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Media centre home > News > Degree apprenticeships key to Northern Powerhouse

Issued:26/06/18

A key conference has heard that Government action to boost degree apprenticeships could help grow the economy in the north of England.

A series of recommendations have been made in a letter to the Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, from Sheffield Hallam University, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC).

A degree apprenticeship combines full-time paid work and part-time university study to offer new and existing employees the opportunity to gain a full Bachelors or Masters' degree while undertaking practical, on-the-job training needed to become occupationally competent.

The letter points to the potential of degree apprenticeships in closing the skills gap and improving economic growth - particularly in the north of England.

The recommendations coincide with the Degree Apprenticeship National Conference today (Wednesday 27 June) at Sheffield Hallam University, held in partnership with UVAC.

Sheffield Hallam has established itself as one of the leading providers of Higher and Degree apprenticeships in the country, with a rapid expansion in provision and a new Centre of Excellence for Degree Apprenticeships set to open this autumn. The University offers a wide range of degree apprenticeships, including programmes in construction, digital and IT, engineering, finance, food technology, health and social care, and hospitality management.

The letter makes five recommendations:

  1. Provide better information on how to progress to a degree apprenticeship for schools, school leavers and families.
  2. Make the system easier for employers to determine the right degree apprenticeship for their business.
  3. Streamline procedures for creating degree apprenticeships.
  4. Provide stable funding which recognises that degree apprenticeships involve significant costs for universities and employers.
  5. Preserve the recognised transferrable value of degree attainment in  degree apprenticeships - rather than use of degree 'level' apprenticeships.

The letter also recommends the creation of a coherent and substantial positive publicity campaign to raise awareness and profile of the benefits of degree apprenticeships, aimed at both learners and employers.

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "As one of the leading providers of degree apprenticeships, we have seen interest and applications rise significantly over the last two years - but we need to do more to support this alternative route into education and work.

"The funding system needs to be more streamlined in supporting pathways into higher level skills and encouraging more long-lasting collaborations between higher and further education to facilitate this. 

"We must also do more to tackled perceptions which currently reinforce the model of a traditional full-time undergraduate degree entered by 18/19-year-olds. Significant work is needed to increase awareness of alternative routes and break down perceptions of their quality. 

"An education system fit for the twenty-first century - which focuses on the long-term skills needs of the economy - must ensure the acquisition of both academic and technical skills, and to allow for their interdependence."

Henri Murison, Director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “In the Northern Powerhouse Partnership ‘Educating the North’ report, launched earlier this year, we put the case clearly for the North to lead the world in degree apprenticeships. That is an aspiration which we celebrate that a number of the North’s institutions most focused on the skills challenge in the Northern Powerhouse, including Sheffield Hallam University, are already working to make happen.

“However, as we end the unhelpful divide between academic and work-based learning, and the difference in esteem between them both, the government and their relevant sounding and standards bodies need to avoid stifling the growth of degree apprenticeships. Global, national and great northern led businesses need to drive our ambition by spending more apprenticeship levy here in the North to close the skills gap.

"The current slow and cumbersome approval process and often inadequate funding per degree apprentice are a real threat and businesses will not accept this great opportunity for young people, those wanting to retrain for the next industrial revolution and their businesses, being lost.”

Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive of UVAC, said: "Employers have and are developing degree apprenticeships in occupations needed to deliver high quality public services, including nursing, policing and social work. In the private sector degree apprenticeships have and are being developed for a range of occupations including digital, engineering and construction vital to the Northern Powerhouse.

"The Government must guarantee that employers operating in the Northern Powerhouse have access to the degree apprenticeships their organisations need."   

For press information: Please contact Martin Webb in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email m.webb@shu.ac.uk.