Week 135: Higher & Degree Apprenticeship overview – latest developments and Scotland update

Latest reflections in England

Week 135 turned out to be quite similar to the week before, with an average number of new HAs but another disappointing and below-average crop of new DAs. However, whilst a few of the big DA/HA providers’ annual schemes are already accepting applications for 2023, I’ve noticed several more of them inviting prospective applicants to “register your interest” prior to officially launching their school/college-leaver recruitment programmes in the near future. Hence, my confident prediction is that DA numbers in particular will rise over the next few weeks. Beyond that however, it remains to be seen whether there’ll be any signs of a downward spiral if the anticipated economic recession takes hold.

Regionally, several counties had a decent week including Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, while Worcestershire, Devon and Dorset also punched above their weight. Of these Manchester was marginally the most prominent and it therefore figures as this week’s featured image, a photo taken on one of my business trips there several years ago.

On a less positive regional note, I find myself reflecting increasingly on questions around ‘levelling up’. Not for the first time, it was especially quiet this week in the East Midlands and North East and this is a topic I think I’ll be revisiting quite frequently going forward.

Other home nations update

The one significant development I’ve noticed in the other home nations in the past week is a batch of 20 new Software Engineering vacancies with J.P. Morgan in Glasgow in partnership with Strathclyde University, reflecting the universal rise of careers in FinTech. This has taken my tally of Scottish vacancies to a total of 231 and, all being well, I firmly intend to publish my first long-promised Scotland report before the end of next month. The Scottish data I’ve collated so far is quite intriguing and there will also be some new features when I do publish it, including breakdowns by occupation, town/city, starting salary, university partner and entry requirements.

Regrettably Wales seems to have been very quiet recently, but I’m expecting to see a bit more activity there next month and I aim to produce a Wales report soonish. Northern Ireland was very quiet too, but I’ll be keeping a watching brief there.


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 17th to 23rd October 2022 I recorded:

  • 48 new Degree & L7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 122 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies 

In the 135 weeks since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 23rd October 2022) I’ve now recorded:

  • 15,295 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 14,681 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 29,976

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 135 weeks since lockdown: 113 DAs + 109 HAs = 222 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 29,976 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (7,908)
  • Yorkshire (2,670)
  • West Midlands (1,816)
  • Greater Manchester (1,536)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (1,179)
  • Hampshire (1,022)
  • Berkshire (921)
  • Hertfordshire (783)
  • Surrey (647)
  • Nottinghamshire (626)
  • Cheshire (588)
  • Sussex (560)
  • Tyne & Wear (559)
  • Derbyshire (533)
  • Cambridgeshire (511)
  • Essex (495)
  • Lancashire (481)
  • Warwickshire (473)
  • Suffolk (465)
  • Merseyside (401)
  • Devon (392)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (390)
  • Staffordshire (373)
  • Buckinghamshire (363)
  • Kent (345)
  • County Durham (344)
  • Wiltshire (344)
  • Leicestershire (333)
  • Oxfordshire (328)
  • Bedfordshire (327)
  • Dorset (301)
  • Northamptonshire (284)
  • Norfolk (279)
  • Cornwall (273)
  • Cumbria (266)
  • Worcestershire (215)
  • Lincolnshire (207)
  • Shropshire (155)
  • Northumberland (45)
  • Isle of Wight (44)
  • Herefordshire (33)
  • Rutland (7)
  • Home working with no central base (33)
  • Not specified (121) 

Regional data: The table below shows how those stats add up regionally in the context of the local 15 to 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:
  •   7,908   London (1,078,600: 7.33)
  •   2,898   South West (645,800: 4.49)
  •   3,064   West Midlands (720,900: 4.25)
  •   2,875   East of England (685,300: 4.20)
  •   4,196   South East (1,040,500: 4.03)
  •   2,685   Yorkshire & Humber (670,800: 4.00)
  •   3,269   North West (884,600: 3.70)
  •   1,939   East Midlands (593,700: 3.27)
  •      988   North East (313,000: 3.16)
  •      154   Not specified / Home working
  • 29,976   Total England (6,633,200: 4.52)

Whilst my data is always going to have flaws in it, the above comparisons nonetheless seem to raise some continuing questions about ‘levelling up’. The South West being so well-placed is perhaps surprising and Bristol has to take much of the credit for that. But in general there do still seem to be strong hints of a lack of balance between north and south and especially a distinct London-centric element. It’s this very concern that first prompted me to start collating regional as well as occupational data.

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 15,295 new vacancies spread across 105 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £32,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows:

2,988 Police Constables 

1,674 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

1,350 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for details

  759 Chartered Managers (general)

  743 Software Engineers/Developers

  587 Nurses (476 Adult, 86 Mental Health, 20 Learning Disability, 5 Child) 

  579 Civil Engineers

  498 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  480 Data Scientists/Analysts/Engineers

  408 Project Managers

  375 Chartered Building/Property Surveyors  

  297 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  277 Supply Chain Leaders

  276 Design & Development (Mechanical) Engineers

  235 Food Technology/Production/Manufacturing Professionals

  226 Cyber Security Professionals

  218 Digital Marketing Professionals

  186 Manufacturing Engineers

  165 Nuclear Engineers/Scientists  

  161 Sales Professionals

  159 Retail Leaders

  153 Building Services Design Engineers 

  149 Financial Services Professionals

  137 Solicitors

  131 Laboratory Scientists

  124 Professional Economists 

  116 Aerospace Engineers

  109 Environmental Practitioners

  104 Construction Managers

  100 Network Engineers

    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)   

    84 Hospital Operating Department Practitioners  

    75 Digital User Experience (UX) Design Professionals

    75 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

    67 Control Engineers

    60 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    52 Radiographers (33 Diagnostic, 19 Therapeutic)

    47 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    44 Materials Scientists/Technologists/Engineers 

    43 Chartered Hospitality Managers

    40 Internal Audit Professionals    

    39 Town Planners     

    38 Manufacturing & Production Managers (non-food)        

    37 Creative Digital Design Professionals   

    37 Occupational Therapists

    36 Clinical Trials Specialists

    36 Podiatrists

    36 Project Control Professionals

    32 Broadcast/Media Systems Engineers

    30 Recruitment Professionals

    29 Building Control Surveyors

    29 Social Workers 

    27 Business Analysts

    27 Chemical Engineers     

    27 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 Marketing Managers

    15 Professional Foresters

    14 GIS / Geospatial Mapping & Surveying Professionals

    12 Insurance Professionals

    12 Physiotherapists

      9 Business Managers (Social Change)

      8 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

      8 Gas Transmission Engineers

      8 Propulsion Engineers

      6 Actuarial Professionals

      6 Fire Safety Engineers

      6 Sport Development Officers

      6 Systems Engineers

      5 Chartered Legal Executives   

      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 Environmental Engineer

      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 (BI) Developer, 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, Business Technology 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 14,681 new vacancies spread across 138 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,002 to £35,000pa. The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,441 Sales Executives

1,121 Software Developers 

1,069 Data Analysts

1,004 Project Management Associates

  952 Trainee Accountants / Accounting Technicians

  632 School/Community Sports Coaches    

  440 Nursing Associates

  410 Construction Site Supervisors

  402 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  393 Business Analysts  

  343 Taxation Technicians

  342 Network Engineers

  292 Software Testers

  279 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  261 Cyber Security Technologists

  256 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  249 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  238 Retail Assistant Managers

  230 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  209 Buying & Merchandising Specialists

  208 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  199 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  183 Technician Scientists

  175 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  171 Policy Officers (Central/Local Government)

  157 Investment Operations Specialists

  156 Insurance Practitioners  

  150 Reablement Associate Practitioners (NHS)

  146 Marketing Executives

  143 DevOps Engineers

  131 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  131 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  118 Junior Management Consultants

  117 Early Years Lead Practitioners

    87 Construction Design & Build Technicians

    84 Healthcare Science Associates (22 Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers, 16 Bio/Medical Engineering Technicians, 15 Cardiorespiratory & Sleep Physiology, 9 Radiography, 6 Genetics Technology, 4 Mammography, 4 Speech Therapy, 2 Medical Physics, 2 Phlebotomy, 1 Biochemistry, 1 Neurophysiology, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Tissue Retrieval)  

    83 Human Resources Specialists     

    77 Food Technology/Engineering/Production Technicians 

    77 Nuclear Technicians     

    76 Quality Practitioners

    73 Mineral Products Technicians 

    71 Recruitment Consultants

    67 Hospitality Managers

    61 Financial Advisers/Paraplanners   

    58 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners  

    56 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (general/unspecified)

    51 Internal Audit Practitioners

    49 Intelligence Analysts

    47 Actuarial Technicians

    46 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners       

    46 Vehicle Damage Assessors     

    42 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians

    40 Brewers 

    36 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    35 Journalists

    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   

    24 Police Community Support Officers

    21 Estate Agency Negotiators

    21 Housing/Property/Lettings Managers

    19 Market Research Executives

    15 Countryside Rangers

    15 Fibre Cable Engineers

    15 Paralegals

    15 Smart Energy Engineers

    12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

    12 Engineer Surveyors

    12 Land Referencers      

    11 Digital Community Managers

    11 Hygiene Specialists

    10 Air Traffic Controllers

    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 BEMS Control Engineers (Building Energy Management Systems)

      6 Digital Accessibility Specialists

      6 Facilities Managers

      6 Fire Safety Inspectors

      6 School Business Professionals     

      5 Antisocial Behaviour & Community Safety Officers

      5 Applications Support Leads

      5 Architectural Technicians

      5 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

      5 Visual Merchandisers

      4 Aircraft Certifying Technicians

      4 Dental Technicians

      4 Gymnastics/Trampoline Coaches / Rebound Therapists

      4 Space Engineering Technicians

      4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

      3 Fashion & Textiles Technologists

      3 Pensions Administrators

      3 Port Marine Operations Officers

      3 Senior Culinary Chefs

      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 Fitness Club Manager

      1 Fitness Instructor

      1 Health Informatics Specialist

      1 Horticultural / Landscape Design Practitioner

      1 Junior Energy Manager

      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 or Monday mornings.

Whilst I’ve been tracking vacancies in England for more than two and a half years, since 1st June 2022 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 time and enough data to give it some validity.

© Alan Bullock Careers, 23/10/2022


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