A Degree Apprenticeship is similar to a Higher Apprenticeship. They differ by working towards Level 6 and Level 7 qualifications. Level 6 qualifications are equivalent to a full bachelor’s degree, and Level 7 to a master’s degree.

A Degree Apprenticeship works by an employer linking with a university to provide a combined course of studying and working. You apply to the employer directly as you would a regular job. So, nothing is stopping you from applying for multiple apprenticeships, degree courses, and employment.

At the same time, you must work out to which route you are most suited. The courses provide ‘employer-focused’ education so that those studying for a degree are also getting relevant work experience in their chosen field and developing their skills professionally.

Aimed primarily at 18 and 19-year-olds, as they leave school and college, Degree Apprenticeships are perfect for those who feel they have the academic ability to complete a degree and want to take their next step in the world of work (so that you don’t have to choose between the two).

Degree Level Qualifications for Free

Degree Apprenticeships are popular because they enable candidates of all ages to complete a degree course for free, while also earning a salary and gaining invaluable work experience in the field. Suppose you are somebody who has worried about the cost of going to university but has always wanted to study for a bachelor’s qualification. In that case, a Degree Apprenticeship is a perfect solution.

Tuition fees can be up to £9,250 per year so people who go to University to study for a three-year degree can emerge almost £28,000 in debt. That is just for the tuition fees and doesn’t include accommodation and living costs for the time they attended University. 

Degree apprenticeships are an excellent route into the upper echelons of higher education for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who may not have been able to consider taking up a University degree course previously because of the vast sums of money involved. It is a way of ensuring that the brightest people can still gain a degree level qualification, even where the financial costs would have otherwise excluded them.

Narrower Vocational Focus

Unlike other lower levels of apprenticeship, degree apprenticeships are available in vocational subjects, which require strong academic knowledge. This means that the number of different apprenticeships is narrower than for intermediate or advanced apprenticeships. 

Some examples include nursing, aerospace engineering, and nuclear engineering. However, there are new apprenticeships coming out all the time so make sure to keep checking in your field of interest. The degree apprenticeships are much more narrowly and tightly focused on areas that need graduate-level expertise but also need them to be able to hit the ground running and have developed experience in the field, as well as just having learned the academic side of the job.  

Degree apprenticeships also help to build and renew relationships between universities and local employers which, in the long run, will hopefully produce economic growth in the local area. Being able to encourage partnerships between local businesses and education providers can only ever be to the benefit of potential students and apprentices in the future.

Launched in 2015, Degree Apprenticeships are a relatively new initiative. However, ‘Degree Apprenticeships: Realising Opportunities’ reported that by 2017 there were already 60 institutions in England and Wales offering Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships. Each apprenticeship looks different and can take anywhere between 3 and 7 years to complete.

Addressing the Skills Gaps

There are significant skill gaps in UK employment, which means that employers are struggling to find employees with all the skills needed to complete the job. UK employers spent a total of £4.4 billion over the past 12 months trying to fix the skill gap in their businesses through recruitment, increased salaries, and temporary staff. 

There are several reasons for these skills gaps. One of the most prominent of these is that Brexit has seen many highly-skilled EU citizens return to their country of origin. This has left significant gaps in the workforce. The other major component in the skills gap has been the pandemic and what was been termed “The Great Resignation”. 

The Great Resignation saw many people leave their jobs in 2020/21 as bosses asked them to return to the office. For many employees, they had never realised before what a waste of their day a commute was and that it didn’t have to be like this. Having had a taste of working from home during the pandemic, they realised that they didn’t have to work in an office and could actually have a better work-life balance. 

This has actually seen people quitting their jobs rather than being forced back to an environment that they didn’t see as being as productive. It is understandable that in such a circumstance, many people would leave their jobs and look for something that is more closely aligned with their life goals. Many of the people who quit jobs were young people who had front-line jobs and who didn’t want to take the risk of catching Covid just so their neighbour could get his fast food fix. 

Degree Apprenticeships are a great route to solving the skills gap problem as they produce degree graduates who also have the employment experience needed in jobs. Those who complete a Degree Apprenticeship are more employable as they have the necessary skills for their workplace, and the work experience to know how to implement those skills.

Although it’s possible to obtain a degree-level qualification as part of a Higher Apprenticeship, Degree Apprenticeships will differ and go further in their academic reach by making the degree the central force and focus of the programme.

For more information about degree-level study, visit our dedicated website for students and graduates.

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