s permanent experience is clearly required, I don’t normally include the vacancy in my figures.

I would also emphasise the term ‘work-ready’ because academic qualifications alone will never be enough to compete successfully for a higher or degree apprenticeship. Whilst a UCAS points score of around 112 is often needed for DAs (sometimes more, sometimes less), it’s otherwise much more about the skills, qualities and insights you can bring. STEM subjects will also put potential applicants at a significant advantage in terms of opening up a wider range of options.

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 suggest that supply is never likely to match demand and that there may be something of a mismatch between the occupations to which young people often aspire and the reality of what’s available.

One further and slightly confusing factor to take into account is that it’s quite normal for some 18/19-year-old school/college leavers to apply for lower level apprenticeships too, especially at Level 3. In fact I sometimes see Level 3 apprenticeships that ask for A Level or equivalent qualifications and Level 4 to 7 apprenticeships that don’t. It’s also true that a significant proportion of opportunities will be snapped up by older applicants. It’s a competitive market place, so work-readiness really matters.  

Headline data

During the latest period from 21st to 27th February 2022, I recorded:

  • 95 new Degree Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 180 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies

In the 101 weeks since the start of lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 27th February 2022) I’ve now recorded:

  • 9,509 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 10,275 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 19,784

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 101 weeks since lockdown: 94 DAs + 102 HAs = 196 total

This shows that both DAs and especially HAs have more than fully recovered since the initial reductions in the early days of the pandemic. Whilst it’s fair to say that I’m being more thorough in the way I track down and monitor new vacancies than I was in pre-COVID days, I’m definitely sensing an upward trend in volume compared with how things looked two to three years ago.

Updated regional analysis

The 19,784 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (4,412)
  • Yorkshire (1,934)
  • West Midlands (1,208)
  • Greater Manchester (1,067)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (831)
  • Hampshire (749)
  • Berkshire (636)
  • Hertfordshire (548)
  • Surrey (496)
  • Tyne & Wear (434)
  • Nottinghamshire (413)
  • Cheshire (401)
  • Sussex (401)
  • Cambridgeshire (372)
  • Essex (370)
  • Suffolk (363)
  • Warwickshire (357)
  • Lancashire (354)
  • Merseyside (328)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (268)
  • Staffordshire (264)
  • Devon (257)
  • Bedfordshire (251)
  • Wiltshire (241)
  • Leicestershire (237)
  • Kent (232)
  • Derbyshire (225)
  • Norfolk (222)
  • Cumbria (220)
  • Dorset (214)
  • County Durham (210)
  • Buckinghamshire (209)
  • Northamptonshire (207)
  • Oxfordshire (205)
  • Worcestershire (150)
  • Lincolnshire (145)
  • Shropshire (89)
  • Cornwall (51)
  • Isle of Wight (39)
  • Northumberland (31)
  • Herefordshire (30)
  • Rutland (3)
  • Home working (10)
  • Not specified (100) 

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 quite as disproportionate as they might appear. (In my data Yorkshire & Humber includes North Humberside and East Midlands includes South Humberside.)

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. This currently shows that the West Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber are the ‘best-performing’ regions after London.

  • 4,412   London (8,962,000: 4.92)
  • 2,966   South East (9,180,000: 3.23)
  • 2,370   North West (7,341,000: 3.23)
  • 2,126   East of England (6,236,000: 3.41)
  • 2,098   West Midlands (5,934,000: 3.54)
  • 1,934   Yorkshire & Humber (5,503,000: 3.51)
  • 1,863   South West (5,625,000: 3.31)
  • 1,230   East Midlands (4,836,000: 2.54)
  •    675   North East (2,670,000: 2.53)
  •    110   Not specified / home working 

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 9,509 new vacancies spread across 96 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £30,629pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,040 Digital Technology Solutions (General) *see below for details

  985 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

  645 Police Constables

  612 Software Engineers

  563 Chartered Managers (General)

  500 Nurses (430 Adult, 54 Mental Health, 12 Learning Disability, 4 Child)

  398 Civil Engineers

  386 Project Managers

  354 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  340 Data Scientists/Analysts

  289 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation/Land Surveyors  

  239 Design & Development Engineers

  223 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  203 Food Technology/Production/Manufacturing Professionals

  171 Supply Chain Leaders

  169 Digital Marketing Professionals

  155 Cyber Security Professionals

  147 Manufacturing Engineers

  126 Sales Professionals

  121 Professional Economists 

  119 Retail Leaders

  112 Aerospace Engineers

  109 Solicitors

    97 Financial Services Professionals

    97 Laboratory Scientists

    94 Network Engineers

    86 Building Services Design Engineers 

    84 Construction Managers

    70 Environmental Practitioners

    64 Digital User Experience (UX) Design Professionals

    64 Nuclear Engineers

    62 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

    59 Control Engineers

    41 Operating Department Practitioners 

    39 Radiographers (28 Diagnostic, 11 Therapeutic)

    38 Manufacturing & Production Managers (non-food)        

    34 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    30 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

    29 Creative Digital Design Professionals   

    29 Materials Science Technologists/Engineers

    26 Town Planners

    25 Automotive Engineers

    24 Clinical Trials Specialists

    23 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Physiology/Neurosensory (9 Neurophysiology, 8 Cardiovascular, 5 Respiratory/Sleep, 1 Audiology)

    23 Packaging Professionals 

    20 Recruitment Professionals

    19 Chemical Engineers    

    19 Human Resources / People Professionals  

    17 Environmental Health Officers

    17 Journalists

    16 Transport Planners    

    15 Design & Construction Managers

    14 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Clinical Engineering / Medical Physics (4 Nuclear Medicine, 3 Medical Engineering, 2 Radiation Physics, 2 Radiotherapy Engineering, 1 Radiotherapy Dosimetry, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Renal Specialist)

    14 Junior Traders (Financial Markets)     

    13 Podiatrists

    13 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    12 Occupational Therapists

    12 Public Health Practitioners

    11 Architectural Assistants

    11 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    11 Social Workers 

    10 Internal Audit Professionals

     9 Geospatial Mapping/Surveying Professionals

     9 Marketing Managers

     8 Gas Transmission Engineers

     8 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Biomedical Science

     8 Propulsion Engineers

     7 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

     6 Actuarial Professionals

     5 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Digital Healthcare Science

     5 Operations Analysts

     4 Assistant Teachers / Learning Coaches

     4 Chartered Legal Executives   

     4 Compliance & Risk Specialists

     4 Fire Safety Engineers

     4 Geotechnical/Geospatial Engineers

     3 Digital Transformation Engineers

     3 Fitness/Leisure Centre Managers

     3 Healthcare Science Practitioners: Bioinformatics

     3 Physiotherapists

     3 TV Production Managers

     2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

     2 Buying & Procurement Professionals

     2 Education Technology Specialists

     2 Midwives

     2 Pensions Professionals

     2 Tax Technologists

     1 Brewer

     1 Charity Manager

     1 Events Manager

     1 Facilities Manager

     1 Human Performance Engineer 

     1 Marine Engineer

     1 Population Health Intelligence Analyst

     1 Prosthetist & Orthotist

     1 Visual Merchandiser

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

Software Engineer, Software Developer, Software Tester, Network Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Global Data Analyst, Data Architect, Network Architect, Enterprise Architect, Cyber Security Specialist, IT Consultant, Solutions Consultant, Software Implementation Consultant, Software Consultant, Project Manager, Project Co-ordinator, Business Intelligence Specialist, Business Systems Engineer/Developer, Automation Developer, Full Stack Developer, Technology Architect, Technology Manager, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, Agile Analyst, Application Support Analyst, Business Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Content Analyst, Security Operations Analyst, Process Mining Analyst, User Experience Researcher, Junior Product Manager, Infrastructure Specialist, FinTech Expert, DevOps Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Automation Engineer, Support Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Sales Engineer, Sales Account Manager, Sales Operations Manager, Scientific Computing Specialist, Platform Manager, Service Manager, Engineering Information Manager, Amazon Web Services Specialist, Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition Specialist, Fixed Telecoms Specialist, IT Support Analyst, IT Service Desk Analyst, Support Desk Analyst, WordPress Developer, Technology Operations & Service Delivery Specialist, Functional Consultant, Technical Consultant, Digital Manufacturing Engineer, Solution Engineering & Development Specialist, Client Delivery Specialist, Client Success Specialist, Client Consultant, Operations Resilience & Change Specialist, Innovation Foundry Specialist, Continuous Improvement & Automation Specialist and Railway Signalling Control Systems Specialist.

That’s some list and it keeps on growing.

Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5):

In total there have been 10,275 new vacancies spread across 119 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,005 Sales Executives

  855 Software Developers 

  799 Data Analysts

  779 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

  761 Project Management Associates

  296 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  294 Construction Site Supervisors

  272 Business Analysts  

  260 Nursing Associates

  258 School/Community Sports Coaches    

  256 Taxation Technicians

  238 Network Engineers

  207 Software Testers

  188 Retail Managers

  187 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  185 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  178 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  178 Cyber Security Technologists

  163 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  158 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  157 Government Policy Officers

  146 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  142 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  141 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  133 Technician Scientists

  129 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  128 Investment Operations Specialists

  114 Insurance Professionals  

  101 Marketing Executives

    92 Regulatory Compliance Officers

    72 DevOps Engineers

    67 Early Years Lead Practitioners

    66 Human Resources Consultants/Partners     

    64 Food Technology/Engineering/Production Technicians 

    62 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    60 Junior Management Consultants

    53 Recruitment Resourcers/Consultants

    48 Quality Practitioners

    47 Mineral Products Technicians

    47 Nuclear Technicians

    45 Healthcare Assistant Practitioners (General)

    40 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners

    40 Financial Paraplanners

    39 Healthcare Science Associates (12 Bio/Medical Engineering, 11 Cardiorespiratory/Sleep Physiology, 7 Audiology, 2 Mammography, 2 Medical Physics, 2 MRI Radiography, 2 Phlebotomy, 1 Biochemistry)

    34 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians 

    34 Brewers 

    34 TV/Media Production Co-ordinators

    32 Actuarial Technicians

    31 Hospitality Managers

    29 Learning/Skills & Development Practitioners

    28 Journalists

    26 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    24 Internal Audit Practitioners

    23 Business Improvement Specialists 

    23 Vehicle Damage Assessors  

    22 Automation & Control Engineers

    22 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners

    21 Estate Agency Negotiators

    21 Railway Engineering Technicians

    18 Dairy Technologists

    18 Operations Managers   

    17 Housing/Property/Lettings Officers

    15 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    14 Countryside Rangers

    14 Fibre Cable Engineers

    14 Police Community Support Officers

    12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

    12 Intelligence Analysts

    11 Logistics Specialists   

    10 Hygiene Specialists

      9 Digital Community Managers

      9 Hearing Aid Dispensers

      9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

      9 Railway/Passenger Transport Operations Managers

      8 Paralegals

      7 Employability Practitioners

      7 Post-Production Technical Operators (Film/TV)

      6 Facilities Managers

      6 Game Developers

      6 Information Managers

      6 School Business Professionals

      6 Specialist Sports Coaches (4 Football, 1 Tennis, 1 Gymnastics & Trampoline)

      5 Architectural Technicians

      5 Fire Safety Inspectors

      5 Land Referencing Specialists

      4 Conveyancing Technicians

      4 Counter Fraud Investigators

      4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

      3 Healthcare Assistant Practitioners (Speech Therapy)

      3 Pensions Administrators

      3 Port Marine Operations Officers

      3 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

      3 Senior Culinary Chefs

      3 Sports Development Officers   

      2 Acoustics Technicians

      2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technicians

      2 Early Intervention Practitioners

      2 Historic Site Advisers

      2 Tax Technology Technicians

      2 Town Planning Assistants 

      2 VFX Artists

      2 Water Recycling Engineers

      1 Arboriculturist

      1 Chaplain

      1 Chemical Process Technician

      1 Community Energy Specialist

      1 Community Safety Officer (Antisocial Behaviour)

      1 Dental Technician

      1 Digital Accessibility Specialist

      1 Fashion Production Technologist

      1 Fitness Club Manager

      1 Fitness Instructor

      1 Horticultural / Landscape Design Practitioner

      1 Lighting Designer

      1 Market Research Executive

      1 Metrology Technician

      1 Textiles Technician

      1 Wedding Accessories Designer

      1 Wedding Venue Co-ordinator

Going forward

Look out for further updates in the weeks ahead. I will post them on a weekly basis whenever possible.

Quick update on 1/3/2022: Week 102 is already looking very interesting with a surge of new DAs in Supply Chain Leadership and a mini-boom going on in Wiltshire. Look out for my next update!

© Alan Bullock Careers, 27/2/2022


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