From education to employment

The essential role Degree Apprentices play in productivity

Adrian Anderson, UVAC

IfATE Degree Apprenticeship Consultation – An Approach that Will Help Ensure Long-Term Success and Benefit Employers, Learners and the Economy 

For anyone committed to ensuring the success of Apprenticeship, or interested in delivering the skills programmes needed to raise productivity and deliver public sector services the IfATE’s consultation on Degree Apprenticeship should be welcomed.

Firstly, the consultation is focused on the role Degree Apprentices plays in productivity.  It quotes the Government’s Industrial Strategy that sets out that of the 1.8 million new jobs that will be created from 2014 to 2024 70% will be in occupations most likely to employ graduates. 

Put simply, if Apprenticeship does not embrace degrees and recognise their role then Apprenticeship will have a very limited role in training the individuals for many of the key occupations the economy and our public sector services need.  

Secondly, the consultation also recognises how Degree Apprenticeship can provide pathways to highly skilled occupations and their potential in supporting social mobility. The IfATE has also recognised that for some occupations not to include a degree in Apprenticeships could risk individuals being placed at a disadvantage compared to their labour market peers.

Finally, the consultation confirms Degree Apprenticeship as a distinctive offer – offering the best of apprenticeship and the best of higher education

The IfATE successfully distils the distinctiveness of a Degree Apprenticeship, a degree and an apprenticeship, providing a qualification of recognised value nationally and internationally in the jobs and education market and an Apprenticeship that recognises the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to be occupationally competent.

In terms of specific proposals the consultation ticks ALL the boxes.

Change 1 – This involves the IfATE amending its mandatory qualification rule to better recognise the currency of degrees in the employment market.  This means   employers will, if they so wish, be able to mandate degrees in apprenticeship standards that will be occupationally-specific for graduate-entry occupations at level 6 and level 7.   

This change simply reflects the value employers and individuals often attach to a degree and its value in the employment market.  Importantly, it does not prevent employers from deciding not to include a mandatory degree in a level 6 or level 7 Apprenticeship. 

This change will mainstream Degree Apprenticeships across a range of occupations.

The remaining changes proposed, changes 2 to 5 below, reflect good practice, and UVAC totally supports mandating such approaches. 

Change 2 – Fully integrating degrees within a Degree Apprenticeship with the on-the-job training and development that apprentices experience in the workplace.

Change 3 – Requiring the learning outcomes of any degree mandated in an apprenticeship standard to reflect the requirements of the occupation through alignment with the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the employer-specified occupational standard.

Change 4 – Only approving Degree Apprenticeships where the End Point Assessment (EPA) of occupational competence will integrate with the final assessment of the degree.

Change 5 – Requirement that the integrated EPA of all degree apprenticeships includes assessment by trained individuals with appropriate occupational and industry expertise.  All assessment panels will be required to have at least one suitable individual who is independent of the HEI.

So is there anything missing? 

Well in terms of the design and approval requirements of Degree Apprenticeship the consultation proposals represents a massive step forward.  The one caveat I would make is the need to ensure professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs) are appropriately engaged in determining how the proposals are implemented. 

There are, of course, a range of issues beyond design and approval criteria that need to be tackled. To be an ongoing policy success Degree Apprenticeship will, for example, need to be appropriately funded. 

Finally, we need something of a culture change in the skills sector and to drop the questioning as to whether Degree Apprenticeships should be a priority.  Degree Apprenticeships will support employers recruit and train individuals for key occupations needed in both the public and private sector, nurses, police constables, social workers, engineers and digital specialists.  They should be celebrated and supported by ALL across the skills sector.  They are a key part of the Apprenticeship offer of the future.

Adrian Anderson, UVAC Chief Executive

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