From education to employment

The Growth of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and the Completion Conundrum

Joe Crossley, CEO, Qube Learning

Despite a general down turn in apprenticeship starts in England, as widely reported in the national press, higher and degree apprenticeship starts continue to rise.

A House of Commons Briefing Paper (No. 06113) cites that in 2016/17 apprenticeship starts dropped by 18,100 on the previous year.

In 2017/18 starts dropped again by a further 125,200. The paper also asserts that higher level apprenticeship starts have almost doubled over the past two years.

It’s natural for a lot of graduates to finish their degrees expecting to jump on the career ladder almost immediately, but this is often far from the truth. Many students feel the pressure to achieve a particular grade otherwise they feel they risk being unemployable, but when they finally secure a job in an unrelated sector, their qualification almost becomes redundant.

In comparison, Apprenticeships offer an excellent alternative to University and instead of incurring debt, provide individuals with a contract of employment, a real job and a monthly income whilst they further their education and career prospects. Furthermore, under Education & Skills Funding Agency funding rules, apprentices are in fact prohibited from contributing to the cost of their studies and the fees must be paid in full by their employer.

What’s imperative is that people from as young as 16-years-old should be made aware of the educational choices that are out there for them. It does not have to be the traditional path of A-Levels and university – there is a huge amount of scope for young people to learn a trade, through Traineeships and Apprenticeships, whilst being educated at the same time.

High drop-out rates for apprentices are also widely reported, and these have had their impact on higher and degree apprentices too. It has been widely reported that over 30% of people that start apprenticeships do not complete them, and that this percentage is getting worse year on year.

Some of the key reasons reported by the press nationally, for apprentices dropping out of provision before completion are:

  • Apprentices are not happy with the content of the programme or the quality of the teaching
  • Circumstantial and personal reasons including redundancy, change of employer, personal health, family related reasons, etc
  • Not having enough time to complete the necessary study and/or their workload is too high

As a training provider, our approach to the development and delivery of Level 5 programmes mean we work closely with employers to develop a delivery approach and content that fully meets their needs.

There are tangible benefits to the employer of promoting apprenticeships to their workforce and gaining demand for the programmes. Feedback received from clients demonstrates clear return on investment whereby students who are undertaking or have completed a program become more efficient within their job roles and stay with their employer for longer either in their current position or through promotion within the company.

The national picture around apprenticeship delivery can appear disparaging. There is much we can do however to work to improve apprenticeship starts further, at all levels of delivery, and to support employers and apprentices to reach the end of their apprenticeship and achieve.

Joe Crossley, CEO, Qube Learning

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