Week 129: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship overview – regional variations are showing up on the radar

Latest reflections

Having tracked new degree and higher apprenticeships continuously for almost four years now, I’m getting a good sense of the way they pan out across each academic year. In particular August and September always tend to be quite slow for degree apprenticeships, but then they’ll normally accelerate as we move into October.

In that context it’s therefore no surprise to me that I only recorded 23 new DAs across the whole of the United Kingdom this week, of which just eleven were in England. There were also ten in Scotland (all with Leonardo in Edinburgh) and two in North Wales, which at least has brought me a step closer to preparing my first Scotland and Wales reports in the near future.  

HAs performed better and the big winners were Sales Executives (again) and also Nursing Associates. Cornwall was busy again too, with another batch of new healthcare HAs. In fact it’s becoming increasingly noticeable how the South West seems to be punching well above its weight when you look at my regional data and it’s clearly the ‘best-performing’ region outside Greater London … hence my featured image this week, a photo I took from a fast-moving train en route to the English riviera. Conversely, if my figures are anything to go by (and I would be the first to urge caution in that respect) the North East, North West and East Midlands are currently the regions in need of a little more ‘levelling up’. I intend to carry on monitoring this through the autumn to see whether or not these patterns continue.       


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 daily from the government’s ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ website, whilst also keeping a close eye on other national vacancy sources including NHS Jobs, Not Going to Uni and Rate My Apprenticeship.

I collated similar data for a period of 70 weeks prior to the March 2020 lockdown and my weekly headline data 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 those who influence and advise them. 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 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 112 is the most frequently-quoted minimum entry requirement for DAs (sometimes more and quite often less), it’s otherwise much more about the skills, qualities and insights you can bring.

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 there’s something of a mismatch between supply and demand in terms of volume (there aren’t enough to go around), location (my regional breakdown raises questions about ‘levelling up’) and the range of occupations available (which probablydoesn’t align too well with student aspirations).

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. It’s also true that a proportion of DA and HA opportunities will be snapped up by older applicants or even graduates and therefore work-readiness really matters to enable 18/19-year-olds to compete successfully.  

Headline data

In England during the latest period from 5th to 11th September 2022 I recorded:

  • 11 new Degree Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 113 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies 

In the 129 weeks since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 11th September 2022) I’ve now recorded:

  • 14,299 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 13,926 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 28,225

Using the 70 weeks either side of the initial 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 129 weeks since lockdown: 111 DAs + 108 HAs = 219 total

This shows that both DAs and 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’ve definitely seen an upward trend in volume compared with how things looked two to three years ago. That said, with the threat of recession looming, I’ll be keeping my eye very firmly on the ball in the coming weeks to see if there’s any sign of a deteriorating picture.

Updated analysis by county and region

By county (loosely defined), the 28,225 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (7,580)
  • Yorkshire (2,530)
  • West Midlands (1,673)
  • Greater Manchester (1,371)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (1,090)
  • Hampshire (962)
  • Berkshire (839)
  • Hertfordshire (703)
  • Surrey (616)
  • Nottinghamshire (576)
  • Tyne & Wear (530)
  • Sussex (525)
  • Cheshire (513)
  • Derbyshire (511)
  • Cambridgeshire (483)
  • Essex (472)
  • Lancashire (459)
  • Warwickshire (451)
  • Suffolk (434)
  • Merseyside (389)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (383)
  • Devon (373)
  • Staffordshire (361)
  • Wiltshire (335)
  • County Durham (331)
  • Buckinghamshire (319)
  • Kent (319)
  • Oxfordshire (318)
  • Leicestershire (317)
  • Bedfordshire (313)
  • Dorset (288)
  • Norfolk (278)
  • Northamptonshire (272)
  • Cornwall (270)
  • Cumbria (263)
  • Worcestershire (201)
  • Lincolnshire (199)
  • Shropshire (141)
  • Isle of Wight (43)
  • Northumberland (40)
  • Herefordshire (33)
  • Rutland (7)
  • Home working with no central base (33)
  • Not specified (81) 

Regional data: The table below shows how those stats add up regionally in the context of the local 15-24 year-old population. The population figures have been extracted from the very latest ONS census data published in June 2022 and my analysis provides the following information:

  • First number in bold = the latest cumulative number of vacancies for each region
  • Big number in brackets = the resident population of 15-24-year-olds in the region using the new ONS data and rounded to the nearest 100
  • Third figure in bold indexes my apprenticeship figures against the 15-24-year-old population. The ‘index’ shows the combined number of DAs and HAs since March 2020 per 1,000 of that population and the regions are then ‘ranked’ accordingly:
  •   7,580   London (1,078,600: 7.03)
  •   2,758   South West (645,800: 4.27)
  •   2,859   West Midlands (720,900: 3.97)
  •   2,683   East of England (685,300: 3.92)
  •   2,546   Yorkshire & Humber (670,800: 3.80)
  •   3,922   South East (1,040,500: 3.77)
  •   2,992   North West (884,600: 3.38)
  •   1,833   East Midlands (593,700: 3.09)
  •      938   North East (313,000: 3.00)
  •      114   Not specified / Home working
  • 28,225   Total England (6,633,200: 4.26)

Updated occupational analysis

Each week I update my occupational analysis by breaking down the new vacancies into what I loosely define as ‘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 14,299 new vacancies spread across 103 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £32,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows:

2,988 Police Constables 

1,261 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for details

1,220 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

  723 Software Engineers/Developers

  722 Chartered Managers (general)

  584 Nurses (474 Adult, 86 Mental Health, 19 Learning Disability, 5 Child) 

  553 Civil Engineers

  472 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  415 Data Scientists/Analysts/Engineers

  412 Project Managers

  332 Chartered Building/Property/Land Surveyors  

  276 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  272 Design & Development Engineers

  266 Supply Chain Leaders

  222 Food Technology/Production/Manufacturing Professionals

  216 Digital Marketing Professionals

  200 Cyber Security Professionals

  180 Manufacturing Engineers

  160 Nuclear Engineers/Scientists  

  149 Financial Services Professionals

  149 Sales Professionals

  136 Building Services Design Engineers 

  129 Laboratory Scientists

  124 Professional Economists 

  121 Solicitors

  119 Retail Leaders

  113 Aerospace Engineers

  109 Environmental Practitioners

  104 Construction Managers

    98 Healthcare Science Practitioners (13 Biomedical Science, 13 Cardiac Physiology, 11 Nuclear Medicine Technology, 10 Medical & Clinical Engineering, 10 Neurophysiology, 10 Respiratory Physiology & Sleep Science, 8 Radiation & Radiotherapy Engineering, 7 Radiation & Radiotherapy Physics, 6 Audiology, 5 Digital Healthcare Science, 3 Bioinformatics, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Renal Specialist)   

    95 Network Engineers

    77 Hospital Operating Department Practitioners  

    75 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

    73 Digital User Experience (UX) Design Professionals

    67 Control Engineers

    60 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    47 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    43 Chartered Managers (Hospitality)

    43 Materials Scientists/Technologists/Engineers

    42 Radiographers (28 Diagnostic, 14 Therapeutic)

    40 Internal Audit Professionals

    39 Town Planners

    38 Manufacturing & Production Managers (non-food)        

    37 Occupational Therapists

    36 Clinical Trials Specialists

    36 Creative Digital Design Professionals   

    35 Podiatrists

    32 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

    30 Recruitment Professionals

    28 Building Control Surveyors

    27 Business Analysts

    27 Social Workers 

    26 Chemical Engineers     

    25 Packaging Professionals 

    24 Chartered Rural Surveyors

    24 Environmental Health Officers

    22 Transport Planners    

    21 Project Control Professionals

    20 Human Resources Professionals  

    19 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    17 Architectural Technologists

    17 Journalists

    16 Public Health Practitioners

    15 Architectural Assistants

    15 Geotechnical Engineers

    15 Junior Traders (Global Financial Markets)     

    15 Professional Foresters

    14 GIS / Geospatial Mapping & Surveying Professionals

    14 Marketing Managers

    11 Insurance Professionals

    11 Physiotherapists

      9 Business Managers (Social Change)

      8 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

      8 Gas Transmission Engineers

      8 Propulsion Engineers

      6 Actuarial Professionals

      6 Sport Development Officers

      5 Chartered Legal Executives   

      5 Fire Safety Engineers

      5 Operations Analysts

      4 Assistant Teachers / Learning Coaches

      4 Compliance & Risk Specialists

      4 Speech & Language Therapists

      3 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

      3 Buying & Procurement Professionals

      3 Digital Transformation Engineers

      3 Fitness/Leisure Centre Managers

      3 TV Production Managers

      2 Education Technology Specialists

      2 Midwives

      2 Pensions Professionals

      2 Tax Technologists

      1 Brewer

      1 Charity Manager

      1 Community Centre Manager

      1 Events Manager

      1 Facilities Manager

      1 Human Performance Engineer 

      1 Investment Banking Specialist

      1 Lighting Designer

      1 Marine Engineer

      1 Population Health Intelligence Analyst

      1 Prosthetist & Orthotist     

*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, Technical/Tech Consultant, Functional Consultant, Project Manager, Project Co-ordinator, Business Intelligence Specialist, Business Systems Engineer/Developer, Automation Developer, Automation Test Developer, Full Stack Developer, Digital Developer, Digital Solutions Architect, Technology Architect, Technology Manager, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, Agile Analyst, Applications Support Analyst, Technical Support Analyst, Business Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Content Analyst, Security Operations Analyst, Process Mining Analyst, SAP Analyst, User Experience Researcher, Junior Product Manager, Infrastructure Specialist, FinTech Specialist, DevOps Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Digital Solutions Engineer, Systems Engineer, Automation Engineer, IT Support Engineer, Service Desk Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Quality Assurance 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, Operations Support Analyst, Support Desk Analyst, IT Support Analyst, IT Service Desk Analyst, IT/Computing Technician, 2nd Line Support Technician, WordPress Developer, Technology Operations & Service Delivery Specialist, Digital Manufacturing Engineer, Electronic Systems Design & Development Engineer, Solution Engineering & Development Specialist, Client Delivery Specialist, Client Success Specialist, Client Consultant, Operations Resilience & Change Specialist, Microsoft 365 Product Specialist, Innovation Foundry Specialist, Continuous Improvement & Automation Specialist and Railway Signalling Control Systems Specialist.

That’s some list and it keeps growing.

Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5):

In total there have been 13,926 new vacancies spread across 134 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,364 Sales Executives

1,077 Software Developers 

1,014 Data Analysts

  986 Project Management Associates

  917 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

  546 School/Community Sports Coaches    

  403 Nursing Associates

  395 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  383 Construction Site Supervisors

  373 Business Analysts  

  335 Network Engineers

  322 Taxation Technicians

  285 Software Testers

  268 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  250 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  241 Cyber Security Technologists

  234 Retail Assistant Managers

  233 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  225 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  194 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  194 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  186 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  179 Technician Scientists

  175 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  171 Policy Officers (Central/Local Government)

  156 Insurance Practitioners  

  150 Reablement Associate Practitioners (NHS)

  149 Investment Operations Specialists

  138 Marketing Executives

  131 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  123 DevOps Engineers

  118 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  113 Early Years Lead Practitioners

    89 Junior Management Consultants

    86 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    81 Healthcare Science Associates (22 Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers, 15 Cardiorespiratory & Sleep Physiology, 14 Bio/Medical Engineering Technicians, 8 MRI Radiography, 6 Genetics Technology, 4 Mammography, 4 Speech Therapy, 2 Medical Physics, 2 Phlebotomy, 1 Biochemistry, 1 Neurophysiology, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Tissue Retrieval)  

    77 Food Technology/Engineering/Production Technicians 

    77 Human Resources Specialists     

    77 Nuclear Technicians     

    74 Quality Practitioners

    73 Mineral Products Technicians 

    70 Recruitment Resourcers/Consultants

    61 Financial Advisers/Paraplanners   

    54 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (general/unspecified)

    47 Actuarial Technicians

    47 Hospitality Managers

    47 Internal Audit Practitioners

    46 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners       

    46 Vehicle Damage Assessors     

    44 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners  

    39 Brewers 

    38 Intelligence Analysts

    35 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians

    34 Journalists

    34 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    34 TV/Media Production Co-ordinators

    32 Automation & Control Engineers

    32 Business Improvement Practitioners 

    32 Learning/Skills & Development Practitioners

    31 Dairy Technologists

    29 Railway Engineering Technicians

    26 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    24 Operations Managers   

    21 Estate Agency Negotiators

    21 Housing/Property/Lettings Managers

    18 Market Research Executives

    15 Fibre Cable Engineers

    15 Smart Energy Engineers

    14 Countryside Rangers

    14 Police Community Support Officers

    12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

    12 Land Referencers      

    12 Paralegals

    11 Digital Community Managers

    11 Hygiene Specialists

    10 Football Coaches

    10 Information Managers    

      9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

      9 Railway/Passenger Transport Operations Managers

      8 Acoustics Technicians

      8 Emergency Medical Technicians 

      8 Employability Practitioners

      8 Film/TV Post-Production Technical Operators

      7 Computer Games Developers

      7 Counter Fraud Investigators    

      6 Facilities Managers

      6 Fire Safety Inspectors

      6 School Business Professionals     

      5 Antisocial Behaviour & Community Safety Officers

      5 Architectural Technicians

      5 BEMS Control Engineers (Building Energy Management Systems)

      5 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

      5 Visual Merchandisers

      4 Aircraft Certifying Technicians

      4 Gymnastics/Trampoline Coaches / Rebound Therapists

      4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

      3 Applications Support Leads

      3 Dental Technicians

      3 Fashion & Textiles Technologists

      3 Pensions Administrators

      3 Port Marine Operations Officers

      3 Senior Culinary Chefs

      3 Space Engineering Technicians

      3 Sports Development Officers   

      3 Town Planning Assistants 

      3 Utilities Technicians

      2 Arboriculturists      

      2 Auctioneers

      2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technicians

      2 Early Intervention Practitioners

      2 Historic Site Advisers

      2 Music Recording Technicians

      2 Tax Technology Technicians

      2 VFX Artists

      2 Water Recycling Engineers

      1 Chaplain

      1 Chemical Process Technician

      1 Clinical Coder

      1 Community Energy Specialist

      1 Cultural Heritage Conservation Technician

      1 Customs & Foreign Exchange Expert

      1 Digital Accessibility Specialist

      1 Fitness Club Manager

      1 Fitness Instructor

      1 Health Informatics Specialist

      1 Horticultural / Landscape Design Practitioner

      1 Lighting Designer

      1 Metrology Technician

      1 Padel Coach

      1 Payroll Assistant Manager

      1 Tennis Coach

      1 Travel Agent

      1 Wedding Accessories Designer

      1 Wedding Venue Co-ordinator

Going forward

All being well I will continue posting frequent updates, usually on Sunday nights.

As from 1st June I have also started to track Degree and Higher Apprenticeships in Wales and Northern Ireland and Level 6/7 apprenticeships in Scotland. I’ve always been very conscious that my blog only covers England and I intend to redress this with occasional reports starting as soon as I have enough data to give it some validity.

© Alan Bullock Careers, 11/9/2022



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