Week 165: Higher & Degree Apprenticeships overview – the South West does best

Latest reflections on the situation in England

One of the most notable outcomes of my ongoing project to track degree and higher apprenticeships is the regional variations it has uncovered. The dominance of London hasn’t surprised me, but the strength of the South West certainly has.

What I’m not quite sure about is whether the South West’s consistency is a misleading statistical quirk or a proven phenomenon, but I’m inclined towards the latter. Bristol in particular has shown itself to be a bustling hub and a hive of activity, especially around its northern periphery where the M4 and M5 motorways intersect. But other parts of the region, which I would expect to be relatively quiet, often seem to punch above their weight too. And this week was no exception with the region accounting for almost 35% of new vacancies. A tranche of new Nursing DAs split between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare was quite a big contributor to this, albeit not the sole reason, and Weston’s prominence has won it the right to be the location of this week’s featured image from my own photo collection.

Yet again NHS vacancies are a talking point too, but on this occasion not for quite such a positive reason. Over the past couple of years I’ve been making great use of the NHS Jobs website to identify new apprenticeships in healthcare professions, but this week the old site closed down. The new site, whilst more professional in appearance, seems to lack a ‘Recently Added’ feature, making it harder rather than easier to spot new vacancies. I hope this will be resolved, or that I’ve missed something.     

Whilst there were no other major developments this week, I think my cumulative occupational data (see below) becomes ever more intriguing as it grows. I never tire of glancing through it to maintain a sense of what’s out there in terms of comparative volume.   

Scotland, Wales and Nor thern Ireland updates

Having also tracked vacancies in the three other home nations since 1st June 2022, my latest running totals are as follows:

  • Scotland578 vacancies at SQF Levels 10/11
  • Wales79 vacancies at Levels 6/7 and 140 at Levels 4/5
  • Northern Ireland102 vacancies at Levels 4 to 7 

I intend to publish new Scotland and Wales updates in the next couple of weeks, reflecting on a full year of vacancies. Scotland promises to be particularly interesting, with a wide and intriguing geographical spread. I also hope to publish some Northern Ireland reflections in due course, once I have enough reliable data.


Since the first COVID-19 ‘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 tabs on other national vacancy sources especially Not Going to Uni, Rate My Apprenticeship and NHS Jobs.

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 an applicant 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, I think the analyses I’ve built up still 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, thereby ironically leaving some vacancies hard to fill).

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 Level 3 apprenticeships too. It’s also true that a significant proportion of opportunities at Levels 4 to 7 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 15th to 21st May 2023 I recorded:

  • 101 new Degree & L7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 99 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies
  • giving a total of 200 for the week

In the 165 weeks since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 21st May 2023) I’ve now recorded:

  • 20,900 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 18,933 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 39,833

The average weekly totals in the 165 weeks since lockdown have been:

  • 127 DAs + 115 HAs = 242 average weekly total

Updated analysis by county and region

By county (loosely defined), the 39,833 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (9,819)
  • Yorkshire (3,502)
  • West Midlands (2,491)
  • Greater Manchester (2,222)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (1,727)
  • Hampshire (1,342)
  • Berkshire (1,214)
  • Hertfordshire (957)
  • Surrey (904)
  • Cheshire (816)
  • Derbyshire (799)
  • Nottinghamshire (779)
  • Tyne & Wear (770)
  • Sussex (732)
  • Cambridgeshire (714)
  • Merseyside (673)
  • Essex (666)
  • Devon (638)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (575)
  • Lancashire (562)
  • Warwickshire (556)
  • Wiltshire (520)
  • Suffolk (519)
  • Buckinghamshire (515)
  • Kent (513)
  • Cumbria (471)
  • Leicestershire (467)
  • Staffordshire (460)
  • Dorset (460)
  • Oxfordshire (454)
  • Bedfordshire (413)
  • County Durham (404)
  • Northamptonshire (352)
  • Cornwall (350)
  • Norfolk (319)
  • Worcestershire (292)
  • Lincolnshire (277)
  • Shropshire (238)
  • Northumberland (55)
  • Isle of Wight (55)
  • Herefordshire (41)
  • Rutland (13)
  • Remote-working with no central base (69)
  • Not specified (118) 

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 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 latest ONS data 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:
  •   9,819   London (1,078,600: 9.10)
  •   4,289   South West (645,800: 6.64)
  •   4,077   West Midlands (720,900: 5.66)  
  •   5,695   South East (1,040,500: 5.47)
  •   4,741   North West (884,600: 5.36)
  •   3,603   East of England (685,300: 5.26)
  •   3,516   Yorkshire & Humber (670,800: 5.24)
  •   2,622   East Midlands (593,700: 4.42)
  •   1,284   North East (313,000: 4.10)
  •        69   Remote-working
  •      118   Not specified
  • 39,833   Total England (6,633,200: 6.01)

Whilst my data is always going to have flaws in it, I think the above comparisons give a fair reflection of the intriguing regional differences that exist.        

Updated occupational analysis

Every week I update my occupational analysis, breaking the vacancies down into what I loosely define as ‘occupational areas’. In some cases these differ from the official apprenticeship standards terminology. For each occupational area the total number of vacancies since March 2020 are given below for both degree and higher apprenticeships.

Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7):

In total there have been 20,900 new vacancies spread across 121 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £35,150pa, with the average being somewhere in the middle (around £19K). The occupational breakdown is as follows:

3,205 Police Constables 

2,396 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

1,842 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for details

1,105 Chartered Business Managers

1,065 Software Engineers/Developers

  944 Civil Engineers

  756 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  710 Nurses (548 Adult, 122 Mental Health, 33 Learning Disability, 7 Child) 

  656 Project Managers

  649 Data Scientists/Analysts/Engineers

  452 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  452 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  433 Design & Development Engineers

  384 Nuclear Engineers  

  342 Supply Chain Leaders

  299 Cyber Security Professionals

  291 Food & Drink Technologists/Manufacturers

  286 Building Services Engineers

  274 Manufacturing Engineers

  267 Banking/Financial Services/Investment Professionals

  258 Digital Marketing Professionals

  248 Solicitors

  231 Sales Professionals

  202 Laboratory Scientists

  199 Professional Economists

  181 Aerospace Engineers

  177 Environmental Practitioners

  163 Retail Leaders

  150 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

  147 Construction Managers

  141 Healthcare Science Practitioners (20 Nuclear Medicine, 18 Cardiac Physiology, 15 Biomedical Sciences, 15 Radiation & Radiotherapy Physics, 14 Radiation & Radiotherapy Engineering, 12 Audiology, 12 Medical Engineering, 11 Respiratory & Sleep Physiology, 10 Neurophysiology, 5 Digital Healthcare Science, 4 Medical Physics Technology, 3 Clinical Informatics, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Renal Technology) 

  132 Network Engineers

  119 Operating Department Practitioners (NHS)

  100 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    94 Automation & Control Engineers   

    86 Project Controls Professionals

    82 Digital User Experience (UX) Design Professionals   

    79 Occupational Therapists

    72 Radiographers (43 Diagnostic, 29 Therapeutic)    

    68 Materials Science Technologists/Engineers     

    66 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    60 Creative Digital Design Professionals

    56 Podiatrists

    54 Building Control Surveyors

    51 Clinical Trials Specialists

    46 Town Planners

    44 Broadcast/Communication/Media Systems Engineers

    43 Packaging Professionals 

    43 Social Workers 

    40 Manufacturing/Production Managers (non-food)

    39 Chemical Engineers     

    38 Chartered Rural Surveyors / Land Agents

    36 Design & Construction Professionals

    35 Transport Planners    

    34 Business Analysts  

    34 Human Resources Professionals  

    34 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    32 Recruitment Professionals

    31 Environmental Health Officers

    26 Architectural Assistants

    25 Physiotherapists

    24 Marketing/Brand Managers

    23 Geotechnical Engineers

    23 GIS / Geospatial Mapping & Surveying Professionals

    20 Public Health Practitioners

    18 Insurance Professionals

    18 Journalists

    17 Fire Safety Engineers

    15 Forestry Professionals

    11 Midwives      

    10 Dietitians

      9 Business Managers (Social Change)

      9 Propulsion Engineers

      8 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

      8 Gas Transmission Engineers

      7 Land Buyers

      7 Speech & Language Therapists

      6 Actuarial Professionals

      6 Sport Development Officers

      5 Chartered Legal Executives   

      5 Operations Analysts

      4 Assistant Buyers

      4 Assistant Teachers / Learning Coaches

      4 Fitness/Leisure Centre Managers

      4 Sports Business Managers

      3 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

      3 Digital Transformation Engineers

      3 Education Technology Specialists

      3 TV Production Managers

      2 Licensed Conveyancers

      2 Lighting Designers

      2 Pensions Professionals

      2 Tax Technologists

      1 Charity Manager

      1 Community Centre Manager

      1 Events Manager

      1 Facilities Manager

      1 Games Programmer

      1 Human Performance Engineer 

      1 Marine Engineer

      1 Population Health Intelligence Analyst

      1 Prosthetist & Orthotist

      1 Sonographer 

      1 Youth Worker    

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

IT Consultant, Software Engineer, Data Analyst, Cyber Security Specialist, Software Developer, Software Tester, Network Engineer, Data Scientist, Global Data Analyst, Data Product Specialist, Data Architect, Network Architect, Enterprise Architect, Digital Solutions Architect, Technology Architect, Solutions Consultant, Software Implementation Consultant, Software Consultant, Technical Consultant, Functional Consultant, Business Consultant, Project Manager, Project Co-ordinator, Business Intelligence (BI) Developer, Business Systems Developer, Automation Developer, Automation Test Developer, Full Stack Developer, Digital Developer, Prototype Developer, Technology Manager, Legal Technologist, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, Agile Analyst, Applications Support Analyst, Technical Support Analyst, Business Analyst, Business Technology Analyst, Network Strategy Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Content Analyst, Security Operations Analyst, Process Mining Analyst, SAP Analyst, User Experience Researcher, Digital Social Media Executive, Junior Product Manager, Infrastructure Specialist, FinTech Specialist, DevOps Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Digital Solutions Engineer, Systems Engineer, Business Systems Engineer, Automation Engineer, IT Support Engineer, Technical 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, Information Management Technology Specialist, Control Systems Specialist, 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, Second Line Support Technician, WordPress Developer, Public Health Intelligence Officer, 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 and Continuous Improvement & Automation Specialist.

That’s some list (currently 92 different job titles).

Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5):

In total there have been 18,933 new vacancies spread across 160 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,002 to £35,000pa (the average being around £17K, except for Sports Coaches which are usually around £10K or lower). The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,708 Sales Executives

1,303 Data Analysts

1,288 Software Developers 

1,213 Project Management Associates

1,212 Accounting Technicians

  995 Sports Coaches (Children & Young People)   

  585 Construction Site Supervisors

  573 Nursing Associates

  521 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  500 Business Analysts  

  443 Network Engineers

  414 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  380 Taxation Technicians

  359 Cyber Security Technologists

  350 Software Testers

  347 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  334 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  285 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  273 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  270 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  256 Buying & Merchandising Assistants

  250 Retail Managers

  230 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  217 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (150 Reablement, 59 Multidisciplinary, 5 Speech Therapy, 2 Continuing Healthcare, 1 Occupational Therapy)

  215 DevOps Engineers

  214 Investment Operations Specialists

  209 Insurance Practitioners  

  201 Technician Scientists

  199 Marketing Executives

  185 Policy Practitioners

  163 Early Years Lead Practitioners

  159 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  152 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  151 Junior Management Consultants

  144 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  126 Human Resources Specialists     

  121 Healthcare Science Associates (32 Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers, 30 Medical Engineering Technicians, 22 Cardiac, Respiratory & Sleep Physiology, 12 Genetics Technicians, 9 MRI Imaging, 5 Mammography, 3 Tissue Retrieval, 2 Medical Physics, 2 Phlebotomy, 1 Biochemistry, 1 Biomedicine, 1 Neurophysiology, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering)

  116 Mineral Products Technicians 

  114 Police Community Support Officers

  104 Quality Practitioners

  101 Food Technology/Manufacturing Technicians 

    99 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners 

    95 Nuclear Technicians  

    89 Hospitality Managers

    89 Railway Engineering Technicians

    77 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians

    72 Recruitment Consultants

    69 Internal Audit Practitioners

    64 Actuarial Technicians

    63 Financial Advisers/Paraplanners   

    62 Journalists

    57 Brewers 

    57 Vehicle Damage Assessors     

    52 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners       

    52 Automation & Controls Technicians

    50 Intelligence Analysts

    49 Operations Managers   

    47 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    43 Dairy Technologists

    41 Learning & Skills Practitioners/Mentors

    37 Business Improvement Practitioners 

    37 TV/Media Production Co-ordinators

    36 Applications Support Leads

    35 Market Research Executives

    31 Information Managers    

    29 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    28 Housing/Property/Lettings Managers

    27 Audiovisual Technicians

    24 Engineer Surveyors

    24 Paralegals

    23 Estate Agency Negotiators

    20 BEMS Controls Engineers (Building Energy Management Systems)

    20 Countryside Rangers

    19 Acoustics Technicians

    18 Land Referencers 

    15 Fibre Cable Engineers

    15 Smart Energy Engineers

    12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

    12 Digital Community Managers

    11 Film/TV Post-Production Technical Operators

    11 Hygiene Specialists

    10 Air Traffic Controllers

    10 Digital Accessibility Specialists

    10 Employability Practitioners

    10 Football Coaches

      9 Counter Fraud Investigators    

      9 Engineering Maintenance Technicians

      9 Facilities Managers

      9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

      9 Railway/Passenger Transport Operations Managers

      7 Antisocial Behaviour & Community Safety Officers

      7 Computer Games Developers

      7 Dental Technicians

      7 School Business Professionals     

      7 Town Planning Technicians 

      6 Fire Safety Inspectors

      6 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

      5 Architectural Technicians

      5 Asset Managers

      5 Broadcasting Technical Operators

      5 Visual Merchandisers

      4 Aircraft Certifying Technicians

      4 Data Protection Practitioners     

      4 Gymnastics/Trampoline Coaches & Rebound Therapists

      4 Padel Coaches

      4 Space Engineering Technicians

      4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

      3 Culinary Chefs

      3 Early Intervention Practitioners

      3 Fashion & Textiles Technologists

      3 Historic Site Advisers

      3 Music Teachers

      3 Pensions Administrators

      3 Port Marine Operations Officers

      3 Sports Development Officers   

      3 Utilities Technicians

      2 Arboriculturists      

      2 Auctioneers

      2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technicians

      2 Chaplains

      2 Energy Specialists

      2 Music Recording Technicians

      2 Payroll Assistant Managers

      2 Tax Technology Technicians

      2 Travel Executives

      2 Visual Effects Artists

      2 Water Recycling Engineers

      1 Chemical Process Technician

      1 Clinical Coder

      1 Cricket Coach

      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 Lighting Designer

      1 Metrology Technician

      1 Outdoor Learning Specialist

      1 Process Leader

      1 Proposals Co-ordinator

      1 Tennis Coach

      1 Wedding Accessories Designer

      1 Wedding Venue Co-ordinator

Going forward

All being well I will continue posting weekly or fortnightly updates, usually on Sunday nights or Monday mornings.   

© Alan Bullock Careers, 21/5/2023


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