Week 131: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship overview – things are hotting up, but are they levelling up?

Latest reflections

Sure enough, we have now begun to see some of the September 2023 programmes kicking in along with a couple with January 2023 starts too. And I’m happy to give a special heads-up to global consultancy and construction firm Mace, whose fifty new DA and HA vacancies all came with precise information on volume, locations, starting salaries, entry requirements, degree providers and occupational area. There are some other big employers who are equally transparent, but conversely there are also some for whom I can only make educated low estimates about the actual numbers of vacancies across different locations, based on my own past experience. In these situations I always err on the side of caution and then adjust my figures further down the line if more information is forthcoming.

It might just be me and my obsession with data, but a frustration I often feel is that the volume of annual vacancies with a few of the larger employers is sometimes quite hard to judge. I don’t know to what extent 6th form and college students or fellow guidance practitioners might sometimes find this confusing too – are applicants competing for one vacancy, five, ten or fifty? I would be interested if any readers have a view on this.

Meanwhile, with the North West slightly lagging behind most other regions in recent months, it made a big comeback this week with Greater Manchester in particular scoring well with 46 new vacancies recorded. Hence, I’ve selected another of my photos of the city as this week’s featured image. In this context, readers might be interested in my brief comments about ‘levelling up’ that I’ve added as a footnote to my ‘Regional data’ section below.


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 probably doesn’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 19th to 25th September 2022 I recorded:

  • 104 new Degree Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 124 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies 

In the 131 weeks since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 25th September 2022) I’ve now recorded:

  • 14,410 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 14,120 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 28,530

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 131 weeks since lockdown: 110 DAs + 108 HAs = 218 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. However, 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 slowdown.

Updated analysis by county and region

By county (loosely defined), the 28,530 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (7,664)
  • Yorkshire (2,542)
  • West Midlands (1,692)
  • Greater Manchester (1,420)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (1,099)
  • Hampshire (967)
  • Berkshire (851)
  • Hertfordshire (716)
  • Surrey (619)
  • Nottinghamshire (583)
  • Tyne & Wear (532)
  • Sussex (528)
  • Cheshire (516)
  • Derbyshire (516)
  • Cambridgeshire (489)
  • Essex (481)
  • Warwickshire (465)
  • Lancashire (462)
  • Suffolk (435)
  • Merseyside (394)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (387)
  • Devon (373)
  • Staffordshire (361)
  • Wiltshire (338)
  • County Durham (333)
  • Buckinghamshire (325)
  • Kent (323)
  • Oxfordshire (321)
  • Leicestershire (320)
  • Bedfordshire (319)
  • Dorset (289)
  • Norfolk (278)
  • Northamptonshire (273)
  • Cornwall (272)
  • Cumbria (263)
  • Worcestershire (204)
  • Lincolnshire (201)
  • Shropshire (141)
  • Isle of Wight (44)
  • 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 to 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 to 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:
  •   7,664   London (1,078,600: 7.11)
  •   2,777   South West (645,800: 4.30)
  •   2,895   West Midlands (720,900: 4.02)
  •   2,718   East of England (685,300: 3.97)
  •   2,558   Yorkshire & Humber (670,800: 3.81)
  •   3,959   South East (1,040,500: 3.80)
  •   3,052   North West (884,600: 3.45)
  •   1,851   East Midlands (593,700: 3.12)
  •      942   North East (313,000: 3.01)
  •      114   Not specified / Home working
  • 28,530   Total England (6,633,200: 4.30)

Whilst my data is always going to have some flaws in it, the above comparisons nonetheless seem to me to raise some continuing questions about ‘levelling up’.

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 14,410 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 

1,271 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for details

1,239 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

  725 Software Engineers/Developers

  723 Chartered Managers (general)

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

  557 Civil Engineers

  478 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  417 Data Scientists/Analysts/Engineers

  402 Project Managers

  362 Chartered Building/Property/Land Surveyors  

  278 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  272 Design & Development Engineers

  266 Supply Chain Leaders

  222 Food Technology/Production/Manufacturing Professionals

  217 Digital Marketing Professionals

  200 Cyber Security Professionals

  183 Manufacturing Engineers

  161 Nuclear Engineers/Scientists  

  161 Sales Professionals

  149 Financial Services Professionals

  137 Building Services Design Engineers 

  130 Laboratory Scientists

  125 Solicitors

  124 Professional Economists 

  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

    44 Radiographers (29 Diagnostic, 15 Therapeutic)

    43 Chartered Managers (Hospitality)

    43 Materials Scientists/Technologists/Engineers   

    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   

    36 Podiatrists

    36 Project Control Professionals

    32 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

    30 Recruitment Professionals

    29 Social Workers 

    28 Building Control Surveyors

    27 Business Analysts

    27 Chemical Engineers     

    25 Packaging Professionals 

    24 Chartered Rural Surveyors

    24 Environmental Health Officers

    22 Transport Planners    

    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

    12 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 14,120 new vacancies spread across 135 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,002 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,380 Sales Executives

1,087 Software Developers 

1,016 Data Analysts

  994 Project Management Associates

  931 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

  581 School/Community Sports Coaches    

  413 Nursing Associates

  395 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  392 Construction Site Supervisors

  380 Business Analysts  

  337 Network Engineers

  332 Taxation Technicians

  285 Software Testers

  276 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  253 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  245 Cyber Security Technologists

  235 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  234 Retail Assistant Managers

  229 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  199 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  194 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  186 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  181 Technician Scientists

  175 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  171 Policy Officers (Central/Local Government)

  156 Insurance Practitioners  

  154 Investment Operations Specialists

  150 Reablement Associate Practitioners (NHS)

  139 Marketing Executives

  131 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  126 DevOps Engineers

  118 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  114 Early Years Lead Practitioners

    96 Junior Management Consultants

    86 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    82 Healthcare Science Associates (22 Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers, 15 Bio/Medical Engineering Technicians, 15 Cardiorespiratory & Sleep Physiology, 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)  

    78 Human Resources Specialists     

    77 Food Technology/Engineering/Production Technicians 

    77 Nuclear Technicians     

    74 Quality Practitioners

    73 Mineral Products Technicians 

    70 Recruitment Resourcers/Consultants

    61 Financial Advisers/Paraplanners   

    55 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (general/unspecified)

    50 Internal Audit Practitioners

    47 Actuarial Technicians

    47 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners  

    47 Hospitality Managers

    46 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners       

    46 Vehicle Damage Assessors     

    39 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians

    39 Brewers 

    38 Intelligence Analysts

    34 Journalists

    34 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    34 TV/Media Production Co-ordinators

    33 Business Improvement Practitioners 

    32 Automation & Control Engineers

    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 Engineer Surveyors

    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, 26/9/2022


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