Ben Sweetman, Business Development Director at QA

QA is a specialist, we work in technology, digital business, that’s been our heritage for 25 years, and we started diversifying into apprenticeships and higher education about 10 years ago. We’ve now got 5,500 apprentices on the programme and the interesting thing about that, and I think this is driven by the sector we serve, is about 1500 of those are on Level 4 programmes, so higher apprenticeships and now about 400 of those are degree apprenticeships.

We deliver our degree apprenticeships as collaborative provision with the University of Roehampton, South West London, and I hope I can give you a sense of how we are approaching things that might be slightly different because of that.

The first one of those is fundamentally, we found that a lot of our Level 3 and Level 4 apprentices did those initial apprenticeships and then they got stuck. Lots of them had the ambition to go on to higher education but felt there wasn’t an offer that suited them, wanting to stay with the same employer and progress their career there.

That’s been our real focus, and I think in terms of social mobility that means that we are starting from a very different point. We want to provide a seamless journey, whether people start with us on a traineeship, a Level 3 apprenticeship, or whatever, they’ve got a really clear route that they can stay with us and go all the way through, now to an undergraduate degree and hopefully to the Masters programme after that.

What the challenges ahead are going to be:

I think in terms of turning a challenge into a massive positive, I think it’s going to be driven by the fact there will be high growth over the next 3 to 5 years in degree apprenticeships as we see them, I think the first thing is they are probably the best thing to hit the education system for a long time, and certainly employers have been telling us that for the last 2½ years, they’ve said this is something we’ve massively been waiting for.

We feel it fits the tech sector perfectly, that blend of technical skills with conceptual academic knowledge to give a kind of greater view to progress. I think the Levy has acted sort of like an amplifier for that. It’s turned what would have been two apprentices into five, and fives into tens, because it’s brought employers to the point where they go, we’ve got this and we want to make best use of it. So I think it’s going to be a positive challenge.

Certainly one of the things, when I look at this fast moving space, that I would like to see is greater focus on designing, not just content of standards but the whole way we deliver degree apprenticeships more around employers. So examples for us, when talking to our employers, have been focused on blended learning. We’ve certainly gone with an approach of year round teaching, that’s 48 weeks a year. Also year round start points, so there’s no point at which you can’t start a degree apprenticeship, and we think that’s crucial, because that’s how our employers work.

Similarly it’s that real sense of up-to-date content, but also innovation in teaching and learning, so thinking about how we make all of the assessment as close to work as possible, and contextual, and then immediately useful back in the workplace. I think those are real things that employers tell us beyond the content.

This business to business sales and marketing is so fundamentally different to the traditional, effectively B2C model of undergraduate, and even to some extent the postgrad market. Just to give you a sense, across that 5,500 apprentice community we have, we’ve actually got over 150 people working just in sales and marketing on apprenticeships in QA, which I’m guessing is quite different to most universities.

There’s two things that we come to see, particularly since the Levy:

  • It’s started to become more of a procurement led activity, lots of tenders, bids, much more structured processes around apprenticeships than there ever were before, that’s been a whole new skillset for us in apprenticeships that we didn’t build before. But still the small and medium business environment for us, is about half of our community work for small businesses, that is still massively resource intensive. What’s that, 3,000 apprentices nearly, the average employer / apprentice ratio is 1.7 apprentices per employer, so that field force of sales people we have are a huge part of making this happen, particularly once you get outside the real big boys.
  • And the second one, I think, is building delivery capability, you know, it’s a collision of two worlds this, and we’ve worked really hard up to now, but see it getting more difficult to bring that combination of academics and industrial people to deliver this kind of programme, which is really unique.

Ben Sweetman, Business Development Director at QA

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page